COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) – Columbus City Council is providing the Kaleidoscope Youth Center with a $100,000 grant to expand their wellness programs.

Erin Upchurch, Executive Director of Kaleidoscope Youth Center, said pre-pandemic the center was seeing about 5,000 engagements a year. Now, they are seeing 10,000.

She said this funding not only will help them provide enough services to keep up with the demand, but it also shows the youth that the City of Columbus welcomes them.

“With our community wellness initiative and the funding from the city we get to expand our reach and our capacity to hold that space for our youth and their healing,” Upchurch said.

The Kaleidoscope Youth Center serves young adults ages 12 to 24. They provide an inclusive space for LGBTQ+ youth to grow with their drop-in center, no cost therapy from professionals as a part of their wellness program and support in moving into the next phases of their lives by providing housing for those in need.

“And at our core the work that we do stems from creating safer spaces and offering experience of belonging,” Upchurch said.

Upchurch said in recent years the need for their services has expanded.

“We are not doing a good job as adults creating a world for young folks in which they can thrive,” Upchurch said. “They don’t come to us because something is wrong with them, they come to us for support to be able to handle the way that they are being talked about.”

She said to meet that need the center must expand too.

Monday Columbus City Council made the announcement about the $100,000 grant to expand the program centered around mental health, wellness, trauma recovery and building self-esteem.

“With our community wellness initiative and the funding from the city we get to expand our reach and our capacity to hold that space for our youth and their healing,” Upchurch said.

City Council President Shannon Hardin sponsored the legislation.

“It is vital for youth to grow up in a safe environment, where they have high self-worth and access to resources, such as therapy for mental well-being,” Hardin said. “I am proud to sponsor this legislation for the kaleidoscope youth center to provide key services for the LGBTQIA+ youth in our community.”

Upchurch said the City Council has always been a big advocate for the community. She said this support shows affirmation to the youth that they need.

“When our leaders in the community, our elected officials, support the work that we are doing to me it just communicates to our youth again that you matter,” Upchurch said.

Upchurch said they are planning to hire another therapist and case manager with this funding. That way they will no longer have to put people on a waitlist for the wellness program.