Rami El Gharib

Restorative Justice Coordinator

YouthZone Restorative Justice program has received a $25,000 micro-grant from the Colorado Restorative Justice Coordinating Council. This grant will be used to fund the valley’s first youth LGBTQ+ safe space, known as The Space. 

Having lived in Lebanon as an openly gay teen, I know the importance of a safe space for LGBTQ+ youth. That space was an essential part of building self-esteem and feeling loved, and it helped shape who I am today.

After arriving in the Roaring Fork Valley, I noticed that there were not any LGBTQ+ safe spaces in the valley. Different LGBTQ+ community partners also expressed concern about the gap that this valley faces from the lack of safe spaces.

According to a research study conducted in 2017 by Healthy Kids Colorado, 56.3% of LGB High School students in Pitkin and Garfield county seriously considered attempting suicide during the past 12 months, compared to 13.8% of their straight peers.

LGBTQ+ youth in the valley are underserved and face a lot of hostility from their communities. I thought that creating a safe space and adding a Restorative Justice component would be great way to address and repair harm done to LGBTQ+ youth and provide them with tools to deal with conflict.

After much research and outreach, YouthZone has taken the initiative to start the first LGBTQ+ safe space for high school students. This space will allow LGBTQ+ youth to address struggles they are facing, have a space to talk and build a sense of community, and actively find ways to communicate with the larger communities they live in.

This safe space is unique because it includes a Restorative Practices component. Youth will go around a Restorative Circle to address different topics they want to dive in to. The youth will also be taught tools to communicate in a Restorative manner.

There will also be a monthly adult LGBTQ+ guest that will share with the youth their success and the struggles they have faced.

The LGBTQ+ safe space will start on Thursday, Nov. 12, at 4:30 p.m. at YouthZone, 413 9th Street, Glenwood Springs. Future times and dates may change based on community needs. If you have interest in joining this week’s safe space, please contact Rami El Gharib at relgharib@youthzone.com.