City Desk

D.C.’s Only GLBT Center Facing Homelessness

The nonprofit D.C. Center, serving gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (GLBT) Washingtonians, is losing its home. In six weeks, the center, which houses organizations including the Washington Blade and the Latino GLBT History Project, will have to leave its current digs at 1810 14th Street NW.

The center's executive director, David Mariner, tells City Desk that the building's owner, JBG Properties, has plans to turn the place into condos. Previously, JBG let the nonprofit occupy the space for the cost of utilities, he says.

The center's displacement comes at the worst possible time, Mariner says. With the rate of hate crimes and HIV infection, the city is one of the least safe places for members of the GLBT community, he says.

The city had planned to give the center $1 million to purchase a new building, Mariner says, but that that money was first cut in half and then completely eliminated amid Ward 8 Councilmember Marion Barry's attack on legislative earmarks. The group lost the funding in August 2009, he says.

The lack of support from the District in its hour of need is problematic, Mariner says. In New York, $17.65 is spent on each member of the GLBT community in support of equality in that state, while D.C. devotes just $3.83.

"The city has properties," he fumes, "it could give us a building tomorrow."

Blog Widget by LinkWithin
  • David Mariner

    Thanks for calling attention to this issue.

    I just wanted to clarify the data I was quoting which comes from the LGBT Movement Advancement Project (

    New York State has 14 communtiy centers which have revenue of over $116 million, or $17.65 per LGB person (unfortunately transgender population data is not available).

    DC on the other hand has one community which has revenue of about $130,000, or $3.83 cents per person.

    So New York spends about five times more per person than DC in support of LGBT community centers.

    California spends more than 10 times more per person than DC in support of LGBT community centers.

  • David Mariner

    There are a couple of other things that could be clarified in this article as well, but suffice it to say LGBT residents in the District of Columbia deserve the same support and services they would get in Los Angeles, Chicago, New York, or Philadelphia.

    A world class city like DC deserves a world class LGBT community center. It is an important part of our commitment to building a city where everyone is welcome, and it is time for DC to follow the lead of other international cities like Bogata, Durban, Telaviv, and many others and make a commitment.

    I don't know any LGBT community center in any part of the world that can survive with absolutely no support from the local government. We have been operating without any support from the District of Columbia since August 2009.

  • ddb+t

    I was surprised to learn that any such community centers would exist as free standing non-profits. I think Mr. Mariner was right to clarify this story because I think most of the readers may be wondering why such a center should exist at all outside of a academic location such as a university. I would suggest that they continue to master operating without tax funds because I'd like to see, and have talked to Jim Graham about, shutting down all tax-funded community centers in DC.

    The youth community centers are gang recruitment centers as evidenced by the Latin American Youth Center shooting in 1999 and other kids programs managed by "ex" offenders. To a great extent they are a bane to the existence of DC residents and their greatest proponents are the people who got their degrees in non-profit management but saw their career go the way of the record store owner or the print journalist. The era where community centers needed to exist is a pre-web era. Now, they are a luxury, not a necessity.

    I'm still really confused what value this kind of facility is providing to the taxpayer that couldn't be more efficiently funded by private industry via a mixed-use facility where "user fess" fund the charitable of community service arm. In the same way that churches request large donations to hold weddings in their fancy facilities, this community center should probably do similar, fund itself, and be proud of their independence. because the era of local governments funding this kind of thing is over and is never coming back in the same way manufacturing jobs went to china and aren't coming back. Don't be Cleveland now.

  • Anita

    What a load of crap! Tax-funded community centers are some of the last bastions of positive activity for low-income children and teens in DC. You don't want your taxes going to the "gang recruitment" efforts of Boys and Girls clubs...move out of DC.

  • downtown rez

    Quite a bit of NYC's economic activity is taxed by NY and so returns to NY coffers.
    This is not so in DC.
    Has anyone thought to ask if MD and VA or perhaps the Feds would care to pitch in?

  • Jiggly Puff

    I never even heard of the DC Center until now and I've lived in DC for 6 years. What exactly was being done with all of the government ear marks up until August of 2009?

    The other thing is that those numbers are a bit disingenuous. New York City has nearly 9 million people; of that number how many identify as LGBT? DC has nearly 600,000 people; how many identify at LGBT? California has almost 1/6 of the U.S. so it stands to reason that they would spend more than NYC and NYC more than DC.

    And the hates crimes thing and HIV infection rates are also moot points because the DC Center hasn't done much to advocate for increased testing, access to treatment, and increased funding for outreach in Wards 6, 7, and 8 - where the need is the most.

    Was the DC Center just a big waste of time and has now gone the way of the dinosaurs?

  • Rick Mangus

    This is what happens when MONEY v. COMMUNITY, MONEY will always win out!

  • noodlez



  • Rick Mangus

    'noodlez', I watched the Weather Channel to see if HELL froze over, why because I agree with you on this!

  • noodlez



  • Walt Whitman

    Jiggly Puff wrote: I never even heard of the DC Center until now and I've lived in DC for 6 years. What exactly was being done with all of the government ear marks up until August of 2009?

    Appearances would suggest that much of the monay went to feeding David Mariner. Those gay Divas just LOVE a buffet.

    This "Center" has been a bad joke since the crystal meth party crowd first tried to foist it on the community so they could appear legitimate.

    If this thing was legit it would be able to fund itself and have the political viability to sustain itself. It never has and it never will, it will be no loss. If it was legit it would have a development program - it has been almost entirely supported by the City up until August 09 - it does not. In spite of all the grandiosity it is a freakin' office. The Blade is a commercial enterprise, they can find other office.

    David Mariner and the few other queens who use this as a way to think of themselves as important refuse to see the evidence that the LGBT community in Washington has voted on this center since its drug hazed inception and the vote has been a resounding NO!

  • Jiggly Puff

    Walt Whitman,

    You are so wrong for that... but so right. *snickers*