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LGBTQ youth program to move again after Hamilton Business Center shutdown

Silk Lehigh Valley's Open House
Olivia Marble
The mural that was at the entrance of Silk Lehigh Valley. It was made by artist Rei Ukon.

ALLENTOWN, Pa. — A drop-in program for LGBTQ youth is moving for the second time in a year.

Silk Lehigh Valley, formerly known as Project Silk Lehigh Valley, has to move from its location in Hamilton Business Center after Allentown inspectors this month deemed that building an "immediate risk to human life.”

“We will maintain our services both virtually and within the community to ensure you have uninterrupted access to our programs.”
An Instagram post from Silk Lehigh Valley

“Despite this unexpected challenge, we are dedicated to continuing our support for the community,” an Instagram post from the nonprofit read.

“We are actively seeking a new location and are committed to reopening Silk Lehigh Valley as soon as possible.

“We will maintain our services both virtually and within the community to ensure you have uninterrupted access to our programs.”

The move comes just four months after the program held an open house for its new space. It used to operate out of the basement of Bradbury-Sullivan LGBT Community Center in Allentown, but the center terminated the lease on the program last December.

Silk Lehigh Valley is a drop-in program for LGBTQ people aged 14-29 that started in 2016. It is part of Valley Youth House, a Bethlehem-based nonprofit that serves vulnerable youth.

The program offers services such as access to HIV and STI testing, peer support and counseling. It also is a community space for LGBTQ youth and allies.

The nonprofit will hold temporary drop-in hours at The Caring Place at 931 Hamilton St. from 4-6 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays.

Resources for HIV and STI testing are on the program’s Instagram page.

Senior Vice President of Advancement at Valley Youth House Christina Schoemaker said the nonprofit is close to finding a new space and should have an update in coming weeks.

Hamilton Business Center shut down

Jason Addy
Heather Milhouse, who runs a salon in the Hamilton Business Center, reads violation notices posted by the city Friday, Dec. 8.

Allentown officials said inspectors searched the Hamilton Business Center on Dec. 5 and found many safety violations.

Paperwork filed by the city in support of the search warrant says city officials saw an “unlicensed laboratory with unknown substances” in the basement of the building, which has a day care on the first floor.

The search yielded unregistered units, improper sprinkler systems and blocked fire exits, Allentown community and economic development chief Vicky Kistler said at a news conference this month.

Hamilton Business Center will be off limits until a series of upgrades are made, which could take months, Kistler said.

Staff writer Jason Addy contributed to this report.