Recognizing local nonprofits for LGBTQIA people.
The goal of the following article is to provide information about the availability of programs provided at the Montrose Center. The following has been compiled with the help of the executive and administrative teams at the center. This information is also available on their website, as well is a more comprehensive look at what you will find if you ever needed help. Please do not hesitate to reach out to the Montrose Center if you ever find yourself in a position that you are unsure of where to turn.
(HOUSTON) – In 1977, the Houston Bar Association invited singer and anti-gay rights activist Anita Bryant to perform at their annual conference in the city, and the local LGBTQIA community declared their intention to protest. While law enforcement was told to expect approximately three hundred protesters, somewhere between six and ten thousand community members and allies descended into downtown Houston. It was in this profound statement of unity that Houston’s LGBTQIA community recognized their power. This realization led to a conference of community leaders that met at the Astrodome, known as “Town Meeting One”. This led to the formation of entities that now make up the Montrose Center; this is their story.
The Montrose Center was officially founded in 1978, beginning by offering therapy and behavioral health services. There were many setbacks in the formative years, especially in regard to funding, mostly due to the prohibitive cost of providing health insurance to those employees living with HIV/AIDS. In 1990, the Ryan White CARE Act was passed, and the center became the first behavioral health center in the US to be awarded federal funds under the act. Also in the 1990s, they became one of the first organizations to offer temporary housing and shelter to gay men and transgender people. They have continued breaking boundaries consistently since, and many thousands of people have found their way to the building on Branard Street ever since.
The Montrose Center is currently the 5th largest LGBTQIA center in the nation, and continues to be a place where people can gather and respond to the pressing needs of those that cannot speak for themselves. They specifically target LGBTQIA issues through ever-changing programming and staff competency across its six areas of service- counseling, HIV, community wellness, women’s health, and senior services. It also provides social and sensitivity training for all incoming HPD cadets, while working on providing this same training for officers who have been in the Houston Police Department since before this was available.
“More than 100,000 Houstonians find hope through our programs and services each year. Advocating for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Houstonians is a calling, and the volunteers, staff, Board of Directors, and executive team are fully invested in the community’s health and well-being.”
– Ann Robinson, PhD, Executive Director
The first area of service that most clients come across when they arrive at The Montrose Center is known as “Life Counseling and Case Management”. This consists of mental and behavioral health counseling, substance abuse programs (CDR), and family and hate crime prevention and awareness (AVP). A full 20% of the clients receiving these types of services are on the transgender spectrum, although all people identifying as LGBTQIA (and allies) are welcome with open arms, understanding, and compassion.
Of those served, 3% of total trans clients are seen every year for medical case management. This program is designed to assist those people living with HIV and AIDS while staying in care with a physician, paying for medication, along with a host of other services related to their specific condition. The goal is to create a care team that will stay in touch with the client and assorted medical providers to ensure they are given the most appropriate aid, catered to the needs of the individual.
The Hate Crimes and Anti Violence Prevention Program, or AVP is responsible for helping 26% of the yearly trans client population of the center. The volunteers and therapists in this subdepartment help identify threats, remove clients from harmful and dangerous situations, and teach life and relationship skills to ensure a safer future. The Montrose Center has a series of safe houses for those that feel they are in immediate danger and have been key in removing many people from violent, dangerous situations.
The “Way Out” substance abuse recovery program sees 5% of the trans client population graduate each year. This program is a way for people to seek help with drug and alcohol abuse in a safe, secure environment with people who understand the unique issues facing the transgender community in recovery.
All these services are provided by a team of therapists, counselors, volunteers, and administrative staff who have made it their goal to assist LGBTQIA people in the pursuit of a safe and healthy mental and emotional life.
“In the behavioral health (counseling, recovery, case management) services of the Montrose Center we follow the WPATH Standards of Care for the Health of Transgender, and Gender Nonconforming People (version 7). We use the correct name and pronouns for the true gender of our clients and provide a safe and affirming environment within all of our services. Our clinical staff is trained on transgender cultural competency and humility. We accept and value you as you are.
According to the WPATH standards, a mental health screening and/or assessment is needed for a referral letter for hormonal and surgical treatments for gender dysphoria but psychotherapy – although highly recommended – is not a requirement. The Montrose Center can provide the screening and referral letter for hormones and surgery.
The standards also describe ways psychotherapy and mental health services can be helpful for people who are transgender. These include:
- Supporting clients throughout all phases of exploration of gender identity, gender expression, and transition.
- Clarifying and exploring gender identity and role.
- Addressing the impact of stigma and minority stress on one’s mental health and human development.
- Facilitating a coming out process.
- Aiding in alleviating any co-existing mental health concerns (e.g., anxiety, depression) identified during screening and assessment.
- Assistance with coming out to family and community (friends, school, workplace).
- Family counseling or support for family members.
- Referring adolescents for additional physical interventions (such as puberty suppressing hormones)
The Montrose Center also has several transgender support groups that meet in our community. Transgender people can also have the ordinary problems everyone else has. The Montrose Center provides an array of mental health services such as general counseling, substance abuse treatment and recovery, trauma, domestic violence, sexual abuse and hate crimes counseling, HIV counseling and case manage, and youth and elder support services all in an LGBTQ accepting and affirming environment.”
-Chris Kerr, Med, LPC, Clinical Director of the Montrose Center
Specialty services are provided to the client population living with HIV and AIDS. These services include, but are not limited to: housing assistance, case management, community outreach, HIV education, and no-cost testing. Many people at the center come together to help clients stay in care and off the streets. The transgender population, especially trans women of color, are particularly susceptible to the ravages of this virus, and The Montrose Center assists these people with compassion and understanding. 4% of the client population seen by this area of service are transgender and are always treated with the respect that they deserve.
The Montrose Community Center is a department that centralizes many assorted areas of care.
In order to help provide a better quality of life for the clients of the Center, they keep a food pantry, wellness classes, outreach and advocacy programs, and rental space in order to host events for leaders and organizations in Houston. The Transgender Thanksgiving Potluck has been held here as well for the last three years, and it is a place for those trans people who may not have family to gather with during the holidays. This event sees about 70 people per year, and allows those that attend a way to network and socialize. There are several peer-led transgender support groups that meet also, and $13,955 worth of rental space is donated each year to trans and community of color focused groups and initiatives. Last year alone, 1,253 events were held at the center for a total of 64,438 individual visits.
All restrooms in the center are gender-neutral, with several single occupancy options as well. All guests are greeted with gender neutral pronouns until they specify otherwise. Great care has been taken to respect all people regardless of their journey in life. There are two trans organizations in the center’s non-profit incubator, giving them time and space to grow to help others.
“Finding spaces that are truly inclusive has always been a challenge for the transgender community and even more so for those of color. The Montrose Center is not only a hub of resources and services but a safe haven for the transgender population here in Houston.”
– Atlantis Narcisse, Community Projects Specialist Volunteers
Hatch Youth Services are available to gender non-conforming people of varying ages. From the weekly meetings that have seen 532 visits in the last year, to the programs designed to help homeless LGBTQ youth, many teenagers have seen their lives improve from being a part of the Hatch system. They also host a yearly prom, Vision Quest, and projects to teach individuals to be comfortable with who they are. While Hatch is a public program, these meetings and groups are all confidential, and the attendees are treated as patients with all the rights that go along with that, regardless of age.
“When I first went to HATCH, I was homeless, in high school, and had no support system in place. Now, I’ve just graduated college, I work at the Montrose Center, and I have a place to call home. None of that would have been possible without the strong support system, resources, and assistance that HATCH Youth Services provided. My story is only representative of a fraction of the immeasurable impact that HATCH and the Montrose has had on hundreds of youth all over Houston.”
-Crimson Jordan, Montrose Center VISTA Member
The LGBT+ Women’s Services include six educational events attended by 51 LGBT+ women, and programs targeting these women saw 18,193 served in the last year. These are designed to include not only trans women, but trans men as well who may be in need of reproductive health, or mental health services.
“Our priorities with LHI is to center our work and advocacy around those who are the most marginalized by structural systems in the US. Therefore, much of our programming is geared towards building community around trans, nonbinary folks, poc folks, religious minorities, bisexual womyn, persons with disabilities, and especially all who especially lie at multiple minority intersections. Our hope is to provide service for and create community and celebration around those who are most often shamed and “othered” in contemporary society.”
– Naushaba Patel, MPH, Women’s Health Education and Outreach Specialist
SPRY Senior Services keeps a diner for seniors, hosts trips and outings, and assists those in need with housing. The diner, last year alone, serves 3,233 hot lunches at no charge. This is open to all seniors, but as with most of the programs at the center, cater specifically to LGBTQ+ people.
There are so many more things that you can find through the Montrose Center website. The ability for the transgender community to have a safe haven, a place to feel like they belong, can do so much to save lives. So, if you’re curious about what’s on offer, check them out.