Ernesto, 17

Ernesto was 17 years old when he found himself being choked by his father who was yelling "I would rather have a dead son than a gay son." Earlier in the school year, Ernesto met a boy and the two were secretly dating.

Ernesto's father was never affection or close. He was a proud man who worked late hours to make ends meet, he took his family to church every Sunday, he prayed before every meal.

He was very homophobic.

Ernesto's only thought while his father was choking him was to pray to make it all stop. His father pushed him out on the front door of their apartment building telling him to never come back.

LGBTQ youth are at greater risk of experiencing violence at the hands of their parents. Once homeless, they are 8 times more likely to be targeted on the streets and in non-LGBTQ affirming shelters. The traumatic scars of family rejection have life-lasting effects.

Ernesto quickly found the Ali Forney Center on the internet and made his way from his home in the Bronx to our 24 hour Drop In Center in Harlem. He was immediately placed in our overnight program and within three days had a bed in our emergency housing program. He saw a doctor at our on-site clinic to assess the physical abuse. We also connected him with mental health services to begin to address the emotional abuse.

He's working towards obtaining a high school equivalency and has a team of dedicated staff members and volunteers who are rooting for him every step of the way.