Warner Robins man to pitch safe haven for gays

mstucka@macon.comJuly 2, 2014 

WARNER ROBINS -- A former City Council candidate is seeking the city’s support in building a safe haven for the region’s young homosexuals.

Neal Erwin plans to present some of his ideas during a public comment period at Monday’s City Council meeting. He told The Telegraph he’s mulling over several general ideas, such as a club for gay teens and people in their early 20s that could incorporate HIV and AIDS testing. It also could include a home schooling program.

“If they’re being bullied at school, maybe this could be an alternative for them,” said Erwin, 44, who said he remembered what it was like being a young gay man.

“You didn’t dare tell anybody. Your friends were dying of AIDS. ... The same struggles I had back then are the same struggles today. You have parents kicking teens out because they’re gay,” Erwin said. He said he joined the U.S. Army and lived 10 years under the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy.

Erwin said there was not a specific incident or issue leading him to want to create a safe haven. He envisions a place that would be welcoming to anyone.

“Straight people could come if they support us. Anybody’s welcome. I’d maybe like to start up a church service in there. A lot of churches close their doors to us. In my mind, that’s not the message from Jesus to people,” he said.

Erwin said he’d only heard of opposition from one person. That person canceled a Telegraph interview.

Erwin, who ran for office in 2011, said he’s hoping to unite people instead of continuing fights.

He’d like a diverse group of supporters, including nurses and educators, to bring ideas to the City Council meeting.

“Can we all not get along with one another?” he said. “(Homosexuality) is a reality we’ve got to face.”

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