Love Doesn’t Hurt 901 offers resources and support to LGBT community members who have been victims of domestic violence, started by Phillis Lewis (she/her) in 2011. “At the time, I was working at the district attorney’s office as a victim-witness coordinator…We normally have kind of a resource list that we share with victims of crime to let them know like different counselors and things like that that are available.” Phillis told me about one of her clients, who had been shot by her wife several times. “We used to talk on a regular basis, like a weekly basis. She would just be calling to check in on our case…and then about two weeks passed, and I hadn’t heard from her.” It turns out that the victim had tried to go to therapy, but the therapist, instead of focusing on the violence the victim had experienced, focused on the fact that the victim was a lesbian. So Phillis went undercover to see which vendors on the DA’s list of resources would discriminate against openly LGBT-identifying people. As a result, she eliminated 30% of the businesses provided on the DA’s list. This was when Phillis decided there needed to be a place that spreads awareness of LGBT relationship violence and could provide resources for those in need.
Love Doesn’t Hurt 901 started as an awareness event in 2012. In 2019, Phillis submitted the paperwork to become a 501 C3, a non-profit organization that focuses on religion, education, testing for public safety, etc. She is currently the only employee but is supported by the community. She partners with the University of Memphis to acquire interns and works with PrideWorks Agency, LLC to find people jobs. Love Doesn’t Hurt 901 offers many resources like emergency housing, bus passes, crisis intervention, financial literacy classes, and gift cards for gas, groceries, and clothing. “It may not just be like those basic need items, things, you know, they might need connections and getting to a doctor, they may need employment….and anything we don’t offer in house, we work very closely with our community partners.”
I asked if LDH 901 was affected by Covid-19 and was surprised when she said that it had a bit of a positive impact on the non-profit. Before the pandemic, LDH already serviced its clients by going to where the clients were instead of having them come to a brick and mortar. Phillis continued that practice during the pandemic and saw clients over Zoom, Google Meets, or other services. Covid-19 also brought more funding for the organization and its clients. “These grants started coming out, and they were talking about people impacted by Covid, and it made it easier to apply for grants in kind of a back-door way…[Covid caused] people to be more intentional about the way they were addressing issues as well…I have seen more grants that are geared towards underserved populations or for victims of crime.”
Phillis hasn’t always lived in Memphis, but she considers it her home. “I have been so many different places, but I tell people that people make the place, people make home for you.” Phillis loves the diversity of Memphis and the community that the city fosters. She has joined a group called Seniors with Coffee. Due to the pandemic, the group had to switch their meetings to virtual and continued to offer support virtually throughout 2020 and 2021. She told me, “I enjoy going because they would tell stories about their experiences, like growing up and coming out and just how things are now versus how they were back then.” Phillis loves her community and strives to make it a better place with Love Doesn’t Hurt 901 and collaborating with her community members to offer resources to LGBT community members.
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