The Pride Center San Antonio provides much-needed support to the city’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning (LGBTQ+) community, who often face significant obstacles in their daily lives.
For example, more than 30 percent of LGBTQ+ individuals here have been refused treatment by a healthcare provider. Although more than 83 percent of LGBTQ+ adults 25 years or older have attended college or have education beyond high school, the median income in the community is much lower than the citywide average. Almost one in five LGBTQ+ San Antonians have experienced homelessness.
Those findings, which came from a grant-funded research project the center conducted in partnership with Trinity University, show that while progress has been made, there’s still much to be done to improve the well-being of LGBTQ+ individuals here.
The Pride Center’s goal is to serve as a comprehensive resource for the LGBTQ+ community in San Antonio.
“We are essentially a central hub,” said Robert Salcido Jr., executive director of Pride Center San Antonio. “We not only provide direct services ourselves, but we offer linkage to other organizations and resources that the most vulnerable in our community need to improve their quality of life.”
The center’s offerings focus on family programs, training and education, and mental health services.
The center helps strengthen the city’s LGBTQ+ community through social events, gatherings for parents of LGBTQ+ individuals, and youth programs. The Center hosted its first-ever youth summer camp and youth conference this year.
“We bring family-focused programming to the community where they can be their authentic selves and be in community with other LGBTQ+ families,” Salcido said.
The center also offers Safe Zone Training, which works with businesses, agencies, schools and other groups to create spaces inclusive to LGBTQ+ people.
The Pride Center’s biggest program is its mental health services, with free case management and counseling for individuals, couples and families. The program provides LBGTQ+-affirming counselors for up to 12 sessions, with referrals to other resources if additional care is needed. The service, which got underway just as COVID-19 shutdowns hit the city, offers a virtual component to improve accessibility.
“This is an opportunity for community members to access competent care,” Salcido said. “Oftentimes what we find is that the LGBTQ+ community doesn’t have access to mental health services, whether it’s because of not having health insurance, being underinsured, or they don’t know where to locate an LGBTQ+ competent, LGBTQ+ affirming provider.”
The Pride Center began in 2009 when a small group met to discuss creating a support network for the local LGBTQ+ community. Since then, it’s grown from an all-volunteer organization with no physical location to hiring its first paid staff member in 2018, having its own space and an annual budget of $400,000.
Salcido credits the growth to strong programming and alliances with other community organizations.
“The collaborations we have are important because it builds the ecosystem of our services and an ecosystem of compassion in our city for those in need,” Salcido said.
Building a robust and expansive network of collaborators is key to serving the LGBTQ+ population here, Salcido said.
“LGBTQ+ folks are part of every cultural, ethnic and racial group you can think of, every socioeconomic status you can think of,” he said. “It’s part of every part of our community, so it’s important to connect with every part of our community, and to connect in a way that they know we’re referring them to someone who’s competent and affirming to LGBTQ+ individuals as well.”
Salcido owned an insurance brokerage before stepping into the role of interim executive director, a volunteer position, in 2015. Simultaneously he worked for Equality Texas, a political advocacy organization, for more than seven years. Today he is also a program director for Texas Pride Impact Funds, which funds LGBTQ+ organizations across the state. In the 2022 funding cycle, Texas Pride supported 37 organizations across Texas, including Pride Center San Antonio.
Becoming involved with Social Venture Partners San Antonio has helped the Pride Center on its growth trajectory. Through SVP’s Catchafire program, Salcido found expert volunteers to help with tasks such as website management, revamping bylaws and refining mission statements.
“We were connecting to folks that really allowed us to build capacity at no cost,” he said.
Salcido participated in SVP’s Fellowship program last year, which gave him training in nonprofit finances, board management, marketing and more. The fellowship program also introduced him to other nonprofit leaders.
“Not only did we gain skills in nonprofit management and leadership, we also built these networks that are long-lasting and certainly have carried on beyond when we finished the fellowship itself,” Salcido said. “It’s about the growth of me as an individual leader, but the growth of my organization and other organizations as well.”