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Top Stories This Week in the Chronicle.
December 8, 2006

Smile, you're being studied

First-ever census of LGBT community focuses on central Ohio

Columbus--Four agencies are collaborating on an in-depth study of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community of central Ohio.

The study is believed to be the first of its kind in the nation, and is the first step to designing culturally competent services to meet the needs of an increasingly visible LGBT community.

The census will be paid for by a $40,000 grant from the United Way of Central Ohio and a $10,000 grant from the Legacy Fund, an LGBT philanthropic fund at the Columbus Foundation.

The Legacy Fund will then spend an additional $15,000 to develop an asset map to show where LGBT services are now, and where there are gaps. Stonewall Columbus and the Columbus AIDS Task Force are working with Luminesce Consulting of Columbus to develop the survey and encourage people to take it.

The area to be studied is Franklin County and its mostly rural adjacent counties: Delaware, Licking, Fairfield, Pickaway, Madison, and Union.

The census will be conducted online from January 25 through April 15, 2007, with reports expected in June.

Respondents can be anonymous.

Legacy Fund co-chair Bill Brownson said what is learned will be the �road map� for developing social and community services for the next five to ten years.

United Way spokesperson Kermit Whitfield said his agency currently does not have a lot of good information on or understanding of the LGBT community, or how LGBT-competent services are accessed.

Some of the services talked about by Whitfield and Brownson include housing, eldercare, youth services, health care, child care and counseling.

�We want to serve the community better,� said Whitfield, �and that includes current programs.�

The United Way of Central Ohio funds specific programs to meet specific community needs.

Whitfield said it is also important to find out the geographic areas where services are not serving LGBT people and families well.

Stonewall Columbus acting director Karla Rothan sees the census as an opportunity to continue the discussion on how many LGBT people live in central Ohio, and get them the best possible community assets.

�The goal for our community is to say, look how many live here, pay taxes, are gay, and want what everyone else has,� said Rothan.

According to Brownson, the idea to study the community was first discussed at a Legacy Fund board retreat in June, 2005. The goal of the initial discussion was to prioritize projects to grant money to. From there, the United Way and the other organizations were brought into the process.

For Legacy, the project has additional goals, which Brownson describes as �capacity building, awareness building, and knowledge building.�

Brownson said Legacy can use the information to show perspective donors how their gifts can be directed to be effectively used by the community.


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