SFU professor Jen Marchbank, who received a Surrey Pride award last month, oversaw a graduate student-led study that has prompted plans for a new service for LGBTQ+ newcomers.

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Improving services key for LGBTQ+ newcomers 

July 31, 2017
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A recent report by SFU researchers that uncovered gaps in support services for the LGBTQ+ community in Surrey has led to some changes. 

Funds have been secured to establish the city’s first LGBTQ+ newcomer service. A pilot plan has been developed through consultation with community organizations like Rainbow Refugee.

The new service, slated to open in the fall, is welcome news to SFU professor Jen Marchbank, who oversaw the Surrey Pride study. The study was commissioned by DIVERSEcity, a community organization, and led by her graduate students. 

Marchbank says it will be a first step in addressing the needs of LGBTQ+ newcomers, including refugees, who are often isolated from their ethnic groups or mainstream LGBTQ+ groups while settling in Surrey, with little or no resources to stay connected. Language and travel barriers impede access to the few programs that do exist in the Lower Mainland. 

While the city of Surrey takes more than half of B.C.’s incoming refugees, Marchbank notes it has no specific medical or community services available to support LGBTQ newcomers, who must travel to Vancouver, where services are not necessarily culturally specific and have no established referral system.

“Already vulnerable and possibly fleeing from their home country, their isolation increases, as they are unable to connect with other LGBTQ people in a safe space,” she says. 

While the report maps out the general range of existing newcomer services in Surrey and Vancouver to provide a starting point, it recommends the creation of safe spaces for LGBTQ+ newcomers to improve the settlement experience and help to maintain mental health and physical well-being. 

Marchbank, who participated in Surrey’s Pride Festival in June and also received the Surrey Pride Society's Pride Award, is hopeful that the report findings will lead to further awareness and improvements to LGBTQ newcomer services throughout the region. 

The report will be available at the booth of Youth for A Change, a group that Marchbank coordinates, during New Westminster Pride’s upcoming activities, including a street party August 19.

For the full report see: http://at.sfu.ca/jvJckR