Safe haven: A “home” away from H.O.M.E


Chelsea Behrens

Brianna Sorensen, Elgin Community College LSW (Licensed Social Worker), leading discussion during Safe Haven

Chelsea Behrens and Lisa Lilianstrom

You have the right to free speech at Elgin Community College, so many students proclaimed their pride to the anti-gay group that made an appearance on Feb. 28, in the Building B hallway.

The appearance of Heterosexuals Organized for a Moral Environment (H.O.M.E.) was protested silently by the LGBTQIA community who responded with their own event called Safe Haven. At Safe Haven, anyone of any sexual orientation could gather in the Spartan Auditorium to watch movies, eat snacks and pizza, share stories, and confide in each other to feel right at “home.”

For first-year student Tatyana Herdrich, who came out as a lesbian at the Safe Haven “Story Time” activity, H.O.M.E. did not hold a strong enough foundation for her to feel stomped on.

I don’t care about them,” Herdrich said. “It’s just annoying and aggravating to see them try to hate on people that have done nothing to them. I just want everyone to get along, but you can’t let it bother you.”

Jemel Townsend, pastor at Spirit and Truth Sanctuary and also Director of Digital Technologies at ECC, expressed his reaction to H.O.M.E that day.

“It saddens me that there are voices that prefer to spew hate rather than love,” Townsend said. “Darkness is more dedicated to than the light. I want to see light be that dedicated to. I would tell H.OM.E, ‘You’re wrong. You are taking a small piece of information about homosexuality and using it for evil.’”

According to Townsend, he does not exemplify prejudice or hate against the LGBTQIA community, even as a man who has studied the Bible.

When ECC student, Alex DeLong, found out that H.O.M.E. was coming to ECC to talk to students about why homosexuality was wrong, he knew he had to do something. That is why DeLong became one of many detours to lead students to the Safe Haven in Spartan Auditorium.

“The reason they keep coming back here, year after year was because they always had a reaction from people, they are from Downers Grove which is about an hour drive from Elgin Community College, if people didn’t stop and engage with them, they wouldn’t bother coming anymore, they may as well have been arguing with a brick wall,” DeLong said.

Another student at ECC, Harry Wells, heard about the matter and decided he would volunteer to help out his community.

“Over the years, some of the people from H.O.M.E. have made some very triggering remarks toward LGBT people and they have needed to go see wellness professionals here, our goal was to try and keep people away from them, so that way they don’t have to hear any of that hateful speech or have any of these super negative feelings about what they have to say,” Wells said.

Wellness professionals Vinny Cascio and Mary Grimm were also present at the Safe Haven event to let others know that they are there for them and that they have resources that they can turn to if they need them.

“We hope that students will understand that they are supported here on campus, that ECC is an LGBTQ friendly campus, we are here to make sure they feel accepted which is how you should feel in a higher education institution,” Cascio said.

Grimm also pointed out that people should refer to Title 9.

“There is support through Title 9, so if there threatening behavior or if students felt specifically targeted for a specific reason they can always contact their Title 9 office here at ECC,” Grimm said.