Roderick Towns got on a plane from Georgia to Los Angeles with $15 and a dream to become an entertainer and to be fully embraced as a gay man. Instead, he found himself living on the streets.
“When I got to L.A., everything just went downhill, and I became homeless,” said Towns, 18. “At the shelters I went to, when they found out how young I was, they told me I couldn’t stay there. I had to sleep in a train station. I was so scared and panicking.”
Then he found the Los Angeles LGBT Center — a safe place offering housing, food, career training, health services, and other support.
“I don’t think the people at the Center realize how much they’ve changed me mentally, emotionally, and physically,” Towns said. “I finally feel like I’m at home.”
The Center was founded in 1969 and is the world’s largest provider of programs and services for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender individuals. Now it is poised to undergo its biggest expansion to date, doubling the number of emergency housing beds that got Towns and others off the street.
Expected to open in 2019 — and with financing of nearly half of the $73.5 million cost arranged by Wells Fargo Middle Market Banking through a $34.6 million package of loans and federal tax credits — the new Anita May Rosenstein Campus will add social services, a community plaza, youth and senior centers, and more than 100 affordable housing units.
Wells Fargo’s support also includes a $7 million bridge loan that helped the Center and Thomas Safran and Associates, the affordable housing developer, complete the $12.7 million land purchase for the project.
When the campus opens and administrative offices move to the new facility, the Center’s existing McDonald/Wright building will be fully devoted to health care. Each year, more than 17,500 people visit the Center for primary care, and more than 2,900 patients with HIV/AIDS receive specialized care. The Center’s pharmacy annually dispenses more than 170,000 prescriptions.
“We want to continue to reach out and open sites to make our services even more accessible and available,” said Los Angeles LGBT Center Chief Financial Officer Michael Holtzman. “So many issues, from homelessness and housing shortages to health and wellness concerns, disproportionally and negatively impact the LGBT community. It’s important as we expand to better serve our community that we have a strong financial relationship with Wells Fargo.”
As a relationship manager for Middle Market Banking, Camilla Walker is the face of the team that is supporting the construction project and helping meet capital needs. As a wealth advisor for Wells Fargo Private Bank, Yolla Kairouz leads the team that helps manage a nearly $20 million investment portfolio for the Center. Together, Walker and Kairouz are building on a relationship with the Center that dates back more than 20 years — including the Center’s participation on the Wells Fargo Community Advisory Board addressing needs in Los Angeles.
“Our commitment is to work across channels and a host of groups to understand what is really important to the Center, and to bring that vision to life with advice and services,” Kairouz said. “For example, since about 19 percent of the Center’s support comes from private gifts, our philanthropic services group works very closely with them on the education and management of donor gifts. We hope to expand in that area and further support the Center in its capital campaigning and donor outreach.”
Walker said she is proud to be on a Wells Fargo team that helps the Center welcome more than 42,000 client visits a month — from the newborn child of an LGBT parent to seniors in their golden years — and looks forward to its next 50 years.
“For nearly 50 years, the Center has been instrumental in the health, housing, education, and advocacy of countless individuals,” Walker said. “I’m confident that even more lives will be positively impacted because of the new campus and our work together.”
Towns said he has grown as a person since leaving Georgia. He credits the Center for that.
“You can’t be successful in your life unless you have some sort of family around you, and the Center is that for me,” Towns said. “Since coming here, I’ve learned it’s not about where you come from, it’s about where you’re going. Now I wake up happy.”
Wells Fargo Private Bank provides products and services through Wells Fargo Bank, N.A. and its affiliates. Wells Fargo Bank, is the banking affiliate of Wells Fargo & Company.
Note: A version of this story also appeared in the 2016 Wells Fargo Annual Report (PDF).