WACO, TX — The start of July marks the end of Pride Month but there are people working year-round to make sure LGBTQ+ youth are safe.
"The work that all of us here are doing is groundbreaking, I've never seen anything like this. I wish we had something like this when I was out there," says Talor Donaldson, a Peer Support Specialist with the DOBEY Drop-In Center in Waco.
Donaldson is a member of the LGBTQ+ community and was once homeless, and uses her past to connect with at-risk youth and guide them to a variety of resources from a shelter, to food, to counseling and long-term plans.
"One of the reasons I got into this work is because I don't want to see this happening to anyone, and I think it's more that I've developed the skill set from my experience, that this is where I'm the most useful," says Donaldson.
Donaldson says 4 out of 10 homeless youth that come by the center are also members of the LGBTQ+ community.
A situation that often times traces back to a lack of acceptance from their families.
"Not every family is kicking them out of their home, but they are being rejected by their family more than other kids and find themselves in situations of being homeless or being in foster care," says Lucas Land, a parent of a trans child.
Land is also a Board Member with the Waco Pride Network and has established a "Parent Support Group" for parents of LGBTQ+ children to learn from each other, and how to understand their child's sexual identity and sexuality.
"The parents that showed up, they emailed afterward and said a weight had been lifted. That they had been trying to figure out how to help their kid how to live with what they're needing to do," says Land.
Land says LGBTQ+ children are more at risk for depression anxiety and suicide and hopes the support group can normalize families with LGBTQ+ children, and in return build a safe inclusive household.
"We're able to do a lot more together and able to support and encourage each other, and it makes such a huge difference for our kids. Even a small amount towards being more accepting and affirming makes a huge difference in mental health and outcome for kids," says Land.
The parent support group meets on the second Tuesday of every month.
If you would like to join, the contact information is on the Waco Pride Network's website.