LGBTQ+ Needs Assessment Promises Brighter Future for Akron

The Akron Art Museum hosted a group of over 200 on Aug. 18 in an evening of celebration for the release of the LGBTQ+ Community Needs Assessment, a survey created by Kent State University and the greater Akron community. The assessment is intended to determine the most pressing issues faced by members of the LGBTQ+ community, and how Akron can best serve these needs going forward.  

The results were compiled in an in-depth report over 100 pages long. It covers topics such as health and wellness; religion and spirituality; education and literacy; housing, food and nutrition; business, employment and commerce; and many more. Nine panelists were featured at the launch event to discuss these outcomes and what this means for the community’s future.  

Selina Garcia, program manager of MORTAR at Bounce, attended the launch event and shared their thoughts on the evening and what it meant for them and the people they work with at Bounce.  

What prompted you to attend this event? 

Selina: As a queer person that isn’t originally from the Akron area, the LGBTQ+ Community Assessment event piqued my interest. I wanted to see where Greater Akron is regarding the needs of the  LGBTQ+ community. Akron feels like a safe space for me, and the data gathered reflected that others like me felt the same. It was reassuring.  

How does this assessment affect you? 

Selina: The assessment allowed me to see how much work Akron has put in to be inclusive toward the LGBTQ+ community. While more work needs to be done to protect us, I am proud to be a part of a community that focuses on the needs of the LGBTQ+ community. The survey organizers also made it a point to focus on advocacy and activism. They recognized that work needs to be done with post-survey results versus talking about the issues and problems with no follow-through. 

Do you feel more comfortable in your career knowing changes are being made? Why? 

Selina: I do feel more comfortable in my career. The answer would be very different if you asked me if I were comfortable in my career a few years ago. I’m lucky to live and work in an area that has allowed me to change that fear. It is also empowering that 72% of survey respondents felt the same.  

How do you think the assessment will benefit the LGBTQ+ community in the future? 

Selina: This provides us with the data that we need to move forward. Based on this survey, we can create actionable items for our community to help LGBTQ+ members of the Greater Akron area. Since they’ve been working on this, they’ve found that the local area has come a long way as far as inclusivity goes. However, a concern that was brought up at the event is housing and homelessness.  

What specific action steps will you take in your work since learning more about the assessment? 

Selina: We are an inclusive organization that creates a safe space for all, and I would like to focus more on bringing LGBTQ+ entrepreneurs into Bounce to develop additional opportunities. We can accomplish this by doing intentional outreach to the LGBTQ+ community by connecting with organizations that serve that community at large.  

Do you have any final thoughts? 

Selina: It gave me a lot of hope as a person of color and a queer person to see the community come together and actually want to act on issues versus just telling us this information. All of the speakers made it a key point to not only advocate for us but mentioned that they want to move everything forward in each of the topic areas discussed in the assessment. I’m looking forward to seeing these changes.  

The Community Needs Assessment has been made free for anyone to access online.