Alex Blaze

Ali Forney Center gets some help from Episcopals

Filed By Alex Blaze | December 09, 2009 6:30 PM | comments

Filed in: Living
Tags: Ali Forney Center, budget, Episcopal Church, la, lesbian, LGBT homeless, New York, New York City, program, queer youth

As we talk about what issues get attention and work and resources in the LGBTQ community, few get ignored more than that of queer homeless youth (they neither vote nor donate to political campaigns). The Ali Forney Center, which was on the verge of getting closed down this year as its budget got cut, will be staying open with the help of the Episcopal Church:

But a $200,000 donation later, the charity, and the Episcopal Diocese of Long Island, of which it is a part, helped create a new 16-bed shelter at the Church of St. Andrew's in Astoria. The Ali Forney Center, which is named for a gay homeless teenager who was killed in 1997 and which has seen its budget cut in the past year by nearly $450,000 because of the economic downturn, is partnering with the church in operating the shelter.

"For a lot of us, when we hear about Christianity, our stomachs kind of churn," Mr. Siciliano said in an interview. "Another part of me is very grateful the church is making this kind of gesture."[...]

"I think it's an obligation to care for God's people," Bishop Provenzano said. "This is basic nuts-and-bolts Christianity."

One would think that sentiment would be common among American Christians, but, well, this is the planet we're living on.

The funding that the Ali Forney Center lost earlier this year was a federal grant, and apparently they're not going to get it back. The fact that the Episcopal Church is stepping in is great, but they really shouldn't have to. The basics that a place like the Ali Forney Center provides should be provided by the government of the richest country in the world.

But, well, more money will be thrown down the drain to try to build a lasting democracy in Afghanistan over the next 18 months, while a program like this requires private support to stay alive, when, according to the New York Times, needs to be greatly expanded to meet the needs of queer homeless youth in New York City.

The Great Recession is hurting youth more than it's hurting the rest of America, with a the 16-24 unemployment rate higher than anytime since 1948. LGBTQ youth are still being kicked out of their homes, are still being rejected by their families of origin and having college funds cut off, but they're having a harder time finding a job in this economy. And being LGBTQ doesn't help many out in the job market.

How is a program like this not essential?

One of the youngsters, Coyotee Jaska Young, 22, said it was a challenge for homeless gay youth to stay in shelters where most of the patrons are heterosexual. Gay youth regularly face harassment if they choose to be open about their sexuality or worry about being abused, he said. Some turn to prostitution or offer sexual favors for shelter, too.

Mr. Young, who left Kokomo, Ind., for New York almost 10 months ago after his family refused to support him, described the Church of St. Andrew's as his new home in what was a "Cinderella moment" in his life thus far.

"I'm able to sleep here with my two eyes closed," said Mr. Young, who dreams of an acting career.

His friend, Jiaya Temple, who spent three months homeless before she found a bed at the Ali Forney Center more than a year and a half ago, said the shelter is helping her become more independent. She plans to get her G.E.D. in a few weeks and has taken culinary classes.

Good on the Episcopal church for stepping in. They're getting lots of queer kudos for nominating a lesbian bishop in LA this past week, but this sort of work deserves recognition.

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Just think . . . a smidgen of a Wall St. bankers bonus could fulfill it all!

And, I know that many who call themselves "Christians" don't much act like it. But the Episcopal Church has put itself on the line for us. I'm so glad they came through again.

Robert Ganshorn Robert Ganshorn | December 10, 2009 5:57 AM

Very good posting on the heels of Fr. Tony's last post. Had I a need for religion I would strongly consider them.