How Bright Star Foundation is helping LGBTQ youth in Las Vegas stay off the streets


Nearly a dozen LGBTQ youth have been assisted by Bright Star Foundation (BSF) here in the Las Vegas area over the past three months, according to the Foundation.

“We assisted a 20-year-old UNLV student who was kicked out from home by his mother when he came out as gay,” said Rob Schlegel, BSF Interim Executive Director. “We took care of his books and assisted in getting him into off-campus, student housing. He’s now working part time and we believe he’ll be self-sustaining after this.”

Most of the local assistance BSF has provided have been in conjunction with The LGBTQ Center’s youth or trans program managers. BSF works with other organizations and has assisted two youths through a non-profit known as The Gathering Place.

“We’ve paid deposits or first month’s rent, assisted with food supplies and bus passes,” Schlegel said. “In one case, we arranged air transportation for a trans youth who was accepted into a transitional LGBTQ housing program in Maryland.

“Our goal is to assist other non-profits financially to prevent homelessness in the LGBTQ community. We try not to duplicate services already provided. We’re not trying to reinvent the wheel. We are a ‘source of last resort’ and target our financial aid to youths up to the age of 24. While any non-profit can contact us, it may be easier to go through Dr. Ray McFarlane at The (Las Vegas) LGBTQ Center.”

Bright Star was founded and funded by Jon Gathercole and Claude Raffin, long time real estate professionals from Santa Barbara, CA and residents of Las Vegas.

Jon Gathercole, came from a very poor family in Oklahoma. He found himself working to support the family income from age 13 or 14. He struck out on his own to San Francisco at age 17.

While he worked hard and eventually had a successful career in real estate with his partner, Claude Raffin, he continued to support his family, even after his untimely death this last March.

“Jon was accutely aware that often young people aren’t as fortunate as he was,” explained Schlegel. Jon and Claude knew that homelessness among LGBTQ young people is high. It’s estimated that 40% of the youth homeless population is LGBTQ. It’s especially acute among our trans population.

“Bright Star Foundation seeks to help kids who are homeless or on the verge of being homeless. I believe that each life we’re able to impact will be a living legacy to our founders Jon and Claude,” concluded Schlegel.

Disclosure: Rob Schlegel is also publisher of the Las Vegas Spectrum.