My name is Josh Hall (he/him) and I’m the Director of Youth Emergency Services at OUTMemphis. My department is housed at the YEC, which stands for Youth Empowerment Center (formerly known as the Youth Emergency Center). As far as a queer drop in center, a rapid rehousing program, a transitional housing program specifically for queer youth, there is nothing quite like the YEC in our region. If you’ve never been by the facility, you can watch my virtual tour of the YEC here.

Picture of Josh Hall, Director of Youth Emergency Services at OUTMemphis

Josh Hall, Director of Youth Emergency Services at OUTMemphis

The YEC is for anybody who is queer and between the ages of 18 to 24. You don’t have to be receiving services through OUTMemphis to come to the drop-in center and hang out, do your homework, have your dinner, or watch a movie. A lot of folks just come just to be around other queer folks in their age range. There’s been a lot of friendships and connections made here at the YEC, which has been beautiful to see and facilitate.

The Youth Emergency Services department works with 18 to 24 year old LGBTQ+ folks in the city who are either at risk of homelessness or actively experiencing homelessness. People in our Youth Emergency Services program can come to the YEC for case management meetings or to hit up our food pantry. We have hot meal programs that we host twice a week and so folks come in for those, as well.

We’ve also been actively housing people since June of 2021. We have two housing programs that we work to get people connected to so they can be in a better state when they leave us. The first is four dorm style housing options that we have on site at the YEC — each is a single occupancy room with a bed, TV, full shower, and bathroom. The second is our rapid rehousing program, which connects participants with leased housing options around the city. Those leases are in the name of the tenant, not OUTMemphis, so they’re able to build their own good rental history and credit history — we’re just in the background footing the rent for up to 24 months in the hopes that the participant will be able to take it over within that timeframe.

On site housing at the Youth Empowerment Center

On site housing at the Youth Empowerment Center

The need we’re seeing at the YEC has definitely grown. In 2023, we served three times the amount of queer 18 to 24 year olds than we have in the last three years. So we’re just trying to do everything we can to keep up with and meet that need in the Mid-South.

As a queer black man, living in the South is scary. That’s what keeps me grounded in why I’m doing this kind of work. We as queer people, as adults, know what would have benefited us along our own journeys when we were between the ages of 18 and 24 or younger. We have the power to support queer young folks so they don’t have to fight the same battles that we fought or go through the same hardships or traumas that we went through. That’s a huge part of why we at OUTMemphis feel it’s so important to support young folks — so they can be their best selves and grow into their best selves to make the best decisions for this world.

The Youth Empowerment Center is located at 2055 Southern Ave and is open for drop-ins every Monday–Friday from 12pm–8pm. Seeking housing or emergency support? Call 901-672-7594 or email [email protected]

The Youth Empowerment Center

OUTMemphis’ Youth Empowerment Center at 2055 Southern Ave.