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New York City's Ali Forney Drop-In Center Destroyed by Hurricane Sandy
Posted by: Claude J. Summers on 11/04/12
Last updated on: 11/04/12
 
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Carl Siciliano.

On November 2, 2012, it was learned that New York City's Ali Forney Center for homeless or displaced glbtq youth, located on 22nd Street between 10th and 11th Avenues, was severely damaged by Hurricane Sandy.

The Ali Forney Center is the nation's largest and most comprehensive organization dedicated to homeless glbtq youth. It provides homeless youth, aged 16-24, with the support and services they need to escape the streets and begin to live healthy and independent lives.

In addition to emergency and transitional housing, the Center also offers street outreach, case management, primary medical care, HIV testing, mental health assessment and treatment, food and showers, an employment assistance program, as well as psychiatry referrals and workshops for professionals on issues facing homeless youth.

On November 2, Carl Siciliano, the founder and executive director of the organization, reported that he and his staff were finally able to inspect their drop-in center in Chelsea and assess the damage caused by Hurricane Sandy.

"Our worst fears were realized; everything was destroyed and the space is uninhabitable. The water level went four feet high, destroying our phones, computers, refrigerator, food and supplies," he reported.

He added: "This is a terrible tragedy for the homeless LGBT youth we serve there. This space was dedicated to our most vulnerable kids, the thousands stranded on the streets without shelter, and was a place where they received food, showers, clothing, medical care, HIV testing and treatment, and mental health and substance abuse services. Basically a lifeline for LGBT kids whose lives are in danger."

Siciliano reported that New York City's LGBT Center has offered the organization temporary use of some of their space and that they have been deluged with kind offers from people who wish to volunteer and donate goods.

"Unfortunately," he continued, "we will have to provide our services in the time being in much smaller spaces that won't accommodate volunteers or allow for much storage space. The best way people can reach out to help in this very challenging time is by making monetary donations."

Donations may be made at the Ali C. Forney center website here.

Siciliano concluded, "It is heartbreaking to see this space come to such a sad end. For the past seven years it has been a place of refuge to thousands of kids reeling from being thrown away by their parents for being LGBT. For many of these kids coming to our drop-in center provided their first encounter with a loving and affirming LGBT community. I thank all of you for your care and support in a most difficult time."

The organization's new drop-in center space is under renovation in Harlem. It will likely be ready in a few months, Siciliano told The Advocate. In addition, the Ali Forney Center housing facilities in Brooklyn and Queens were unharmed, as were its administrative office in midtown Manhattan and another drop-in center in Brooklyn.

Siciliano has been working with homeless youth in New York City since 1994. Though no longer affiliated with the church, Siciliano was a monk at the Monastery of Christ in the Desert in Northern New Mexico prior to his life of advocacy.

Siciliano founded the Ali Forney Center in 2002 and named it for a young homeless man who was murdered in 1997.

Earlier this year, Siciliano said in an interview that the most difficult thing about his work is seeing so many kids who have been rejected by their families for being glbtq. "Young people should be able to be loved for who they are. It is very painful to hear our kids talk about how their parents cruelly, and often violently, respond to their being gay. It is terrible that so many of our kids have been treated in such an inhuman way," he told Ramon Johnson of GayLife.

In the video below, Siciliano speaks of the origins and work of the Ali Forney Center.

 
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