Sometimes you just need a place you can go, or someone you can talk to.
For LGBTQ+ youth especially, that can a tough proposition; it’s hard to know who you can trust. QUEERSPACE collective is an organization that is creating space for LGBTQ+ youth to feel safe and empowered to be their true selves.
QUEERSPACE is the brainchild of financial expert and community leader, Nicki Hangsleben.
“I [had] been kicking around this idea for about a year and a half…and I am kind of in a career shift and was looking at the LGBTQ community and our youth community and just seeing some really staggering statistics around youth homelessness and LGBTQ youth there.” Hangsleben dug deeper and noticed a gaping hole. “When I started looking out to see what type of mentorship programs existed for this youth population, I saw that in our entire country there’s only five mentorship programs that cater to LGBTQ youth…”
Built on inclusiveness and developing healthy relationships, QUEERSPACE plans to provide tele-health services, while evolving into a physical, group setting. “My big vision is that across the country, every LGBTQ youth has at least one person who just says, ‘you’ll get through this, I have your back. I’m here to support you.’ And so that’s really the need that we’re trying to fill.”
Hangsleben went to work building her board of directors—an especially deliberate and selective task. “I’m very connected between all of my work in the nonprofit space and then being in the LGBTQ community for so many years,” Hangsleben told me. “I also just have a lot of connections—and those who are excited and passionate want to put energy into it, and those [people] kind of rise to the top of the list.” The board at QUEERSPACE has decades of experience in community leadership. “We’ve been working hard to develop a diverse board to really represent the diverse youth that we anticipate will be supporting.”
Beyond the Twin Cities, Hangsleben is thinking much bigger: “Our mission is to create space for LGBTQ youth to feel safe and empowered to be their true selves… the ultimate goal of LGBTQ inclusion as part of this society and, you know, feeling like they have supportive networks and a deep sense of pride in our culture.” Hanglesben hopes her initiative could help inspire a network of support services across the country, aimed at LGBTQ+ youth.
It’s game time: “We’re going to start actively recruiting for mentors in the next few weeks…we’ll have our website up by then…we plan to launch in June.” “we’re partnering with is Silver Linings. They’re doing an LGBTQ mentorship program on the East Coast—so they’re helping to really inform our training and screening and ensuring that we’re bringing in the right mentors.” Hanglesben said. “We’re going through rigorous background checks and screening processes and really bringing in experts who can bring that trauma informed lens that’s specific to this LGBTQ community.”
With her professional background rooted in finances, Hanglesben looks to the future and sustainability of her organization. Her 10-year model relies on a mix of philanthropic funding and earned income. QUEERSPACE’s mission will be driven by shared-identity mentorship and their community-focused board of directors.
Learn more about QUEERSPACE collective—and find out how you can get involved, by visiting www.queerspacecollective.org.