Equality Michigan raises awareness for LGBTQ+, victim advocate services in U.P.

Equality Michigan provides LGBTQ+ and victim advocacy services to U.P. community members in need.


Joleigh Martinez/NW

ADVOCACY — EQMI is an LGBTQ + advocacy and victim advocate services organization nonprofit that is based in lower Michigan that advocates for the rights of LGBTQ + individuals and communities as well as providing victim services. Mandy Bonesteel is the current rural outreach coordinator based in the U.P. and is working to provide these services to community members.

Madoline Plattenberg

Mandy Bonesteel, a graduate administrative assistant at NMU’s Center for Student Enrichment and first-year master’s candidate public administration major, is the first rural outreach coordinator in the U.P. with Equality Michigan (EQMI), since October 2022. Bonesteel said she is in the process of setting up mobile clinics and offices in the area for LGBTQ + advocacy and victim advocate services for anyone in need.

EQMI is an LGBTQ + advocacy and victim advocate services organization nonprofit that is based in lower Michigan that advocates for the rights of LGBTQ + individuals and communities, as well as providing victim services, Bonesteel said. The main office is based out of Kalamazoo with other officers and advocates throughout the state.

“If anybody has been a victim of a crime, of discrimination, or they are just in a situation where they need some help, EQMI is the organization that they could call and we could provide them those services,” Bonesteel said.

EQMI started the Hate Won’t Win movement, which is a grassroots movement of local community centers, state and local advocacy centers and national partners to ensure LBGTQ + voices are not silenced through a blend of phone calls, door knocks and digital communication to move EQMI voters to vote, according to Bonesteel.

“Something really positive is just connecting different organizations not only to Equality Michigan but to each other, meeting people and learning more about different aspects of my community that I was pretty unfamiliar with,” Bonesteel said. “I did get to meet with the head of Planned Parenthood Michigan. It was really great to be able to connect with somebody and to connect with other people that can have these community partnerships to give people the services that they need, and also to educate organizations on how to interact with our communities.”

On the EQMI’s website, there is a victim services tab and a training tab. If an organization wants to get training, they can request training, a time and date and how many people will be attending, and there are all different types that are available for organizations and businesses.

“We provide services to not only those needing victim services but domestic violence, hate crime, anything along those lines,” Bonesteel said.

Those in need of services can scroll on the map across the U.P. and can call the main number, and they will be directed to the appropriate person wherever they are located in Michigan.

“We can direct them to an LGBTQ + friendly lawyer who can provide them with legal counsel, we can inform them of their rights as a victim of a crime and then if someone is in need of housing, we can provide them with housing in a hotel even for a couple of nights, and we will work to find permanent housing for them,” Bonesteel said. “We really work across the board to get people what they need.”

Bonesteel encourages students to reach out for volunteer events and opportunities. 

“EQMI is a nonprofit, if some of the Student Leader Fellowship Program members are interested in volunteering and doing the community service internship – with me specifically – within this organization, that’s an option,” Bonesteel said. 

The organization is always looking for people to get the word out that we exist up here, Bonesteel said, and EQMI will be doing a thorough community needs assessment for the LGBTQ + community across the U.P. soon and will be needing help getting that distributed.

“Getting the word out, that’s something that we’re trying to do because we can’t just know what people need, they have to tell us,” Bonesteel said. “By doing that community needs assessment, I’m hoping to see where the gaps in services are in the Upper Peninsula and what people are looking for in our specific area.”