It's hard to believe Hurricane Sandy hit New York only a week ago, now that we've begun assessing the ruins and devastation. It seems as though every day we hear (or don't hear) about a new neighborhood or landmark that has been demolished. Unfortunately the latest casualty hits extremely close to home: The Ali Forney Drop-In Center, a haven in New York City for LGBTQ youth who had no where else to go, is destroyed.
Executive director Carl Siciliano wrote a letter to the community that details the damage, the consequences, and how we can help. I'm including the entire letter because I think it's important that you read every word.
Yesterday we were finally able to inspect our drop-in center in Chelsea, half a block from the Hudson River. Our worst fears were realized; everything was destroyed and the space is uninhabitable. The water level went four feet high, destroying our phones, computers, refrigerator, food and supplies.
This is a terrible tragedy for the homeless LGBT youth we serve there. This space was dedicated to our most vulnerable kids, the thousands stranded on the streets without shelter, and was a place where they received food, showers, clothing, medical care, HIV testing and treatment, and mental health and substance abuse services. Basically a lifeline for LGBT kids whose lives are in danger.
We are currently scrambling for a plan to provide care to these desperate kids while we prepare to ultimately move into a larger space that will better meet our needs. The NYC LGBT Center has very kindly and generously offered to let us temporarily use some of their space, and we hope to determine the viability of that on Monday.
We have been deluged with kind offers from people who wish to volunteer and donate goods. Unfortunately, we will have to provide our services in the time being in much smaller spaces that won't accommodate volunteers or allow for much storage space. The best way people can reach out to help in this very challenging time is by making monetary donations. Please go to our website at www.aliforneycenter.org/hurricanesandy.
It is heartbreaking to see this space come to such a sad end. For the past seven years it has been a place of refuge to thousands of kids reeling from being thrown away by their parents for being LGBT. For many of these kids coming to our drop-in center provided their first encounter with a loving and affirming LGBT community. I thank all of you for your care and support in a most difficult time.
It's very easy to feel helpless in the wake of a disaster. It seems as though endless people are hurting, and yet logistics and lack of resources or organization can get in the way of people who want to help with the best intentions. Jamie provided a great round-up of ways to help, but if you have been feeling overwhelmed about how to best help victims of Hurricane Sandy, or if you aren't in the area of where Sandy hit, I urge you to consider donating to The Ali Forney Center. As a queer family, we pride ourselves on our abilities to support one another. While that's absolutely a long-term effort that happens every single day, now is a time to go into over-drive. Donate, tell your friends, tell your family, signal-boost, and donate again...the kids who found solace at this drop-in center relied on it in every sense of the word, and now it's gone.
One of the most beautiful and heartbreaking lines in Siciliano note is this: "For many of these kids coming to our drop-in center provided their first encounter with a loving and affirming LGBT community." That alone shows the power of this place and its volunteers, and it's essential that these kids continue to have such a space to exist.
Homeless LGBTQ youth are a particularly vulnerable part of our queer family, and right now they need our help more than ever.
Now is the time to prove exactly how much love we have to give.
To reiterate the message from The Ali Forney Center, the best way people can reach out to help is by making monetary donations. You can donate here or mail a check to: Ali Forney Center/ATTN: Andria Ottley, 224 West 35th St., Suite 1500, New York, NY 10001.