This is among the most terrible expressions of homophobia in our time.
As LGBT youth come out at younger ages, thousands are driven from their homes by rejecting families. And in a society that has grown increasingly unwilling to support a safety net for the most vulnerable, they are forced to endure homelessness and destitution.
In New York City, the statistics are horrifying. LGBT youth make up 40% of the homeless youth population, comprising 1,600 of NYC's 3,800 homeless youth. And NYC's response is even more horrifying; only 250 youth shelter beds are provided by the city, forcing many youths to sleep in subways, park benches, abandoned buildings and rooftops. And New York City has more shelter beds for LGBT youths than any other city in the nation.
But statistics don't adequately express the horror of what these youths endure. They don't express the suffering these kids go through; the psychological torment of being rejected, feeling unloved, alone and terrified, or the physical torment of the cold, exposure to the elements, hunger and chronic sleep deprivation.
I hope to wake people up to this atrocity that goes on in our midst, of these thousands of kids left out alone on the streets without shelter beds.So I have been spending time with these youths, photographing them in the spaces where they try to make it through the nights, listening and recording them tell of what they suffer. Allowing them to show us and tell us what they go through.
The Ali Forney Center has joined a number of other LGBT advocates and providers in creating The Campaign for Youth Shelter, which calls on the City to commit to a plan to add 100 youth shelter beds per year until such time as there are no longer waiting lists at the youth shelters. Alas, our Mayor refuses to discuss this; instead he tries every year to cut the few shelter beds. In 2012 he proposed reducing the number of youth shelter beds by 60%, forcing the New York City Council to fight to restore the few beds available.
In response we have organized rallies, initiated letter-writing and email campaigns, gotten the LGBT political clubs to sign on to statements in support of our plan. So far to no avail.
I do not believe that there will be a political willingness to fund shelter beds for kids until there is a strong public demand to do so. For now, with this project, all I am asking is for as many people as possible to open ourselves to these kids' lives, and listen to them. Please try to empathize with what it is like to be young, abandoned, and alone on the streets. What they have to say is painful and disturbing to hear. But they need us to listen. The only call to action I am asking for in response is to share their stories as much as you possibly can.
We need to ask ourselves why, in this great city, and in this great nation, where so much wealth and power and talent is concentrated, why must so many of our abandoned youths be forced to endure homelessness without adequate shelter beds? Why must so many LGBT youths be forced to suffer this horror. Only when enough of us are ashamed and outraged to have our youths be so terribly mistreated and neglected will there be the political will to provide the resources to shelter them.
So please share their stories, and try to find a place for these kids in your thoughts and in your hearts.
Executive Director, Carl Siciliano
Calling on City and State elected officials to commit to a plan to provide shelter for every homeless youth. For more information, click HERE
"I call on Pope Benedict to stop his anti-gay rhetoric, which fosters a climate in which parents abuse and abandon their LGBT children. All religious leaders who preach against the acceptance of LGBT people as equal members of society have created a world where far too many parents and families become unable to accept their LGBT children because of religious bias and intolerance. Thousands of LGBT teens have flocked to the Ali Forney Center from around the world after being reduced to utter destitution and homelessness because their parents rejected them."
"It is tragic that Pope Benedict has chosen Christmas, a time devoted to working towards peace on earth and goodwill among all people, to stridently escalate his vilification of LGBT people. And during a time when we might reflect on the preciousness of every child, Pope Benedict has spoken again and again in a manner that undermines the safety of LGBT youths."
Over the past week Pope Benedict has spoken aggressively against marriage equality, saying that it "threatens the essence of the human creature" and that it is a threat to world peace. Earlier this year, he said that marriage equality threatens human dignity and the future of humanity.
Recent studies by Caitlin Ryan of the Family Acceptance Project at the University of San Francisco have documented that highly religious parents are significantly more likely to reject their LGBT children, and have also documented that LGBT teens who suffer family rejection face greatly escalated risk of homelessness, medical and mental health problems, and suicide, compared to LGBT teens whose families accept them. Approximately 80% of the youths who seek help from the Ali Forney Center report that they faced abuse in their homes directed at them for being LGBT, and most were driven from their homes by rejecting families. A recent report by the Center for American Progress estimated that there are between 320,000 and 400,000 homeless LGBT youths in the United States.
The Ali Forney Center (AFC) is the largest organization in the United States dedicated to homeless LGBT youths. AFC provides housing and supportive services to over 1,000 LGBT youths per year.