Recent surveys of homeless teens reveal that 40% of kids living on the street identify themselves as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, or Transgender. According to Carl Siciliano, Executive Director and founder of the Ali Forney Center, the nation's largest organization dedicated to LGBTQ (Q - "questioning") youth, 25% of teens who come out to their families face rejection and banishment from their homes because of their sexual orientation. As difficult as this is to understand, in 2013, when gay marriage is legal in 13 states, more celebrities are coming out and popular culture is more rife than ever with gay and lesbian themed content, a parent who abandons a child because of sexual preference is an anachronism at best. These kids are left to the street, with no one to turn to, depend on or look to for support and encouragement. And many of these kids wind up here in New York City, desperate and hungry, and forced to rely on "survival sex" just to get something to eat.
Ali Forney was 13 years old when he was kicked out of his home by his mother. She couldn't handle the drama of having a gay son who was always coming home beat up because of his effeminate ways. Forney couldn't make it in the foster system, although he did give it a shot for three years, until he was 16, at which time he stayed on the street full time, hustling for money in a wig and high heels. Carl Siciliano first met Forney when he would drop in at the outreach center Siciliano worked at in Times Square. Forney was proudly HIV-negative, and he used to carry condoms around with him to pass out to other homeless youth he met in the streets. He became a peer counselor and advocate of LGBT youth because, he said, he saw so many HIV-infected people when he was in the streets and realized that many didn't know how to use condoms. In 1997, at 4:00 am, in front of a Harlem housing project, Forney was fatally shot in the head, the third young transgender prostitute murdered in Harlem in 14 months, according to The New York Times. The killing has never been solved.
Siciliano has said that he couldn't tolerate the idea that these young people could die in the street, faceless and unknown, and that no one would care about their passing. It was for this reason that he founded the program that started with just 16 beds in 2002, in Forney's name. The Ali Forney Center provides emergency and transitional housing, as well as medical help, substance abuse counseling and HIV testing. The center helps kids find jobs, get into school and provides a nurturing and supportive environment for kids whose families have turned their backs on them. The "AFC" Emergency Housing Program offers a scattered-site emergency housing program with sites in Manhattan and Brooklyn. AFC offers temporary housing in safe, staff supervised homelike apartments. On their website, the AFC has a link to a PDF breakdown of how the money raised by donations is distributed, and illustrates that nearly 85% of their revenue benefits their clients.
Diane Gentile is the General Manager of The Bowery Electric, the rock bar/club a few doors north of where legendary rock/punk club CBGB used to be, on the Bowery. That venue is now one of the downtown outposts of the rock & roll inspired designer, John Varvatos, who has kept the iconography of the place alive by hewing close to the anarchic vibe of its former tenant. Gentile put together an impressive roster of musicians to pay tribute to the late Lou Reed, which took place on November 24th. All proceeds from the night's ticket sales went straight to the Ali Forney Center, an amount that was north of $4000.00. The list of performers for "Last Great American Whale: A Concert in Memory of Lou Reed" was 30 strong, with members of TV on the Radio joining Patti Smith guitarist Lenny Kaye, Arto Lindsay, Voidoids guitarist Ivan Julian, Justin Hayward-Young of The Vaccines and many more. The soul-rock outfit, Hollis Brown, performed The Velvet Underground's 1970 album, "Loaded" in its entirety. "Loaded" was Reed's final album with The Velvet Underground, which he left shortly before the album's release.
The Ali Forney Center
321 West 125th Street
New York, NY 10027
212 206 0574