Dylan Gunn, Contributing Photographer

The New Haven Pride Center held a grand opening event for their new building located at 50 Orange St. last month.

The Center vacated its previous location, in a basement at 84 Orange St., last year. While the new location is only a short distance away, Executive Director Juancarlos Soto told the News that it feels very different. 

“You did not just move down the block, but you took a huge leap forward for the pride center in prominence, dignity in creating a space that represents the dignity that everyone deserves in our community and creating a space that, walking down the street, you just can’t miss,” Mayor Justin Elicker said in his speech at the ribbon cutting ceremony on Jan. 18. “For the city of New Haven, that gives us great pride.”

Soto said he hopes that the new space, a former art gallery boasting floor-to-ceiling windows, is a sign of the Center’s more visible and active role in the New Haven community. 

This newer larger space has also allowed the Center to expand its existing services. The Center can now offer a more diverse array of resources for the community, including increased storage space for informative pamphlets, sexual health supplies, food and clothing as well as games and books. 

“The new space is more accessible and visible and will allow for expanded capacity in providing lifesaving programs and services,” Samuel Byrd, director of Yale’s Office of LGBTQ Resources, wrote to the News. “The New Haven Pride Center’s move enhances these resources for the larger LGBTQ community in New Haven, contributing to vital services that help us create a more inclusive city.”

The grand opening of the new space also served as a message of defiance after tumultuous recent events. In November 2022, the Center lost its nonprofit status after three years of failing to file proper taxes. 

After a subsequent reorganization of leadership at the Center, Soto was selected as its new executive director and said he faced a difficult workload. 

“We found that we were in a very shaky financial position, and I had to furlough staff for a month to be able to get a clearer sense of where our financials were, to get money coming through the door to pay people, pay our rent,” Soto said. “But we’ve come a long way from there.”

Then in September 2023, the Center received a bomb threat that postponed the Center’s preparations to host a block party for the end of New Haven’s Pride week. But Soto said they were unshaken, and the Center began leasing its new space, just a month later. 

“The best response to any kind of hate is visibility. We’re not going to be allowed to be intimidated,” said Soto. “It’s important for us to show that we’re not going anywhere.”

Soto said he believes the new location has given the Center a duty to be open and visible in its advocacy, including for those who are not members of the LGBTQ+ community. 

“All of these myths and lies that are running around about what it means to be LGBTQ+, we can dispel them by just having face-to-face conversations. And being that frontline of defense when it comes to those things,” Soto said. “People come in, they talk to us and they’re like, wait a minute, you’re not like, whatever I had heard on the news.”

The Center’s new location and greater visibility have been welcomed by the city government and other community stakeholders. 

Lenny Speiller — Mayor Elicker’s Director of Communications — wrote to the News that the Mayor is planning to propose a $30,000 allocation to the Pride Center to support their new space. 
The Center’s expenditure in 2022 was $867,000.