After Hurricane, Ali Forney Center Makes Sure ’It Gets Better’
After the Ali Forney Center’s Drop-In Center was destroyed by floodwaters from Hurricane Sandy, the community has come together to help raise funds to rebuild it.
This month, as the AFC profiles its homeless youth clients via a special video project, groups like It Gets Better and BNY Mellon are working to make sure these youth get the services they need with fundraisers and donations, including a Dec. 16 A Better Holiday concert at XL nightclub.
"I am enormously grateful to It Gets Better for their generosity," said AFC’s Executive Director Carl Siciliano. "It is my hope that this concert will help us not only continue our recovery from Sandy, but also further our goal of combating LGBTQ youth homelessness, one of the most terrible manifestations of homophobia in our time. For no youth should be denied access to shelter, family support, or food simply for being who he or she is."
As reported here, a storm surge from the Hudson River filled the AFC Drop-In Center on West 22nd Street with four feet of water, destroying computers, phones, furniture and supplies. The center was a home base for youth to receive food, water and shelter, plus medical care, counseling and treatment. AFC is the nation’s largest services and advocacy organization working on behalf of LGBT homeless youth.
Before the storm, the Drop-In Center was serving 10,000 meals a year to runaway and homeless LGBT youth at risk for prostitution, violence, suicide and HIV infection. Currently, AFC is providing these services out of room 212 of the NYC LGBT Community Center on West 13th Street in Greenwich Village.
The Dec. 16 event will feature a cocktail party and art sale, followed by a concert. Performing at the event will be "Newsies" star Andrew Keenan-Bolger, "Cinderella" cast member Santino Fontana, "Chicago Fire" actress Monica Raymond, Andy Mientus from "Smash, Max Von Essen and Christina DeCicco from "Evita," Donna Vivino from "Wicked," "Queer as Folk" cast member Randy Harrison, Declan Bennett from "American Idiot," and "Bring It On: The Musical" cast members Ryan Redmond, Ariana DeBose and Gregory Haney. Comedy duo The Haus of Mimosa will host the evening’s festivities. The event will be held from 7 to 10 p.m. at XL nightclub at 512 W. 42nd St.
"We were saddened to hear about the fate of AFC’s day center, which has been such a crucial lifeline for our city’s LGBTQ homeless youth," said Stephanie Laffin, board member of The It Gets Better Project. "With ’A Better Holiday,’ we hope that we can further raise awareness about the plight of these youth, and work to not only restore what Sandy destroyed, but to get homeless LGBTQ young people off the street and provide them with the resources they need."
Another stroke of good luck came when BNY Mellon announced, on December 6, that the banking giant would donate $10,000 to AFC to support the rebuilding of the Drop-In Center. This is in addition to BNY’s other disaster relief grants and contributions, which include a $1 million donation to the American Red Cross and others.
AFC’s "Homeless for the Holidays" Raises Awareness
In ongoing effort to bring attention to the epidemic of LGBT homeless youth sleeping on the streets of New York City, AFC has released a second installment of the "Homeless for the Holidays" video series.
Continuing through New Year’s Day, the AGC will release a new YouTube video every week that features a slideshow of a young person narrating his or her own story of life on the streets. Recent videos include the story of Jackson, a 21-year-old transgender male who fled Texas after being rejected by his family. He was forced to sleep in a car and on the Staten Island Ferry before finding a bed at the Trinity Place Shelter for LGBTQ youth, and he is now pursuing a career as a phlebotomist.
"It is a terrible thing that so many LGBTQ youth are driven from their homes and forced into destitution in the streets," Siciliano said. "It is truly one of the most terrible expressions of homophobia in our time. And what they endure is made far worse by their not having access to shelter."
A census commissioned by the New York City Council that was released in 2008 found 3,800 homeless youth aged 13-24 in New York City, and 1,600 identified as LGBTQ. New York City only provides 250 youth shelter beds, forcing many youths to wait for weeks and even months to access shelter.
The Ali Forney Center has formed a coalition of LGBT advocates and providers called the Campaign for Youth Shelter, who are calling on NYC to adopt a plan to provide shelter to every homeless youth in NYC.
For more info or to donate, visit www.aliforneycenter.org/