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MAKING A MARK: Norfolk LGBTQ group supports community during pandemic

As COVID-19 impacts people around the world, some populations are facing unique risks. The LGBT Life Center is targeting its services amid the crisis.

NORFOLK, Va. — Addressing the unique needs of a community during a pandemic may be no easy task, but Stacie Walls and her team are rising to the challenge.

"We embraced that and didn't turn away from trying to operate in a crisis, because that's what we should do," said Walls, CEO of the LGBT Life Center in Norfolk. The nonprofit is a resource hub for the local LGBTQ community.

Walls said demand for some of the center's services has recently spiked, including a 116% increase in the number of mental health appointments per month. "Unstable housing, loss of income-- all of those issues affect people who were already vulnerable. That's problematic," said Walls. "We had to address those crisis issues early on and stabilize everybody."

But the center has no plans of slowing down. It's still offering a number of services-- including a food pantry, clinic and pharmacy, housing, counseling and support for seniors. Plus, modified in-person and virtual events are in full swing. "[Virtual events are] not something we thought about before, and now we have to," said Walls. "And it's including people and making them feel like they have a community, even when they can't gather."

Walls said the most vital resource the center provides, especially during COVID-19, is a safe space. "We didn't want to lose that feeling of people being able to approach us when in crisis," said Walls. "And I think 'community' is the most important part of the LGBT community, is supporting each other."

The LGBT Life Center hosts a monthly Community Day in the parking lot of its Norfolk office, providing food, housing eligibility screenings, health testing, and more. The next event is Friday, September 25 from 3-7 p.m. at 247 W. 25th Street in Norfolk. For more information, visit https://lgbtlifecenter.org or find the group on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/LGBTLifeCenter.