In a little-noticed development, the Mayor’s LGBT Affairs Office has moved out of the John A. Wilson Building, which serves as the District’s city hall, and moved into the Reeves Center Municipal Building at 14th and U Streets, N.W.
Although the office is no longer in the same building where Mayor Muriel Bowser’s office is located, the new location “absolutely” does not represent a downgrading of the office, according to Sheila Alexander-Reid, the LGBT Affairs Office director.
“The reason for the move is that the mayor wants to raise our profile and give us more access to our own community,” Alexander-Reid told the Blade. She noted that the LGBT Affairs Office is now located one floor above the DC Center for the LGBT Community, which moved into the Reeves Center two years ago.
“It’s actually a huge upgrade because we were relegated to an office and a cubicle in the Wilson Building and now we have a suite with a sofa and a conference room table,” said Alexander-Reid. “So it’s an incredible upgrade.”
Alexander-Reid also confirmed that Mayor Bowser has given the go-ahead for the hiring of a third staff member for the office, who will serve as a specialist in LGBT housing and LGBT youth homelessness issues.
The office currently has just two staff members, Alexander-Reid and Deputy Director Terrence Laney.
The need for the new staff member became apparent last year after the D.C. Council passed and then-Mayor Vincent Gray signed the LGBTQ Homeless Youth Reform Amendment Act of 2014. Council member Mary Cheh (D-Ward 3) and then-Council member Bowser (D-Ward 4) co-introduced the bill, which calls for addressing specific needs of homeless LGBT youth.
Among other things, the legislation amended the 2006 law that established the LGBT Affairs Office as a permanent entity in the Office of the Mayor to authorize the hiring of additional staff members for the office. The LGBTQ Homeless Youth Reform Act also mandates that the LGBT Affairs Office administer a grants fund that the legislation created called the LGBTQ Homeless Youth Training Grant Fund.
“The Fund shall be continually available to the Office for the purpose of providing grants to fund trainings on cultural competency for providing services to LGBTQ homeless youth for providers throughout the District,” the legislation says. “The Office shall establish criteria for eligibility to receive a grant,” says the legislation, which became law about a year ago.
Sterling Washington, the LGBT Affairs Office director under Mayor Vincent Gray, said Gray determined that a third staff member would be needed to carry out the new duties required to administer the grant program. Washington said Gray was about to hire someone to fill the new position but decided to leave that task to the new mayor after he lost his re-election bid in the Democratic primary to Bowser.
“We’re interviewing as we speak,” Alexander-Reid said when asked what the target date would be for hiring the new staff member. “The target date is ASAP,” she said.
She said the funds for the salary for the new staff member will come from funds appropriated for the Department of Human Services, which monitors most of the city’s homelessness-related programs, including shelters and residential facilities.
Alexander-Reid said her office will host an open house on April 21 to introduce the community to the office’s new space. She said the move from the Wilson Building took place about three weeks ago, but she and Laney wanted to wait until they had settled in before formally announcing the move and scheduling an open house.
“Of all the government buildings this is the closest to sort of the nexus of the LGBT community,” Alexander-Reid said. “It’s two or three blocks from the Blade. It’s right above the LGBT Community Center…This is the one that’s most convenient and the closest to the nexus of where the community can be found.”
The Reeves Center initially had been slated to be given to a private developer as part of a land deal to build a new soccer stadium in the Buzzard’s Point section of Southwest D.C. Those plans were later changed, but city officials say it’s still possible that the Reeves Center could be demolished to make way for a new residential and retail complex.
Alexander-Reid said she has been told that the building will remain as it is for at least the next four or five years.