They need you!!

Picture Recently I had the pleasure both of heart and mind to organize and write a short story that centered around homeless gay teens and how they dealt with coming out to their families. As many of you know that anthology is titled: Lost and Found and ten authors took part of that amazing event and each of them along with the editor donated all the proceeds of the anthology to a charity by the same name. One who helps the gay teens get off the streets and one who gives them a second chance at life without having to resort to drugs and prostitution.

Shortly after that, a close friend of mine told me he was part of an organization called: GLBT Advocacy & Youth Services, Inc, which is located in Huntsville, Alabama.

Huntsville is the second-largest city in Alabama. The city is nicknamed “The Rocket City” for its close history with U.S. space missions. Huntsville’s main economic influence is derived from aerospace and military technology. Redstone Arsenal, Cummings Research Park (CRP), and NASA‘s Marshall Space Flight Center comprise the main hubs for the area’s technology-driven economy.

It’s within that lovely city surrounded by its people who love it regardless of the humidity, lies the GLBT Advocacy & Youth Services center which has been named Our Space.

Our Space was founded by James Robinson some four years ago. He wanted to give the GLBT community a safe haven to meet one another without the fear of being bullied and with the comfort knowing they were free to talk about themselves. He wanted to give the youth hope for their future and a place for them to go and ask whatever questions they didn’t feel they could ask anyone else.

Our Space is the only support group of its type in Huntsville and it’s growing very fast. It’s run solely by volunteers, and has been since its start. Prior to Our Space there wasn’t an organization in Huntsville for the GLBT community. What fascinates me the most, is that Our Space is run entirely by its volunteers. There are social workers, transgender people, gay men and women, and women with cancer are some of the biggest supporters. James has a huge list of volunteers who are just nipping at the bit to help out in any way they can. Most of them put in more hours than a regular full time job requires and they don’t get paid a single cent. The last time James looked his group of volunteers put in over seven thousand unpaid hours over the past seven months.

Members on staff range from young adult volunteers to licensed social workers. One of James’ right hand friends drives two hours each Monday to attend the weekly youth meeting. That’s what I call dedication. In fact, his team of volunteers are truly outstanding. They give of themselves without question, without expecting a single thing. But what they gain at the end of the day is the knowledge that they were able to help other people and do all they could within their powers to be sure each person who needed help, got it. Though they can’t help by ways of financial needs, their giving of their free time shows downright commitment.

Sadly, Our Space does not offer housing for teens who have been tossed out by their un-accepting family members, though at some point they hope to offer that. As of today there are two homeless shelters , however they are not located within Huntsville and the public transportation is almost non-existent. There are two day drop in centers one in Huntsville, one in Birmingham. In Birmingham, Alabama there is talk of opening a night shelter. But it’s just talk at the moment and I hope it becomes a reality for the teens who find themselves without a place to go through no fault of their own. Being gay is not a reason to be homeless.

If a teen calls Our Space who happens to be without a place to go, James makes sure s/he is okay and either he or one of his volunteers will drive that person to a shelter for a place to eat and sleep at least for that night. Sadly the public transit system is lacking and the homeless shelters are some distance outside of Huntsville.

It’s wonderful there are day drop in shelters and centers but neither can do anything for the kids who find themselves without a place to stay. Begging friends to sleep on their couches or in sheds or floors can only go on for so long. Now think about it, more often than not their friends live at home and their parents won’t allow for it to go on long. They don’t want trouble with the law, or the kids family. So, the teen ends up on the street and eventually find their way outside of Alabama. Most of them end up in big cities. Like New York. Once in New York they blend in with the crowds, turn to prostitution, drugs, thieves, and most end up dead.

I learned something new from James when I spoke to him. I asked him about a program he has listed on the Our Space website. Huntsville Host Home Program (HHHP)-one placement.

Here is how it’s explained on the website:

“The program and the people behind it share a deep commitment to our communities, our youth and social change — not just through the sharing of resources, but through a transformative and intimate process of sharing our homes and our lives. Youth in the program will have had the chance to build trusting relationships and create stronger communities.” The article does go on and if you’d like to read more about it, please follow this link: Huntsville Home Host Program

This unique and wonderful idea came from the GLBT in Minneapolis, Minnesota to help homeless youth. James met with the directors there, he was given a sum of money to go to Minneapolis and receive training from the team there. He wanted to incorporate that same idea for Our Space but he found out he’d likely run into legal issues by helping the kids in need. As of today, there are only five or six programs in the country set up to take in homeless kids and place them with foster families.

When I asked James how many kids he was able to place and he told me and I frowned and then smiled. A young adult who was nineteen at the time was placed with a host family. ONE. But at least that one person received help from the host family. When I asked why not more? There are so many young adults who would benefit off this program. It’s almost like foster care if you will. His response will stun you as it did me.

It all comes down to the parental legal rights over their child, regardless of how that child ended up homeless. In Alabama a parent can file charges against anyone who steps up to the plate to help their unwanted kid. File charges! Apparently according to the law in many states it is illegal to help the youth by bringing them home. Can you even believe that? Those so called parents have the power to step in to make the kids life even more miserable even if they aren’t wanted at home due to their sexuality. I expect Child Social Services steps in and the teen ends up in a group foster home until s/he is of age. In Alabama, since it’s somewhat smaller than Minnesota, the parent will step in and will do what they can to make their kids lives miserable. People who help can face very big legal issues to take in thrown away kids. That law keeps others from taking them in no matter how their heart breaks for them. In Minnesota no one checks on the kids that are tossed away and the foster care program does work. I expect it’s due to the size of the city.

So, let me get back to Our Space. Over the past three years James has done over fifty interviews on TV, newspapers, magazines and such. His agency is a huge success and there’s a misconception there as well. All you see is this: Our Space is a huge success in helping the GLBT community. You smile, and you think nothing more of it. Why? Because of the “huge success.” Just because something is a huge success does not necessarily mean they are financially well off. Nine times out of ten that agency is struggling to make the simplest ends meet each month.

Yes, success is a great word and it’s awesome to see, but Our Space needs money. Plain and simple Our Space needs financial help to keep going. It takes two thousand dollars a month to meet the rent and utilities and other small things the center requires. Now, let me mention here that James does not have a job outside of his work with the community. I’m not just speaking about his role at Our Space either. He’s on the PFLAG board, he speaks at schools about anti-bullying, he speaks up at the community meetings and not just about GLBT related issues. He’s a speaker for rights for all.

In order to keep that center open and running to help the Huntsville community they need you. They need help. Think this. Those young adults need help. And get this. Our Space is looking at opening a thrift store to help with the money they need, however in order to do that, they need money to keep the building that houses Our Space. Once they can be sure those bills will be met, then James plans on focusing on opening a thrift store to further help themselves.

I asked James how he spreads the word as far as who and what Our Space is and does. I have to say, I’d love to have him as my marketer. He does not pay a single person to get the word out there yet he won the social media contest! And he’s an introvert! I have to say he’s an amazing human being and he’s truly one of God’s sweet Angel’s.

So, what can we do to help them? There are a few ways we can. And because we care about our youth and what happens to them, we will, right? We can mail in donations, we can use Paypal to donate, we can go to Our Space’s Amazon wish list and get them a couple things they need. OR you can volunteer! How? Even if you don’t live in Alabama, there are ways you can help virtually. Here’s a small list of people James needs.

A CPA

A bookkeeper

A Personal Assistant – must live in Huntsville

A website designer

Needs a treasurer – must live in Huntsville

Needs an attorney for civil rights- must live in Alabama or know the laws in Alabama

Needs references for legal questions

To volunteer I’ve put all links you need below.

Our Space needs help. Keep that thought in mind. On the battlegrounds, Alabama is behind the times and financial help for Our Space from Alabama is nil.

James was seen as THE gay advocate. He stepped out and became an activist. He puts the center and its needs first. He is a hero among the community and they thank him to no end. He brings a sense of community to Huntsville. James told me it’s an amazing experience and he’s proud that they were able to help over fifty kids to date.

What James wants for the future?

A place that offers the homeless youth a home, He wants to offer a new program geared to the young adults to do social gatherings at Our Space. He wants what we all want. Acceptance and understanding.

It takes funding though. The local PFLAG chapter in Huntsville is very small and they donate when they can. James said he’s also received donations from foreign countries, but it’s not enough.

Alabama has been rated 50th in the nation as a bad place for homeless youth.

The organization does not advise kids to come out as a GLBT youth due to the fact that it is personal and when they do come out as underage adults, James and his team will tell them what can happen to them if they do. The volunteers share their coming out experiences with the teens and if they still want to come out, Our Space will be there as much as they can be for them. Our Space wants the kids to think before they act.

Think before you act. That’s a life lesson for everyone, not just the youth who are struggling with their sexuality and who to tell and who not to. Sure, some can keep it a secret until they move out on their own, but some get caught and their whole world changes right before their eyes. And Our Space is there and ready to help each and all.

Our Space has a motto:

What can we do to help you?

James and his volunteers, as well as the people they help, are thrilled and excited that Alabama has a community center for all. There is a true community feeling being built within Our Space community center. There has never been a place for everyone, regardless of anything. All are welcome.

Links of interest and to help:

http://www.glbtays.org/index.html Our Space’s website

https://www.facebook.com/gayinalabama

Huntsville PFLAG

Amazon Wish List

You can send donations to:

GLBT Advocacy & Youth Services, Inc.
P.O. Box 3443
Huntsville, Alabama 35810

Richie’s Lament

This is just a snippet of my ongoing story…..enjoy…

Richie’s Lament

(Richie is the youngest O’Brien brother who is twelve when Behind Blue Eyes begins.)

Richie sat on the couch in the living room with an open book beside him and a notebook and pen on his lap. He loved studying history, especially Egyptian. The moment his teacher assigned the class to study one of the gods the Egyptian’s prayed to, he knew immediately he would study and present his speech about Anhur. In short his name meant “killer of enemies.” If his brother TJ had lived back in that time, Richie was sure he would have been the god Anhur. He smiled just a bit and thought that he’d grow up to be just like his brother, TJ.

TJ along with his friends in the neighborhood, helped protect everyone who lived in the area against gangs from other hoods. And sometimes guns were involved. TJ had a few guns he kept hidden, though Richie tried to find them he never could. Probably for the best. If their brothers Torro and Ryan found Richie with a gun or even touching one, they’d tan his ass but good and then TJ would get beat by Torro.

“Rich, how’s that homework coming along?”

Richie looked over at Ryan who was doing his own homework on the other end of the couch. “It’s coming. I’m almost done. I’m doing a report on the Egyptian god, Anhur because he reminds me of TJ.”

“Lord. Whatever you do, don’t say that out loud when Torro gets here, which should be any minute. I do not even want to hear it tonight. I have three exams in the morning and I damn sure don’t want to hear those two going at it over homework.”

Richie nodded. He hated it too. Torro was so mean sometimes. And those sometimes really was most of the time and especially to TJ.

“Speaking of which. He’s home. Head down, get to looking busy,” Ryan said as he did the same.

“TJ’s home so he shouldn’t be in a bad mood,” Richie replied sneaking a peek at Ryan before looking back down at his notebook.

“Yeah. It’s okay. Just do your work.”

“What about dinner?”

“He’s late. It’s in the microwave, now stop worrying. Shit at the rate you’re going, you’ll be fully gray by the time you’re twenty.”

Richie snorted. “Around here, more like sixteen.”

“And here he comes,” Ryan whispered.

“Balloons?”

“Shh, write something, now.”

Richie made a face at Ryan and put his pen to the paper and began writing. He adored his brothers, for the most part. Especially TJ. He was the most quiet of the four of them, and the most dangerous, the one everyone wanted a piece of and the same one no one wanted a piece of. Torro was the one everyone ran from, smart on their part in Richie’s opinion. Didn’t mean it was easy to live with him though. When Richie said everyone, that included him, Ryan and at times TJ. Though why TJ put up with the shit Torro dished out, was beyond him. All he knew was that he hated it. Hated seeing Torro hurt TJ time and again.

The front door opened, a gust of air which smelled like watermelon to Richie, then the door closed. Richie didn’t look up, but he knew it was Torro, just by the way the air in the room seemed to fill of his cologne.

“Dinner’s in the oven,” Ryan said as Torro walked past them and into the kitchen. Ryan looked at Richie who was already looking at him and said, “Oh shit.”

“You noticed too? I am so tired of this,” Richie whispered. He knew better than to speak loud enough where Torro would hear him, especially if he was supposed to be doing homework which should have been done a couple hours ago. Thankfully Torro hadn’t said anything yet. But he would, Richie was willing to place money on it.

“TJ!”

Richie sighed and slowly turned to look at Ryan who was looking towards the kitchen.

“And it begins,” Richie whispered. He was hoping to not have to put another red X on his calendar but from the tone of Torro’s voice, it would appear another X would join the rest he had marked. Thirty one days in the month, it was the fifteenth, and so far there were nine red x’s. All of them indicated the days Torro got into it with TJ.

“Shh, please, Richie, just be quiet. TJ can handle it.”

“Hmph, apparently so,” Richie replied as he put his book and notebook on the coffee table. He got up and went to the wall by the kitchen so he could look in.

“Rich,” Ryan hissed. Richie ignored him.

The door which led to the laundry room in the basement opened and TJ appeared holding a basket full of laundry. They all took turns doing the chores around the house and TJ took Richie’s day so he could focus on his homework. Sometimes it bothered Torro, because it wasn’t teaching Richie responsibility and other times he didn’t care. Mostly when he wasn’t home that was.

“How’s work going, TJ?” Torro asked as he sat down with his warmed up dinner.

TJ held the laundry basket on one hip tucked under his arm. He didn’t say anything for several seconds, he watched Torro eating. “It’s fine. I put my part of the rent on your dresser.”
Torro nodded and said, “Put that down and come have a seat. We need to talk.”

Richie watched TJ look up at the ceiling in exasperation. He read his brother like a book. Richie wanted to go into the kitchen and try to stop whatever madness Torro was up to but he knew if he did, he’d end up in a lot of trouble and only make things worse for TJ than they already were.

TJ placed the basket down on the counter and went to the other end of the table and sat down on the chair while taking his cigarettes out of his front pocket. He lit one and pulled the ashtray toward him and looked Torro. Richie noticed the way TJ’s right leg was off to the side and not under the table like his left leg was and it was bouncing up and down. Richie knew TJ was ready to hop up if he needed to, he was ready to stand his ground if it called for it. That bouncing had everything to do with adrenaline and nothing to do with nerves or fear. TJ had no idea what fear was. According to Torro, that alone would be TJ’s downfall. Whatever in the hell that meant.

“You’ve dropped weight,” Torro said.

TJ flicked the ash off his cigarette. “Is that what you wanted to talk to me about, my weight?”

Torro looked away, exhaled and then looked back at TJ. “You can’t afford to lose any more. I have protein shakes in the fridge, start drinking them.”

TJ dropped his head a bit while looking at Torro. “Really? That’s rich coming from you. What did you really want?”

“I got a call from Richie’s teacher today about his behavior and his grades.”

Richie’s heart sped up. Damn her! She said she wouldn’t tell if he did his homework and turned it in on time.

“What about them?” TJ asked.

“I received a call from his teacher a couple days ago. From what Ms. Marks said his grades have gone from straight A’s to F’s over a period of thirty days. He’s been involved in more fights this year than any other. I’ve tried talking to him but he insists that everything is okay and he’ll bring his grades up. However, I know as well as you do that not everything is okay with him. The damn kid won’t talk to me. You know he won’t talk to Ryan, but he’ll talk to you about what’s going on in his head. You need to take some time out and talk to him and find out what’s wrong. We need to get a hold on him before…”

“He ends up like me?” TJ said cutting him off.

Torro’s mouth clamped shut and TJ put his cigarette out. “Yeah, thought so.” TJ got to his feet and grabbed the basket off the counter. “I’ll talk to him. Is that all?”

“Yes,” Torro replied dryly.

TJ muttered something under his breath and left the kitchen just as Richie pounced down on the couch. He didn’t want to be caught listening in on a conversation he wasn’t invited to be a part of, even if it was about him. TJ nodded to Ryan and then as he made his way to the staircase which led to the upper floor he said, “C’mon, lil man, we need to have a talk.”

“Don’t give him any shit, Rich,” Ryan said before Richie made it to the stairway. “He has enough.”

Richie nodded and followed in TJ’s footsteps. They ended up in Richie’s room with TJ taking all of Richie’s white clothes from the basket and placing them on the bed.

“Have a seat, Richie.”

Richie sat on his bed next to the freshly washed clothes, a hint of bleach hung in the air. He hated when Torro made TJ do things he shouldn’t be doing. It wasn’t TJ’s job to correct Richie, it wasn’t anyone’s but his own.

“I know you heard everything he said downstairs. So what’s the deal?”

Richie looked up at TJ’s face and saw how tired he was just by looking into his eyes. There were dark circles under them too, his cheek bones seemed to show more than they did a week ago. Torro was right, TJ was losing weight. Probably due to all the damn fighting with Torro. “Nothin’.”

“Excuse me?” TJ snapped.

“Nothing is. I’m fine.”

TJ sighed and ran his fingers through his hair, his bangs falling back down almost into his eyes, the rest of it fell in waves to his shoulders. He sat down next to Richie and patted his little brothers knee. “Richie, that isn’t an answer. You’d best start talking.”

“TJ, you’re not a bad person, why can’t I be like you? You got a real job when you were younger than me. Why can’t I have one?”

“Because you’ll get further in life if you go to school and graduate, maybe go to college and study something you like instead of settling for something you don’t like just to make money. You don’t need to work until you’re older. You need to enjoy your childhood as long as you can. This fighting in school or out of it is not acceptable. And you know it. It’s time to buckle up. I won’t have it any other way.”

Richie nodded. “Okay. I’ll do better. I promise. But I still don’t see why it’s so bad to wanna be like you.”

“I have no complaints but you’re you. So let me be me and you be you. Okay? Promise?”

“Promise. But if someone starts a fight and throws the first punch?”

TJ stood up, collected the basket and tucked it under his arm and turned to the door. “Make sure you get the last one in.”

Life and other things

I know this site is for my reviews for non-mm titles…and you can probably tell I haven’t done one yet. There really is a simple explanation for that, too.

I don’t have a spare moment to read anything outside of MM, simply because the Genre is gaining popularity like it’s no one’s business. More and more readers are becoming writers and published one’s at that, be it by self publishing, or by traditional e-publishers, they are being published. And I’m not lying when I say this, there are so many publishers and so many new releases, Top2Bottom can’t keep up. I have a good number of reviewers, and three steady ones. That leaves very little to no time to read outside of the MM genre.

And then there’s the tiny small fact that I’m also a writer, as is my partner on T2B who thankfully has taken care of the site and reviews, and emails to allow me time to “get” my head together.

Recently my personal life became a Lifetime Movie. I’ve been coping on and off with anxiety and panic, with a dash of depression for a tad bit too long and it caught up with me early in the year. I’ve been working hard on controlling it and working through it, but it’s not something that happens overnight. So, in dealing with that, more issues in my personal life arose and it set me back even more.

For now, I’ve stopped reading. I am getting River of Tears ready for its final edits and it will be published by Silver Steampress. Also, Lethal Obsession: Deserted will be under going edits when we get back from New Mexico, so that should be out early next year. As far as writing goes, I’m working on it. I have a YA short coming out with MLR Press in an anthology I put together with a group of other writers, that will be out early next year as well. My next project I’m almost half way into and I’m excited over it. I’m trying to work it around an odd job and my grandkids. Not an easy task at all.

So, though things are rough at the moment, I don’t expect it to be for long. Have to take things one day at a time. I don’t write under deadlines for a reason…my work is icky when I do. I have to fully feel it before I can apply it. Makes perfect sense to me.

Basically, don’t give up on me yet. I’m on my way back.

Terribly Behind

Yes, horribly behind. With good reason. Top2Bottom is my baby and she has to come first…and seeing as how we are low on reviewers, all of my reading time goes to the MM reads. And sadly none to this one. -sighs- So, if I ever have a chance to sneak a non MM one in I’ll sure put it here. I have two books that I NEED to read for sure for a couple authors…so hopefully those appear soon.

On personal news…Hm…nah..never mind that.