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Kansas City LGBTQ anti-violence organization's sudden closure comes as a surprise

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Wikipedia -- Creative Commons
The Kansas City Anti-Violence Project served LGBTQ communities with a 24 hour hot-line, support groups and counseling and a one-of-a-kind youth group.

Some community leaders were shocked and saddened when the Kansas City Anti-Violence Project announced Monday in a letter on social media that financial trouble was causing it to close immediately.

In a move that surprised many people in the LGBTQ and sexual-assault advocacy communities, the board of directors and staff of the Kansas City Anti-Violence Project said on Monday they were forced to end their programs immediately due to “unforeseen complications with funding.”

“It is with the deepest sadness that the Kansas City Anti-Violence Project must announce the closure of the organization,” a letter on the group's Facebook page announced. “Please know that we don’t take this decision lightly.”

The 20-year-old nonprofit has been one of the city's most important agencies for serving the specific needs of LGBTQ people who experience sexual assault, domestic or hate violence. It provided resources that addressed the singular needs of the community and were unavailable elsewhere, such as a 24-hour hot line and a youth program known as Passages.

KCUR was unable to reach KCAVP representatives for comment. The phone line for the executive director had a recording saying it was no longer accepting messages, and emails received no reply.

Another prominent LGBTQ advocacy group, the Kansas City Center for Inclusion, offers some of the same services, said Secretary T. J. Burton. But he said losing KCAVP will leave a void in filling other needs and put an already vulnerable population at significantly greater risk.

“We were really caught off guard. None of us knew this was happening now,” Burton said. “KCAVP was our biggest resource. We refer people there daily. It’s going to be extremely hard going forward to fill this gap.”

Our Spot KC, a nonprofit organization that provides transitional housing and other resources for the LGBTQ community, posted a long letter on its Facebook Page. It began by saying Our Spot KC was “disheartened” to learn that the KCAVP was closing.

“As an organization that grew from two people and a hotline in the early 2000s to a beacon of advocacy and service over the following decades, KCAVP’s absence will be felt across the Metro,” the letter says. “Many of our own staff began our careers at KCAVP.”

The letter details how fundraising has become “needlessly competitive” because public and private donors are limiting support for culturally specific organizations, such as those serving the LGBTQ community. The struggle to raise money comes at a time of increased need, due to what Our Spot KC describes as the “sharp, alarming and dangerous rise in anti-LGBTQ+ rhetoric in our state legislatures and national narrative.”

Madeline Johnson, whose law practice in Platte City, Missouri, represents members of the LGBTQ communities in a variety of legal issues, agreed the work of KCAVP will be hard to replace.

“KCAVP has provided much needed services and will leave a void for young people,” she said. “We know transgender people are disproportionately alienated from family and victims of violence and hate. KCAVP was a unique place for them to find community and resources.”

LGBTQ people historically experience disproportionate levels of violence. Among the broader population, researchers at the Williams Institute at the UCLA Law School find that transgender women and men are four times more likely than cisgender people to be victims of violent crime. The Human Rights Campaign reports that violence against transgender and gender non-conforming people resulted in a record number of deaths in 2021.

Julie Donelon, President and CEO of Metropolitan Organization to Counter Sexual Assault, said she was aware KCAVP struggled to find funding, like many nonprofits that serve marginalized communities. But she, like others, was surprised to learn the organization was closing its doors right away.

“Nonprofits like KCAVP don’t have access to the same funding that more mainstream organizations do,” she said. “KCAVP started as a grass roots organization but has grown into a vital resource for the LGBTQ community.”

Donelon said MOCSA has a 24 -hour crisis hotline which is available to any survivor of sexual violence, and she said MOCSA will direct individuals to counseling, housing or other community resources that specifically serve the LGBTQ community.

I partner with communities to uncover the ignored or misrepresented stories by listening and letting communities help identify and shape a narrative. My work brings new voices, sounds, and an authentic sense of place to our coverage of the Kansas City region. My goal is to tell stories on the radio, online, on social media and through face to face conversations that enhance civic dialogue and provide solutions. Email me at lauraz@kcur.org and follow me on Twitter @laurazig.
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