Donald grew up in a big city in Texas. He had always been close to his mother, but when she found out he was gay, she said she wished she'd had an abortion. At the age of 16 he found himself on his own, surviving on the streets.
He kept attending his high school, but, out of shame and embarrassment, he hid his homelessness from his friends and teachers. He only confided in his best friend who was kind enough to allow Donald to take a shower at his house before going to school. He spent his nights riding the city buses.
One night he was sitting at the bus stop when he noticed a man repeatedly driving past him, circling around the block over and over. Donald realized he was being solicited for sex. He'd never done sex work before, but the thought of suffering through another night of sleeplessness and misery on a city bus was too much for him. Donald went with the man just to have a bed for the night.
Donald didn't feel the full emotional impact until the next morning, when he arrived at his friend's house. He told us when he saw his friend eating a bowl of Rice Krispies at the kitchen table like a normal kid, he suddenly felt overwhelmed with shame and degradation. Donald spent an hour in the shower that morning. He told us he didn't want his friend to see him until he was done crying over what he'd been reduced to. He hoped the noise of the shower would drown out his sobs.
Donald cried when he told our staff this, but he was finally safe. He was living in our transitional housing program, and we had helped him find a job at a grocery store.
We wish we could say things are getting better for homeless LGBT youth overall, but it would be a lie. The numbers of young people coming to the Ali Forney Center for help has grown by 20% over the past two years. The increased climate of hatred and bigotry in our country has only made LGBT youth less safe in their homes and local communities. And adding insult to injury, our federal funding has been cut. Under the current administration, which has shown so much hostility to the LGBT community, we have lost $300K in ongoing funding. It's a stressful situation.
So we need to ask for help. Especially in these hard times we must keep our doors open for Donald and many hundreds of other young people. Now, more than ever before, we need to lean on the strength and goodness of our supporters. Will you please help us?