2011

Portraits of NYC's Homeless LGBT Youth.
by CarlSiciliano
There are 3,800 homeless youth in NYC. About 40% - 1600 of them - identify as LGBT. New York City and State provide only 250 youth shelter beds for them, leaving the rest in the streets. The young people you will meet here are all homeless LGBT youth on the streets without shelter. We hope that by looking into their eyes and hearing their stories you are moved to join us in our campaign for additional City and State funding. No one should be forced to sleep on the streets due to a lack of available shelter beds.
 

Rasheed

 

    December 30th, 2011

 

 

 

I grew up in Virginia with my Aunt and Uncle. Last year they made me leave the house the day I turned 18. I stayed with friends until I graduated from high school, then I hit the road.
 
 
I work the overnight shift in a burger restaurant in Chelsea. I sleep in the daytime at the Ali Forney drop-in center, or on the subways. I had my photo taken by the Chelsea Piers. That is where I sit in the morning when my shift ends while I'm waiting for the drop-in center to open. Sometimes I don't get to sleep much at all for a day or two; then everything starts to blend together.
 
 
I'm going to make this work for me in some shape, some form. I have dreams for myself.
 
 

Annabella

 

December 28th, 2011

 

 

 

I grew up in Puerto Rico in a small town. I used to walk to the beach and swim in the ocean.
 
 
Sometimes I think coming out wasn't a good decision. A lot of people abandoned me.
 
 
I came to New York last February. For a while I was staying with my boyfriend at his parents' apartment, but that didn't work out, They didn't like us being gay and they humiliated me.
 
 
When I go on job interviews I get discriminated against. Everyone says that I am too feminine.
 
 
My boyfriend and I have been sleeping on the subways, and in the subway stations. My boyfriend has been on the streets off and on for three years, since he was 16. He knows how to make it ok on the streets. At least I'm not by myself. I have five sandwiches in my bag for us to eat tonight.
 
 
The best thing about coming to New York was that I gained my pride. I never thought I'd be part of the gay community.
 
 

Dizzy

 

    December 23rd, 2011

 

 

 

I grew up in Staten Island. I lived with my aunt, until she put me out three years ago.
 
 
I was sleeping on the front steps of a building in Staten Island until a few weeks ago, until it got too cold. Now I am riding the trains.
 
Last night I slept on the "1" train. It was allright. Maybe I got to sleep for four hours. I've been arrested and harrassed for sleeping on the trains, and I was almost robbed, so I feel like I have to try to sleep with one eye open.
 
 
The worst thing about being on the streets is the weather. You just feel hopeless, especially when you don't have the proper clothing.
 
 
I'm on the waiting list to get into the Ali Forney shelter. When I have a place to stay I hope to get back into school. I finished the 11th grade, but now it is pretty impossible to go to school when you don't have anywhere to stay.
 
 

Paris

 

December 21st, 2011

 

 

 

I grew up with my Mom in Brooklyn. I came out to her when I was 15. She wasn't happy with it. My friends told me it takes two years for your parents to get ok, but two years went by and she still wasn't ok.
 
 
She attached all the negative stigmas to being gay. Doing sex work, having AIDS. She was always saying I was going to get AIDS. I wasn't even sexually active! I didn't lose my virginity until this year. I began doing research on transitioning. When I told my Mom, she said "I gave birth to a boy, not a transvestite". She wasn't cool with it, and got more and more angry.
 
 
One day she said she was going to leave me. I thought she was joking, but three days later she packed up and moved. She told me I had to vacate the apartment that day, and left me $40. I was so shocked!
 
 
For the last six months I have been waiting for a shelter bed to open up. I walk all over the city at night until I get really tired, so I can hope to fall asleep on the subway. I try to sleep on the trains until the workers throw me out.
 
 
It feels horrible to live like this. You feel like you have nobody on your side. You think of your mom, and you think of someone always on your side. I try not to think about it because I'm like "Oh my God!". I try not to get down when so many people are already down on me. I try to be inspirational.
 
I'm going on job interviews, and am working on my music. I want the world to see who I really am. And when I get a lot of money I want to open a drop-in center for other kids.
 
 

Justin

 

   December 19th, 2011

 

 

 

My parents passed away when I was fifteen. I moved in with my aunt in Brooklyn, but she was really conservative and couldn't accept me for who I am.
 
 
When I became homeless, I couch surfed, moving from one friend's couch to another, and then I stayed in abandoned buildings. Recently I was staying in Zuccotti Park. I was sleeping in a big tent with a bunch of other people. I was arrested when the police evicted Occupy Wall Street from the park.
 
 
Last night I spent the night sleeping on the steps of a church near Wall Street. I was with nine other kids. We have three dogs, Sue, Jen and Cheyenne; who make us feel safer; we feel safe enough to sleep because they bark when strangers come.
 
 

Samba

 

   December 16th, 2011

 

 

 

I grew up in San Paolo, Brazil. Then my father was murdered, and my mother made me leave the country. She was afraid the same men would kill me. I never came out to my mother.
 
 
I moved to the US. I moved in with my older sister in the Bronx. I was doing ok; I got a job off the books in a department store. But when my sister found out I was gay, she put me out. She is very religious, and said I was going to the inferno (hell). She said she did not want her son to become gay like me.
 
 
Now I am staying on the "A" train. It is a long ride from the first stop to the last, so you can get more sleep on that line.
 
Sometimes I do sex work to get something to eat, or to get a place to spend the night. It is bad doing sex work, but you gotta do it, it's better than being out in the cold.
 
 
When I get a place to stay I want to get into a job training program. I want something better for me. It's hard sleeping on the trains a lot. You feel so alone. It is too hard.
 

Terrence

     December 14th, 2011

 

 
 

 

I grew up in Foster Care in Greensboro, North Carolina. It got bad when people realized I was gay. The staff treated me horrible after that. They would make gay jokes about me, and tell me I was going to die of AIDS. You don't treat a 13 year old kid like that.
 
 
I have been on the streets for two years, in NYC on and off for a year. Recently I slept in a park in Chelsea, by a dog run next to the West Side Highway, where we took my picture. I was cold, scared, but it was pretty much the safest place I could think of. Between the cars and the cold I couldn't get comfortable enough to sleep.
 
 
I tried to committ suicide last summer. I was in a dark place. I feel a lot better now that I am back on my meds.
 
 
Being gay and having a mental illness is a double-whammy. They both hold you back. But I'm working with my case manager at Ali Forney to get into supportive housing for people with mental health issues.
 

TIFFANY "LIFE" COCCO

 

December 12th, 2011

 

 
 

 

I grew up in East Harlem. Anything you think about the hood, that was my neighborhood. Drug dealing. Sirens all the time. I was the kid that got chased through my neighborhood.
 
 
I was 15 the first time I got kicked out of my house. My lowest point of trying to make it on the streets was three weeks ago. My girlfriend and I had to sleep on the roof of a building in the Bronx. It was raining cats and dogs. I let her sleep, and stayed awake to make sure we were safe.
 
 
I really want to be a writer, though first I will probably do something with my food handler's license to get on my feet. But definitely, when I retire, then I will write.
 

Gisele

 

    December 9th, 2011

 

 
 

 

 
I "escort". I have to jump in and out of cars to get food and a few dollars to rent a room.
 
When it started raining and getting colder I had to do more stuff I didn't want to do just to get a place to sleep for a couple of hours. I've been abused and attacked in the streets.
 
I try to be bubbly and joke, but it is really hard when you are hungry and don't get any sleep. I remember one night I was trying to sleep in the piers. But I was just crying and crying all night, wishing God could just take me out of this.
 
Last night was crazy. I was staying in an apartment with four other kids. One of them was crazy; he attacked me, dragged me out in the hall, punching me in the face, pushing me into doors. He pushed me down the stairs. I cannot go back there. I cannot be his punching bag. I was so upset and stressed that I broke out in hives.
 
I need a change. I cannot go on like this much longer.
 

Connor

 

   December 7th, 2011

 

 
 

 

I grew up in New Jersey with my dad and my step mom. I came out when I was 14. They tried to act like it was ok, but I could tell it wasn't with my step mom. I heard her tell my Dad that I was going to rape her son. Why would she think that?
 
I started using drugs when I was 15. I got badly addicted. I guess to escape the reality I was living, which was unbearable. I haven't been home since I was 15, for the last four years I have been in group homes, drug treatment facilities, the streets.
 
Last night I rode the trains and then slept in Penn Station. It was kind of scary and I was afraid of being robbed, but I am so thankful I was inside where it was warm. A lot of homeless people were trying to sleep there. The police kicked out a lot of the people trying to sleep. I am thankful I looked good enough to be a customer waiting for a train. The police left me alone.
 
I want to go to college and double major in psychology and political science. When I am on my feet I want to do advocacy for people that are mentally ill.
 
 

 

 
The Campaign for Youth Shelter is calling on City and State elected officials to commit to a plan to provide shelter for every homeless youth. For more information, and ways you can take action, click here.

Click here for an essay by Carl Siciliano about this project.
 
 
 
Click here to make a donation to the Ali Forney Center to support these youths and others with similar stories

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