Before good can happen, first people must care and more importantly contribute to making good things happen.
In 1992 Carl Siciliano was working at a homeless drop in center and there he met the 17-year-old Ali Forney. Ali Forney had been living on the streets since the age of 13 where he resorted to street work to survive. He started to make a name for himself, an educator of sorts and an advocate. He would educate anyone and everyone on HIV prevention and the importance of safe sex practices. He later gained the attention of the police after he began to advocate on behalf of homeless queer youth who were murdered. Ali wanted the murders investigated and justice for his friends.
In 1997 Ali Forney, 22, was murdered and his death brought attention to deplorable conditions in which many homeless LGBTQ youth were living in NYC. Ali’s murder was never solved.
In 2002 Carl Siciliano founded the Ali Forney Center. He did so in response to the lack of safe shelter for LGBTQ. Their mission is to “protect lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning (LGBTQ) youth from the harm of homelessness, and to support them in becoming safe and independent as they move from adolescence to adulthood." In NYC about 40% of homeless youth are LGBTQ. Yet less than 25% of new beds are allocated for LGBTQ youth.
Today AFC is the country’s largest and most comprehensive organization dedicated to homeless LGBTQ youth. The services provided are as important today as they were when Ali Forney first became homeless. Many LGBTQ face homophobic violence and harassment in the shelter system and turn to the streets.
AFC offers an innovative range of services that provide a nurturing, caring and supportive environment. These services include the AFC Day Center, which offers street outreach, referral to the housing programs, case management, primary medical care, HIV testing, mental health assessment and treatment, food, showers, and an employment assistance program, to name a few.
August 2016 Ali Forney made the news announcing the Bea Arthur Residence would be completed by February 2017. Bea Arthur was a cheerleader for AFC as well as a generous supporter. Her donation to AFC help to secure the development of a new 18 bed residence that will bear her name.
The work at AFC is supported by signature events throughout the year. The Spring/Summer events are Night of a Thousand Judys in June and Oasis in July. The Fall events are A Place at the Table and Spice Halloween in October. If you are interested in joining an event committee or would like to host a fundraiser for the Ali Forney Center, please email Tyler Neasloney at firstname.lastname@example.org
Ali’s life continues to inspire people to make a difference and influence to help one another. Ali did not live to see the tremendous impact he continues to have on the lives of today’s homeless queer population on living your truth, persevering, standing up and caring for others. Carl Siciliano recognized that people are inspired by courage, youth can make a difference, given the empowerment and supportive tools to be their best selves. At Ali Forney Center they demonstrate this each and every day.
Join the Ali Forney Center on social media:
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Written by Ingrid Galvez,
Chair, Diversity & Inclusion, NGLCCNY
Organizational Development Consultant, Strategic Remedy Group