Meet the Man Rescuing LGBT Youth in Rural Idaho
BY David Artavia
June 06 2013 5:00 AM ET
At left: Kevin Lish (center) at an open house for All Under One Roof.
Do you attract kids from outside of the city?
Right now we're just starting. We have, on average, about ten kids coming in. That’s our problem — reaching the kids that need help, getting out there and letting them know the center's here. With the nondiscrimination ordinance the city's trying to pass, we're trying to do it. The reason why we opened the center in the back of our coffee shop is because we didn't want the kids to be handpicked that they were going to the "gay place" or something like that. They can come in for a cup of coffee or something and no one would know they're coming to the center. So we're working to camouflage. [Laughs] I guess a lot of that is because of the pressure — our politicians yelling damnation, and the preachers. Most of the time, these kids have one parent that has totally rejected them. We started what we call the "Kids Round Table," and one of the couples that started it were dear friends I went to high school with. They rejected their son because he was LGBT and they didn’t end up talking to him for over three years. He had moved away to Texas, and when they started talking again, he ended up dying of an asthma attack. So I'm using their loss to hopefully tell parents that this is the chance you're taking by rejecting your children. We're working on their sorrows to hopefully wake somebody else up.
Did you build an HIV testing clinic and center for these kids?
This being the religious area it is, we don’t talk [about] sexual education or testing in any of the high schools. So we built a room. There's a nurse that comes down and does HIV testing at any major function that we're doing. We will be doing that once a month. In fact, that'll be going up on our calendar in the next week or so. Then people can walk in and have free testing.
That’s great. And you raised $10,000 in one event, didn’t you?
The last event we had, yes. We beg and borrow for everything. We sent out invitations and raised close to $10,000 in one night. Again, I think a lot of that is [prompted by awareness around] the nondiscrimination ordinance. About a month before, two of our friends were gay-bashed in Pocatello at 2:30 a.m. I think by having that happen, with the ordinace they're trying to pass, it brought a lot of people to us and woke a lot of them up. This is needed really bad. We really work on the antibullying thing. We have two straight boys that come in. They go to Highland High School here, and they're being bullied because they're in choir and theater. They come in and show their support for the center — it's kind of neat. The news is what's going to change everything for us.
How do you usually get the money, where does it come from?
Out of my pocketbook. Being the founder, I figure I needed to put my pocketbook where my mouth was. I put quite a bit of money on the end of that. There's a lot of people that support us. Being in business as long as I have, a lot of people know me and trust me. A lot of times, people just take out their checkbooks and start writing checks, saying, "I love what you're doing." There's a lot of generosity in this town for as closed-minded as it is.