Local residents who identify as members of the LGBTQ+ community can soon call or text a local support line catered just for them.
Compass Community Services is expanding its telephone support service by adding an LGBTQ+ distress line that will officially launch on Oct. 4 and will run from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. seven days a week including holidays. The contact number will be 226-669-3760.
“They need people who understand, they need people to talk to, they need to be able to be referred to other resources if that's what they want and they need to be able to feel safe where they call, '' said Compass Community Services’s executive director, Joanne Young Evans.
“Our needs assessment showed that this resource would be well utilized. And so we look forward to it being well utilized. We're using the same telephone system tech technology that we're using for our current distress line.”
Young Evans said local residents who identify as members of the LGBTQ+ community are welcome to contact the service for confidential emotional support and community referrals.
The lines will be staffed by volunteers, students, and staff members who are members of the LGBTQ+ community and allies of the community.
“People in our communities who identify as LGBTQ+ are at increased risk for mental-health issues,” said Young Evans.
“Issues like homophobia, transphobia, bullying, and poverty jeopardize their sense of safety and wellbeing. This added support service offers a free lifeline to these residents who feel isolated, fearful, and insecure about reaching out for support.”
This new service is an addition to Compass’ already existing confidential and free distress and teleconnect line services that launched on Jan. 1. Compass Community Services rebranded from Family Counselling and Support Services for Guelph-Wellington this year.
Young Evans said Compass completed a needs assessment in the community last year and found that resources for the LGBTQ community were slim.
After some funding with 100 Women Who Care Rural Wellington and The Grove in Fergus, the Compass was able to start this program.
“We wanted to create a program that met the needs of the LGBTQ plus community,” said Young Evans.
“The service is also accessible from anywhere, which means it’s available to everyone in Guelph-Wellington without the need for travel or transportation.”
Young Evans said when the Compass started its distress line, it had a dozen volunteers who responded to a few hundred calls a month. Now, the distress line has over 125 volunteers and over 2,000 calls a month.
“Part of it is COVID but part of it's also having a really good resource,” said Young Evans.
“What this targeted distress line will serve is a place where people can talk to someone , they can get information and other resources, and they will feel so alone.”
She also spoke about an incident a few years ago in north Wellington where there was alleged suicide over an LGBTQ+ related issue.
“The result was there ended up being two suicides, and it was over the issue of LGBTQ+ and there were no resources at the time, resources that they felt that they could go to,” said Young Evans.
“And you have to wonder if a resource like this had been in place at that time. Could we have helped the one? And then the other one wouldn't have happened.”