After two years working from spare rooms, MaLGRA has a home in Hancock Community House.
Manawatū Lesbian and Gay Rights Association president Andi Leipst and treasurer Cameron Jenkins-Keen were welcomed to the house at a morning tea on Friday, with rainbow cake on the menu.
MaLGRA has leased a ground-floor office in Community House. It has received $15,000 from the Lottery Grants Board to fund the drop-in space and information hub.
Jenkins-Keen said the office space means MaLGRA can do a lot more work for the community. He acknowledged councillors Rachel Bowen and Lorna Johnson as MaLGRA champions at the council level.
Johnson said she was delighted MaLGRA had a permanent home. For too long the rainbow community was on the edge of community groups and not fully in the heart of things. She was pleased there was now a space people knew to go to.
MaLGRA plans to open the new space on October 26, with it open three days a week from 11am-2pm with a paid staff member.
Established in 1977, MaLGRA is New Zealand's longest-running LGBT+ organisation.
It has applied for a strategic priority grant from Palmerston North City Council. If successful, this would provide three years of funding and the office could be staffed full time.
After MaLGRA's Club Q bar and community space closed in 2015, it had a space on level 2 of Square Edge Arts Centre but there were accessibility issues. For the past two years, MaLGRA's volunteers have worked out of people's spare rooms using sheds for storage.
The rainbow community said a drop-in space, where people could ask questions and seek support in a safe environment, was needed. People can come into Community House without it being obvious they are coming for rainbow support, Jenkins-Keen said.
As well as establishing the space, MaLGRA is gathering and archiving rainbow community taonga and collecting oral histories of long-time members.
It is also working with the city council on a safe spaces project, which is about businesses and organisations aligning with safe space principles for all people. This could include the use of gender-inclusive language and places people can go to feel safe until help arrived.
Jenkins-Keen says he still hears reports of people being attacked for holding hands walking along the street.
MaLGRA also organises social events such as Drag Bingo.
Palmerston North MP Tangi Ukitere said the Government was doing work to make sure members of the rainbow community were supported and loved. There was still more work to do but it was up for that.