Transgender resource center offering safe space for all

SOUTH BEND, Ind.--A brand-new resource center for the transgender community, “The Tree House”, has opened in Downtown South Bend. It aims to educate and provide a safe, inclusive space for everyone.

When you first walk in, you’re met with a warm, coffee-shop like design. To your left, you have what Founder and President of Transgender Resource, Education and Enrichment Services, also known as TREES, Meghan Buell (she/her) calls the “bistro lounge.”

To your right, you have multiple other spaces to work or relax with a coffee, tea or non-alcoholic beer, and sit and chat with others. Other activities like working on a community puzzle or coloring book are also available.

“The Tree House” offers direct and educational services and support resources, and soon will also provide a library and another hang out spot with accessible computers. It’s a place not only for the transgender community to come and explore, but for anyone who wants a comfortable and accepting place to hang out, learn and create relationships with other community members.

“The space here, the TREE House, is really built to come and congregate, hang out and then they eventually get to know each other and find out they have more things in common than different. So, this space is not just for trans and non-binary people, it’s actually for the whole community and we encourage everyone to come in because you might meet someone that you’ve never met elsewhere and have the opportunity to get to know them,” Founder and President of TREES Meghan Buell said.

Buell started TREES 7 years ago, during a time where more violence and suicides in the transgender community were sparking around the country. It was mobile for all of that time, but when the opportunity to open up their own center came about, Buell was quick to act. It was a quick turnaround, and only took 6 weeks to renovate, opening its doors on National Trans-Day of Visibility on March 31. More than 100 community members gathered on opening day.

Buell says, there aren’t many trans resource centers like this one.

“It’s important here in South Bend but to be honest with you, there’s very few transgender specific resource centers in the whole country. So, we have a unique space here and when you can have within your community, and think of the tree house… no judgements, everyone is welcome, it’s a chill hangout place…you can be yourself and just feel comfortable.”

You can even purchase affordable items from the gift shop there, which are from different local vendors in the community. “The Tree House” has also partnered with Athletic Brewing, a national non-alcoholic company, and offers that non-alcoholic beer at the center.

On top of providing a safe space for the community, Buell says this partnership helps the center provide a “sober space,” too.

“We are creating a sober space here to try and help trans people, non-binary people understand that they can have adult beverages but don’t have to rely on the buzz and so we promote this as a sober space and we will be doing sober space events in downtown and I think it’s a unique opportunity to give people that option here.”

For more information on TREES, you can click here.

You can learn more about the Tree House, their hours of operation and all upcoming events on their Facebook page.

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