B.C. LGBT resource centre Qmunity finally ends decades-long search for new Vancouver location

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      An effort by LGBT community members to secure a new home for B.C.'s LGBT resource centre is finally over after numerous years of searching.

      At Qmunity's 13th annual breakfast for the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia, and Biphobia today (May 19) at the Fairmont Hotel Vancouver, Mayor Gregor Robertson announced the good news.

      "Our council, in very recent days, made a unanimous decision to support a brand new home for Qmunity," Robertson said to the crowd.

      He said that the new 10,000-square-foot premises, on the northeast corner of Burrard and Davie streets on the edge of the West End, is long overdue. He explained that $7 million in dedicated funding will come from the rezoning of Burrard Place, and the centre will be located beneath 100 social-housing units above it.

      Mayor Gregor Robertson
      Craig Takeuchi

      Originally founded in 1979 as the Vancouver Gay Community Centre, the nonprofit organization has been at its current location at 1179 Bute Street since 1985 (it was renamed Qmunity in 2009), near the rainbow crosswalks.

      Among the concerns of the current location is that the organization has long grown beyond its capacity, the building is aging, and it is inaccessible by community members with physical challenges as it is on a second floor without an elevator. (Qmunity does operate a fully accessible space at 610–1033 Davie Street.)

      Former executive director Dara Parker told the Georgia Straight in 2015 that the current space was designed to be an apartment building, not a community centre. Consequently, there are problems with the layout of administrative and programming spaces.

      Qmunity's CJ Rowe, who became the organization's executive director last June, said they are excited to be staying in the Davie Village area, which was one of the challenges in finding a new location. Rowe said that the space will encompass both street level and some upper floors. 

      As the new spot is in one of the city's busiest downtown intersections, Rowe thinks the new facilities will provide visibility that they haven't had, being located on a side street and on a second floor. 

      Rowe emphasized that it's important to recognize the previous efforts over the past decades that led to this moment.

      "I'm very thankful of the legacy that's being built upon by the board members, executive directors, volunteers, and committed community members that have brought us to this point because it's taken us almost two decades," Rowe said.

      Rowe noted that Vancouver city councillor Tim Stevenson was instrumental in the process and he received funding for a feasibility study back in the early 2000s.

      However, Rowe added that will be roughly three to five years before the facility is ready for them to move in.

      Author Hiromi Goto
      Craig Takeuchi

      Meanwhile, the breakfast fundraising event, hosted by Roundhouse Radio's Cory Ashworth and Janice Ungaro, also featured several presenters who addressed the theme of "Stories of Us". Indigenous poet Molly Billows read from her poetry, which conveyed themes of LGBT liberation and empowerment, while writer Aaron Chan and local author Hiromi Goto each shared their experiences of seeing either negative images or a lack of depictions of LGBT or Asian characters, and how they overcame the impact of that. 

      Mayor Robertson, who also read the official proclamation for the day, talked about the importance of local LGBT rights in an international context.

      "In the turbulent times that we're in…it's so essential that we in Vancouver assert who we are, what we believe in, and the differences that we embody here in our city, compared to other places around the world that are either slipping backward or are still struggling to break free and make sure people are respected, loved, and honoured for who they are." he said.

      You can follow Craig Takeuchi on Twitter at @cinecraig or on FacebookYou can also follow the Straight's LGBT coverage on Twitter at @StraightLGBT or on Facebook.