Ali Forney Center Defies New Overnight Sleeping Ban

The New York Times reports:

The city’s overnight drop-in centers for homeless and runaway youth, which are serving a rising number of young people, received a jarring message last month: “Effective immediately, providers are required to discontinue the practice of allowing youth and young adults to sleep overnight.” At least one of the centers has responded in turn: no.

Alexander Roque [photo], who runs Ali Forney, a Manhattan center that serves L.G.B.T.Q. youth, said “they would have to shut us down and put me in handcuffs” before he would comply with the directive. “If the city threatens us and takes away our funding, I will continue to let our clients sleep, because that’s what’s at stake, their mental health is at stake,” Mr. Roque said.

The drop-in centers, operated by five city-funded nonprofits, are not homeless shelters, but there is one in each borough open 24 hours a day to serve teenagers and young people between the ages of 14 and 24. They provide food, laundry, education and career services, among other things. And, though they do not operate as official homeless shelters, many had also provided cots or other places for young people to sleep.

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Alex Roque succeeded Ali Forney Center founder Carl Siciliano as its director in January 2020 when Siciliano stepped down to help other cities establish similar shelters.

In addition to their Harlem drop-in center, the AFC operates six emergency housing sites with a total of 66 beds, the waiting list for which can stretch for months.

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