About COVID-19: Caring for Homeless Youth

COVID-19: Caring for homeless youth

COVID-19: Caring for Homeless Youth is a campaign launched to give a voice to the homeless LGBTQ youths in our care during the current pandemic we're living through. With the spread of COVID-19, many service organizations are understandably making the difficult decision to temporarily suspend their onsite services. This is not possible for the Ali Forney Center. We cannot close and ask our clients to call from home. We are their home. For LGBTQ youth experiencing the terrors of homelessness, we are their first responders. And now they need us more than ever. In such a time of fear, we have to stand firm and keep our doors open.

We hope to shine a light on their experience by sharing stories to help raise awareness of the issues of LGBT youth homelessness, especially now as many are feeling isolated, anxious, and depressed by the impact of COVID-19.

 

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Communications from President & Executive Director

FRIDAY, MARCH 13, 2020

A NOTE FROM President & EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, ALEXANDER ROQUE: We Cannot Close: We Are [Their] Home

Dear Friend,

With the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19), many service organizations are understandably making the difficult decision to temporarily suspend their onsite services.


This is not possible for the Ali Forney Center. We cannot close and ask our clients to call from home. We are their home. For LGBTQ youth experiencing the terrors of homelessness, we are their first responders. And now they need us more than ever.

In such a time of fear, we have to stand firm and keep our doors open. We are taking every step possible to protect our youths and staff and limit exposure, suspending outside groups and volunteers from visiting our sites, and making arrangements for staff, reorganizing our programs so youths need not travel between our many sites for their services, establishing quarantine zones in all our sites in case any of our youths become sick or exposed.

Many of our youths and staff are understandably frightened. But despite our fear, we must be there for each other. Every single day we must be here for our young people and, we hope that you will be here for us too and support in any way you can.

Visit links below to make a donation or to learn about other ways you can help our homeless youths during this time. 

With gratitude, 

Alexander Roque

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TUESDAY, MARCH 24, 2020

A NOTE FROM PRESIDENT & EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, ALEXANDER ROQUE: WE ARE THEIR FAMILY. WE ARE THEIR HOMES. WE ARE THEIR SAFETY.

Dear Friend,

Over the past week, we have experienced significant changes in our world and in the work of the Ali Forney Center. In spite of the uncertainty, the increasing disruptions to our daily lives, and the many concerns we each carry, I am grateful to share that our workforce, our program services, and our ongoing support and protection of the young people in our care has been unwavering.
 
Almost all of our programs have been running uninterrupted. This is a testament to the commitment of our staff who is rising up to the increased challenges of our work to show our young people that they are not alone, that they are worthy of care and that they are loved. 

In moving to increased social distancing and a statewide Stay at Home Order, we are working to support the unique needs of the young people in our care and the 17 different shelter and housing sites we operate. This has created an increased strain on our finances in providing:

  • Additional meals
  • Essential care items
  • Cleaning supplies

The same is true for increased expenses paying staff on the front lines, many who are working overtime, and for the increased demand of our facilities and operations teams that are working around the clock to keep our sites clean and operational.

Your support in helping to cover these increased expenses is vital to our survival during these times. We are also developing other ways to help. See the links below to make a gift or to be contacted on how else you may help.


With gratitude, 

Alexander Roque

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FRIDAY, APRIL 9, 2020

A NOTE FROM PRESIDENT & EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, ALEXANDER ROQUE: COVID-19: CARING FOR HOMELESS YOUTH

Dear Friend,

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to disrupt the lives of people around the world, stories of how communities are coming together to help others are emerging. Acts of kindness, compassion and love have taken shape all around us. Pollution is down, accidents have decreased and even rates of non-coronavirus critical care hospitalizations have declined. As we entered this new world and put our lives on "pause," I held optimism that perhaps homophobia and transphobia would also take a pause.

I hoped that the fragility of our lives would resonate with homophobic and transphobic parents and that they would learn to accept and love their children. I wished that the young people in our care would be welcomed back into their homes and that somehow this devastating life event would spark a change of heart for their families. At a minimum, I hoped that there would be a decline in the number of youth being thrown out of their homes. 

I am sad to share that not only has there been no change in the demand for our work, but there has actually been an increase in the number of young people seeking our care. In some instances, young people who had moved out of our program to attend college have been sent back "home" but have not been welcomed by their parents. In other instances, young people who were trying to make it on their own have lost their jobs and have had no family to rely on. In many ways, the pandemic is retraumatizing homeless youth as they are reminded that even in the most uncertain time of our lives, they are not welcome at home because of their LGBTQ identity. 

However, in spite of the odds against our young people, there is light and power in our work that is fueled by their resilience. Our staff shoulder our commitment to making the world better for our youth. Our work serves as a firm testament that in spite of what their parents have told them and in spite of what has happened in their lives, they are worthy of being cared for, they are worthy of love and that there is a community of people here for them no matter what. We are here for them, across 17 sites in NYC, offering care 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year - our doors will not close, our care is unconditional, and our commitment is unwavering. 

We invite you to read about young people in our care, like Ruth, who is working through the mental health traumas she is facing in not having parents who accept her, especially during this pandemic.

With hope and gratitude,

Alexander Roque

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Ruth, 19

Ruth recently joined our Emergency Housing Program. She connected with AFC over the holidays of this past year. She was 19, living on the streets, resorting to sex work to survive and struggling with mental health issues. The trauma of being homeless and not having a family to turn to weighed on her. She felt lonely not having anyone, but she found comfort in other homeless youth, which is how she ended up at AFC. She has been consistent about her care with our mental health professionals, receiving the love and care she deserves.

As the COVID-19 Pandemic reached New York City, Ruth began struggling with anxiety again and having feelings of hopelessness. Last week, after two weeks of practicing social distancing, Ruth had a panic attack. Living in fear of COVID-19, being isolated, and struggling with the loss of income has retraumatized her. She feels lonely and wishes she had a family who will accept her. Ruth, like many young people in our care, is concerned about COVID-19 and her future.

Fortunately, Ruth is not alone. She has been able to connect with staff at her emergency housing shelter and with her therapist, who is helping her work through anxiety and reinforcing that although she may feel isolated and lonely during this time, she is not alone. She has increased her weekly therapy sessions and is managing her anxiety.

give LGBTQ homeless youth hope