THE LIVING ROOM was founded in 1989 as a function of the LGBT COMMUNITY CENTER OF GREATER CLEVELAND, and served as a drop-in center for AIDS counseling and education. It was located at W. 29th and Detroit Avenue, a location that has been central to LGBT history in Cleveland.
The Living Room was established during the height of the AIDS epidemic to address a critical need for the LGBT community at the time: providing those who were HIV-positive with a safe space to go and talk. The Living Room was responsible for beginning the innovative PRYSM (Presence and Respect for Youth in Sexual Minority) technique, which allowed it to better serve as a meeting place and social support group for young gay and lesbian people.
At the time the Living Room was founded, there were not many possible treatments for those with HIV, and so for the short period of time many AIDS infected had remaining, the Living Room served to make their final days a little more bearable. By 1997, as medical treatment evolved, and as drugs became available to slow or even prevent the multiplication of the virus, the Living Room began to alter its programmatic function.
At that point the Living Room was mostly staffed by volunteers, with only one paid staff member. The volunteers were trained in the basics of therapy, but their primary purpose was still to serve as a supportive resource, by meeting and talking with HIV positive individuals. Many of the volunteers themselves were HIV positive, and thus created an empathetic community at the facility. In addition to those who tested HIV-positive, the Living Room provided counseling services to the family and friends of individuals who were HIV-positive. However, the goals of the Living Room at that time had expanded to educating the LGBT community on how to prevent the spread of HIV, by addressing actions and behaviors that allowed for the spread of the disease such as drug use and unsafe sex.
In the late 90’s the Living Room was primarily funded by money raised at the John Carey Memorial AIDS Walk, at which they often made $20,000 annually. This met a good portion of its annual operating budget, which at the time was $25,000. In 1997, more than 200 people were being helped at the Living Room each year.
In 2019 the Living Room celebrated its 30th anniversary on World AIDS Day, marked by an educational seminar on LGBT advocacy history in Cleveland and a display of artifacts from the original Living Room. Currently the Living Room is located on the second floor of the new the LGBT Community Center on Detroit Avenue in the Gordon Square district.