Guest Post - Carl Siciliano
When disaster strikes you really find out who your friends are.
Sandy did not spare the Ali Forney Center. While fortunately our eight housing sites were unharmed, and all our kids and staff came through safely, our drop-in center was utterly devastated. Four feet of water flooded the entire space. The floors, walls, outlets, were destroyed; all the food, clothing, medical supplies ruined, as were the computers, phones and furniture. Our program for NYC's most destitute LGBT youth, those homeless and on the streets waiting for shelter, was left homeless itself.
When I realized the extent of the destruction, I put a message on Facebook. Joe Jervis was the first person who reached out, offering up his blog to try to generate support. And that support came rushing in. Within 36 hours of my appeal for help on JoeMyGod, over $100K came in. So from the very bottom of my heart, I want to thank the JoeMyGod community. You have done yourselves proud; you have shown so much goodness and generosity.
The Ali Forney Center has never been able to put much money into fundraising; most of our resources need to go directly to our kids. It is very expensive to house and feed so many kids, and to provide them with medical care and other needed services. But we have made it through the recession, and we will survive Sandy and continue to grow in our ability to protect our kids, in no small part because Joe allows me to do these posts, and because so many of you respond.
I have been working on a photo essay documenting how NYC's homeless LGBT youth survive on the streets. The kids take me to the places where they try to make it through the nights, and I photograph them and record them talking about what they endure. In the last week two different kids have told me about their suicide attempts, standing in the spots where those attempts occurred. Last Thursday night I found myself with a young man at the edge of the beach in Coney Island as he told me of another cold night night when, despairing of being so hopeless and alone, he wanted to swim out to sea and drown himself. It is hard and disturbing to look these kids in their eyes and hear these things. I'm thankful that he decided to live.
It is a terrible thing that so many LGBT youth are driven from their homes and forced into destitution in the streets. It is truly one of the most terrible expressions of homophobia in our time. And realizing how desperate these kid's situations are, I am all the more grateful for your support, which allows us to protect these kids.
I know that a great many of you have given to us in the past few weeks, and I thank you. For those of you who are still considering giving to our recovery effort, I want to make you aware that two JoeMyGod readers, Frank Selvaggi and Bill Shea, have offered to match the gifts of new donors up to $50K in the coming year. This wonderful married couple came to support the Ali Forney Center after reading my appeal on JoeMyGod last Thanksgiving and have already given over $150K.
Donations can be mailed to Ali Forney Center, 224 West 35th Street, Suite 1500. New York, NY 10001 or made online here. I hope everyone has a wonderful Thanksgiving. And I thank all of you who have given us reason to be thankful in a very difficult time.
Ali Forney Center