At 22 years old, Christian had spent nearly 4 years being unstably housed living mostly on the streets. He came out as gay to his parents when he was 17 years old and was met with homophobia and hate. On the morning of his 18 birthday his parents kicked him out.
Christian, like many homeless young people, struggled to survive on the streets. He went to a shelter run by a religious organization and on his first night there he was beaten up because of his identity. He ended up feeling safer on the streets where he slept in the subways and searched for food in dumpsters of restaurants to eat, sometimes eating around rotting parts of food. He recalls feeling constant hunger, so much so that it would wake him from his sleep.
He says he often felt like crying whenever he saw someone eating.
Food insecurity causes a host of mental health issues among homeless populations or those who do not have regular access to food. For homeless LGBTQ youth, their lack of access to food is rooted in family rejection due their identity. Individuals who are without consistent access to food for extended periods of time feel unworthy of food, unworthy of community and sadly, unworthy of love.
Christian developed a relationship with one of our outreach coordinators who would provide him with food, blankets and hand warmers. Eventually, our outreach worker was able to convince Christian to visit our shelter, assuring him that he would not be targeted or harassed because of his identity. In fact, AFC serves over 150,000 meal annually, we also offer young people tools to overcome lack of food security and mental health services to heal from the traumas of homelessness.
Upon arriving at our 24 hour Drop In Center in Harlem, Christian was offered a warm meal. He was subsequently connected with a mental health support group and therapist to address his lack of food security and his family's rejection. He enrolled in our onsite Meal Preparation Program where he is working towards obtaining a Meal Handlers certification in the restaurant industry -- a training program we offer on site. He wants to open a restaurant to feed other homeless people like him.