Medford, Ore. — NBC5 News is partnering with Access to start a community discussion, and bring you an in-depth look into the lives of people who are homeless, have been homeless, or who are very close to it. In week 20, we’re learning more about a local organization with a very specific aim.
The Lotus Rising Project is dedicated to supporting LGBTQ youth through homelessness, as well as their own personal journey and hurdles.
Executive Director Mario Fregoso first got involved when he was a teen. Now, he works for the organization to support teens in ways he wasn’t.
“We saw that there was a need in the community that wasn’t being met,” Fregoso said. “We decided to do something about it.”
The teens first started meeting regularly to talk about their unique struggles in 2001.
“I was one of the original youth,” Fregoso said. “I’m one of the co-founders of the organization.”
All these years later, Fregoso said the mission is still the same.
“Lotus Rising Project is a youth initiated LGBTQ organization that primarily focuses on youth,” Fregoso said.
With programs that center on group counseling, theater, and expression, they’re working to create a safe, secure environment. Fregoso said that’s often what the teens are lacking.
“We have youth that approach us that are in the coming out process, whether they just recently come out, or are in the process of actually coming out,” Fregoso explained. “And in that process, it can go one of two ways, they can have a family that’s very supporting and loving, and that’s fantastic… but a lot of the times, youth that we deal with that come to us in crisis have had the opposite experience, and they find themselves in a place where they don’t have support.”
Fregoso said some of the teens are homeless because of their family’s rejection.
“Forty-percent of all youth who are homeless statistically identify as LGBTQ.”
While that statistic is on a national level, Fregoso says it’s true for the Rogue Valley as well. The ‘Del’s House’ program was created to cater exclusively to that group.
“People were needing assistance with food and housing and at that point, we didn’t have the capacity, and so it was something that came on the radar,” Fregoso said. “And we decided to take it on and try to create a program that could meet that need, because the demand was coming to us, and it continues to come to us.”
Del’s House can also help with travel expenses and temporary housing. For anything long-term, the organization reaches out to the Maslow Project.
“It’s really important to us, to make sure that we’re showing them that they have support,” Fregoso said.
According to Fregoso, support is the most helpful tool the Lotus Rising Project can give to the teens. He encourages everyone to recognize the need, and get involved.
“This is important because you know, it’s part of being human, really reaching out and taking care of your fellow citizens. Part of what I think makes the Rogue Valley such a great place, and a great place to live is that we have a large compassionate community that is willing to step up and help people in need,” Fregoso said. “And I encourage anybody who lives here to reach out to an organization and help in any way they can.”
The Lotus Rising Project is in the process of branching out to adult services as well. For more information on local organizations and available help, visit soclosetohomeless.org, and like the Facebook Page.
Natalie Weber anchors Your Place @ 7, and reports for NBC5 News at 5 and 6. She is also the spokesperson for S.O. Close to Homeless, a community discussion on homelessness in our region, started by Access and NBC5 News.
Natalie began her career in journalism as an intern with NBC5 News during her senior year at South Medford High School. Following graduation, she was promoted to Producer for the morning news broadcast for NBC’s sister station, FOX26, then to Producer for NBC5 News at Sunrise.
Natalie took a break from news to work for the Medford Police Department as a Records Specialist. However, she missed the fast-paced environment of the newsroom. Natalie moved back to her hometown of Eureka, California to start her on-air career with North Coast News KAEF ABC23 before returning once again to NBC5 News.
Natalie attended Southern Oregon University. She enjoys spending time with friends and family, getting lost in a good book, and exploring Southern Oregon.