First LGBTQ community center opens in Oakland

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The East Bay Gay Men's Chorus kicked off the festivities at the new Oakland LGBTQ community center on Lakeshore Ave. (KGO-TV)

The East Bay Gay Men's Chorus kicked off the festivities at the new Oakland LGBTQ community center on Lakeshore Ave.

"YB" lives in Oakland and says it's the only big city in California without an LGBTQ center until now. "LGBTQ has been here, we're loud and proud but now we have people backing us," he said.

Jeff Meyers and Jose Hawkins knew there were plenty of resources for the LGBTQ community in San Francisco, but few in the East Bay.

"I lived in the city 17 years -- never had a center that was all inclusive," said Meyers.

Hawkins says the opening of the center comes at a time when bigotry is on the rise according to new statistics from the Department of Justice.

"Hate crimes went up 11 percent," said Hawkins. "The top two categories? African-Americans and LGBTQ people. So we said,'It's time.'"

Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf cut the ribbon for the center that will provide a wide range of services including mental health, substance abuse counseling and transgender advocacy.

"This center gives hope, assistance to people, a home in our city," Schaaf said.

What the center doesn't have is funding.

"Right now, we're funding it out of our pockets," Hawkins told ABC7 News.

But there was a surprise gift -- a check from the AIDS health care foundation for $10,000 and another $1,000 from Oakland Pride.

This money is a big help. Until they can hire employees, 200 volunteers have stepped up to help.

Click here for more stories, photos, and video on LGBTQ issues.

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