Guest Post: Ali Forney Center Founder Carl Siciliano

From Joe: Beloved readers, on this Thanksgiving Day, as on every other day of the year, uncountable LGBT kids are living on the streets, turned out by the very people who are supposed to love them. As we do every Thanksgiving, today we turn JMG over to Ali Forney Center founder Carl Siciliano. Please click and read his message below….

If I’m going to be honest, the Ali Forney Center is facing some challenges that I’m not especially thankful for.

I keep hoping that the numbers of LGBT youths people thrown out of their homes will begin to diminish, that the crowds of dispossessed kids seeking our help will go down. It hasn’t happened. In fact, Trump’s election has so ramped up hatred and bigotry in our country that the numbers of young people seeking shelter from us has grown by 20%. Last year over 1,400 youths showed up at our doors.

I keep hoping that religious condemnation of LGBT young people will ease up. That hasn’t happened either. The numbers of young people who come to us after being subjected to psychological and even physical torture in bible camps practicing “reparation therapy” also continues to grow. Numerous kids, especially those who come to us from southern states, have endured this. They tell us harrowing stories of abuse.

I keep hoping that LGBT youths will be safer in their homes. But over 75% of our youths were verbally and physically abused in their homes, because they are LGBT.

Adding insult to injury, we learned last month that the Ali Forney Center is losing $300K in federal funding that supported mental health services for our traumatized youths. Frankly, it was not a big surprise. The Trump administration has virtually erased LGBT language from the federal applications for youth-serving grants. But it still hurts. After providing safe places for our youths to sleep at night, supporting their mental health – helping them overcome the violence, trauma and rejection they’ve been forced to endure – is the most important service we provide.

But despite these challenges, I still have reasons to be thankful.

I am thankful for our many friends and supporters in the LGBT community who have allowed us to survive and grow. Every single day we are able to be there for young people facing hardships no one should face; offering warmth, safety, home – where they can be affirmed and valued for who they are. Unfortunately, the willingness of our government to treat the LGBT community with respect is subject to change. But our own community continues to stand by our hurt and violated young people in good times and bad.

I’m enormously grateful that we were able to open the Bea Arthur Residence this past year, the first building we’ve ever owned. It provides beautiful, dignified housing for 18 of our youths. I’m overjoyed to be able to honor Bea’s love for our young people in this way.

I am especially thankful for the steadfast support of the JoeMyGod community. I thank all of you for your generosity and Joe for his kindness in having offered me this remarkable platform every Thanksgiving for the past decade. The love and goodness shown to our kids means more to me than I know how to say. When you have to face the cruelest consequences of hatred every day, such evidence of basic human decency means an awful lot.

For anyone willing to help, donations can be made online via credit card or PayPal.

Or they can be mailed to:
Ali Forney Center
224 West 35th Street, 15th Floor
New York, NY 10001

For information about our audited financials and how our donations are spent, go here.

(On a side note, I want to give an update on our efforts to acquire the ATLAH church building, as many of you contributed towards that effort. While their attorney has done a masterful job of delaying every step of the process, a series of court rulings have gone against ATLAH. We are hopeful that the judge will issue a final decision regarding the foreclosure in December, which we believe will move the building to auction. ATLAH will be able to appeal that decision, but the appeal should be resolved within six months, meaning we are looking at next summer as the earliest the auction could be scheduled. We will keep you posted of any significant developments.)

I wish each of you a Happy Thanksgiving, and a joyful holiday season!

With love and gratitude,

Carl Siciliano
Founder/Executive Director
Ali Forney Center