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City of Ferndale, Affirmations partner to provide LGBT services

By: Joshua Gordon | Woodward Talk | Published September 3, 2015

 Ferndale city and police liaisons working with Affirmations to help the LGBT community was inspired by yearly indexes performed by the Human Rights Campaign.

Ferndale city and police liaisons working with Affirmations to help the LGBT community was inspired by yearly indexes performed by the Human Rights Campaign.

Photos by Joshua Gordon


FERNDALE — The city of Ferndale has entered into an agreement with Affirmations, a nonprofit community center in the city that serves the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community and its allies, to provide better assistance to the LGBT community.

For the past three years, Ferndale has participated in the Human Rights Campaign Municipal Equality Index. The HRC reports that it has about 1.5 million supporters and members nationwide, and it works to achieve equality for the LGBT community.

Ferndale is one of 353 cities that have participated in the Municipal Equality Index each year.

As part of the campaign and the city’s 2006 human rights ordinance, City Manager April Lynch said, the city wanted to establish services and support for the elderly, youth and homeless in the LGBT community. With Affirmations already doing similar work in Ferndale, Lynch said it made sense to formalize their working relationship.

“We started doing this index in 2012, and we got a score of 45 out of 100, which is frustrating for City Council because we methodically make sure we are providing services to the LGBT community,” Lynch said. “Affirmations is four blocks down the road and doing an amazing job providing services for the LGBT community. With formalizing this partnership, when we find residents in need of services, we can send them to Affirmations and know they will get the help they need.”

As part of the partnership, the city established two city liaisons to work with Affirmations: Director of Events and Projects Michael Lary and Ferndale police officer Amanda Szymanski. Both Lary and Szymanski will be contact points for the LGBT community and work with Affirmations in providing services and discussing concerns.

Council also approved updating the city’s purchasing policy, which ensures that any vendors the city works with are aware of and adhere to the city’s human rights ordinance.

As part of the HRC Municipal Equality Index, Ferndale is rated on services and policies in place to protect the LGBT community. The city’s score has steadily increased since 2012 with a score of 67 out of 120, which includes bonus points, in 2015.

With the new policies and partnerships put in place, Lynch said the city’s score should be 93 out of 120 for 2016.

Affirmations Executive Director Darrious Hilmon, who started at Affirmations in March of this year, said Affirmations and the city of Ferndale have always had a good working relationship, but the new partnership makes sure the best possible help will be accessible for the LGBT community.

“Affirmations has been part of the Ferndale community for most of its 26-year history and has always had a good relationship with the city,” he said. “With the partnership and liaisons, we can work together to make sure there is consistent communication, and work on opportunities to do programming, as we service 20,000 who walk through our doors every year. This is a win-win for both sides.”

By having a place like Affirmations for those who need help to turn to, Hilmon said it lets them know they aren’t alone in their struggles.

“When I myself came into Affirmations for the first time in the mid ’90s, I was not fully comfortable in my own skin,” he said. “The services we provide are absolutely important, as they are done in a place that is safe and inclusive and provided through a lens of respect and understanding for the unique needs of the LGBT community.”

Mayor Dave Coulter said that while the new partnership with Affirmations will improve the city’s equality index score, the changes are being done not for the better score, but to help the LGBT community.

“It was puzzling for some of us when I became the new mayor here that we had a mediocre HRC score, as we pride ourselves on being a very progressive and diverse and accepting community,” he said. “Some of it we took for granted, to be honest. We want to make sure we do things that actually make sense and not just do things for the score, but to make a difference in the community.”