St. Louis, MO – With the first round of volunteer training well under way, St. Louis Queer+ Support Helpline (SQSH) is gearing up for their August 22 target launch date. The helpline is the brainchild of Washington University student, Luka Cai. Identifying as a trans masculine, nonbinary, pansexual person, they drew upon their personal experiences growing up in Singapore to inspire them to build the Helpline as a resource for the St. Louis LGBTQIA community. Cai recognized that while therapy and professional mental health support is so important, to many people it can be inaccessible. The mission of SQSH is to provide free, confidential, and identifying emotional support, resources, and referrals. They are for the St. Louis LGBTQIA+ community, by the community.
The Helpline is a small budget, volunteer-run project. Funded at the onset with a $5,000 grant from the Washington University Gephardt Institute for Civic and Community Engagement, Cai has received an outpouring of support from volunteers and connections formed with local LGBTQIA resource groups including Metro Trans Umbrella Group, Safe Connections, Civil Rights Enforcement Agency, Pride St. Louis, and Trans Education Service.
Recruitment for the first group of support volunteers took place during the months of March – May. The training program began June 1 and is currently under way, with the peer volunteers readying to support. The training is administered free by professionals in their fields. Training is rigorous and includes cultural competency, terminology, and crisis training; as well as diversity and inclusion training and anti-racism training. The 50 hours of preparation is equivalent to a three-credit college course.
Any empathetic, dedicated LGBTQIA persons and allies 18 years or older may volunteer. Enrollment for the fall training program is happening now and training will take place during September and November.
Once launched the St. Louis Queer+ Support Helpline will be available to callers seeking support from LGBTQIA+ affirming peers Thursday – Sunday, noon – 7 pm. Pride St. Louis has generously offered space for SQSH to physically house their program.
Any persons, especially QTPOC and other folx holding multiple marginalized identities, folx who don’t usually attend community events and newcomers in the community wishing to learn more about SQSH or want to check out the PrideCenter are invited to attend the Helpline Launch Party on August 15, 6 – 8 pm.
Sustainability will be reliant in part from ongoing financial support from the community. People can make donations to the project or connect with SQSH via their Facebook page at St. Louis Queer+ Support Helpline.