Pride Week 2012: Ali Forney Center Marks A Decade Of Helping Homeless LGBT Youth
Updated: 06/20/2012 11:00 PM
By: Shazia Khan
The next story in NY1's Pride Week coverage is about an organization that has been helping homeless lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender youth for a decade. NY1's Shazia Khan filed the following report.
Rebecca Walton now lives on her own, but when NY1 first met her in 2005 she was living at a residence run by the Ali Forney Center for homeless lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender youth. Walton says her stay there was life-changing.
"It really took a lot of the burden off of me, so that I could sort of figure out my place in life," says Walton.
She now works as a substance abuse counselor and has been living in her own apartment for the past six years. It is this type of success story that makes Carl Siciliano, the center's founder, beam with pride as his organization celebrates its 10th anniversary.
"You've got all these gay kids who are out on the streets, who've been thrown out and rejected by their families, they need some kind of space in their lives where they can just be accepted and affirmed for who they are, where they don't have to have their guard up all the time, where they don't have to defend themselves form bullying and harassment," says Siciliano.
A survey conducted in 2007 found that of the 3,800 homeless youth in the city, 28 percent identified as LGBT.
Since opening with six cots in a church basement a decade ago, the Ali Forney Center now offers 77 beds total in nine apartments, along with two daytime drop-in centers, including one in Chelsea. There, LGBT youth can obtain medical care, job assistance and social services.
Between the shelters and the drop-in centers, Siciliano says the organization has helped 5,000 LGBT youth. One of them, 19-year-old Jeremiah Beaverly, is currently living in one of its residences.
"When I found Ali Forney, it was like a mother, an aunt, a cousin. It was like a whole Sunday dinner but all the time," says Beaverly.
Siciliano hopes many more LGBT youth can find that same comfort, as the organization works to open another residence and there are also plans to launch a 24-hour drop-in center in December.
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