New programming for LGBTQ youth and older adults launched in Milpitas just last month.
This programming is spearheaded by Avenidas, a nonprofit organization that works to support older adults. Recently, Avenidas entered into a two-year contract with the City of Milpitas. Per the contract, the organization is receiving $30,000 in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding per year to provide events, resources, and case management to the LGBTQ community here in Milpitas.
“The City’s goal is to help improve the mental health of LGBTQ residents in Milpitas,” said Avenidas Rainbow Collective Program Director Thomas Kingery, who is in charge of LGBTQ programming for the organization. “So that’s what we’re here to do. To support their mental health by creating safe space for engagement.”
Currently, Avenidas Rainbow Collective is collaborating with the Youth Space to serve LGBTQ youth who are seeking to engage with others their age. The Youth Space activities happen in San Jose, but Avenidas provides transportation to and from there.
Avenidas also holds a monthly LGBTQ Older Adult Social group at the Milpitas Library. Meanwhile, there are two intergenerational activities every month, including a monthly movie night and dog-walking group. And there are also ongoing zoom groups open to Milpitas program participants.
Along with programming, Avenidas offers supportive services like case management and transportation assistance; they also refer people to affirming resources throughout the County.
The program officially launched in Milpitas about a month ago, and although it has been slow-going, Kingery is confident that spreading the word will draw more people in.
“We partnered with the Milpitas Library to hold our events, as we figured that’s where we’d get a lot of traffic and have people see what we’re doing,” said Kingery.
Along with hosting monthly events at the Milpitas Library, the dog-walking group meets on the fourth Saturday of every month at Ed Levin Park, from 11am to 1pm.
“We don’t want any obstacles to prevent people from participating,” said Kingery. “So we offer transportation assistance. There’s a parking fee to get into the dog park, and we can even help to cover that.”
Along with providing programming for the LGBTQ community in Milpitas, Avenidas also provides SOGIE (Sexual Orientation Gender Identity and Expression) workshops.
Kingery expressed that it was important to reach out to the community to help prevent stigma and bias toward the LGBTQ community:
“We offer those workshops to the community at large because we want to reach out to community and family who might not understand the LGBTQ culture,” said Kingery.
Recently, they did a workshop for staff at the Milpitas Library, and they’re hoping to do another soon at the Milpitas Police Department.
Along with receiving funding from Milpitas, the Avenidas Rainbow Collective also receives $150,000 per year from Santa Clara County. So they not only work in Milpitas, but in areas all over Santa Clara County, providing engaging activities, workshops, groups, and more to the LGBTQ community.
“The value to the community is that we’re providing an opportunity for LGBTQ and non-LGBTQ to get that cultural humility, to understand this population in Milpitas,” Kingery told The Beat.
He also emphasized that non-LGBTQ people are welcome to attend any of the events. He feels that making these events inclusive and inviting allies to connect with the LGBTQ community is important, as it’s another way of reducing stigma.
As a gay man, Kingery says that he is the only representation at Avenidas of someone who is LGBTQ. He acknowledges that there are various identities, and even welcomes other individuals who might be interested in starting their own group to do so.
“I would invite any community members in Milpitas who would like to start their own group to contact us,” said Kingery. “We would support it and help provide the space.”
In addition, any organization or agency in Milpitas that would like to have a SOGIE workshop for their staff or community can send an email to: LGBTQ@Avenidas.org
You can also call Thomas Kingery at: (650) 289-5417
To learn more about the events that Avenidas Rainbow Collective offers, visit their Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/AvenidasRainbowCollective