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Seattle group recalls lessons from HIV-AIDS crisis to help LGBT community with coronavirus impacts

Lessons from the HIV-AIDS crisis are helping a Seattle organization support people who will be impacted by coronavirus.

Lessons from the HIV-AIDS crisis are helping a Seattle organization support people who will be impacted by coronavirus.

Peer Seattle provides support services to the LGBTQ community, often in times of hardship.

“What we expect to see is quite a few more people coming in who need to be connected, who had employment, and just lost it because of what's going on right now,” said executive director Joshua Wallace.

Peer Seattle traces its roots to the HIV-AIDS epidemic starting in the 1980s. They're now mobilizing familiar networks of counselors, economic assistance, and housing support for a new generation.

“We represent 39% of the homeless youth and adult population, we have a large number of our folks working in the service and hospitality industry, so they're losing their jobs,” Wallace said.

Stacey Starstruck is a Seattle drag queen who earns a living performing shows and hosting events throughout the region. She also cuts hair at Rudy's Barbershop.

Both income sources evaporated, almost overnight.

“I don't know when I'm coming back, so I don't know when I can fully pay rent. I don't know how long I can live in my apartment. I don't know how long I can buy groceries,” she said in an interview on Friday.

There are scores of others, like her, with a lot of big questions.

Wallace said resiliency, earned during the HIV-AIDS crisis, can help people get through what comes next.

“We’ve been through worse, we’re going to get through this,” he said.

The organizers of Seattle Pride just donated $25,000 in emergency funds to organizations providing on-the-ground support to people most impacted by coronavirus.

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