The Ali Forney Center, the nation’s largest organization working on behalf of homeless lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) youth, today announced the launch of an Internet-based campaign, “Homeless for the Holidays,” featuring the faces and stories of diverse New York LGBT youth forced to spend the winter without shelter. Beginning today, a new photo of one of these youth and his or her first-person story will be released every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday through the month of December. Each one of these photos was taken in November and December of this year, at a time when the youth photographed did not have access to a shelter bed due to all youth shelters being at capacity. The series can be viewed at: http://www.aliforneycenter.org/HFTH.html

In addition, longtime New York activists Frank Selvaggi and Bill Shea have made a donation of $100,000 to the Ali Forney Center to kick off a $1 million dollar campaign to increase the number of beds for homeless LGBT youth in New York City.

“Homeless for the Holidays” was launched to support the Campaign for Youth Shelter, an effort led by the Ali Forney Center in collaboration with other service providers and activists in the local LGBT community which is calling on Mayor Bloomberg, Governor Cuomo, the New York City Council, and the New York State Legislature to back an additional $3 million in annual funding, set aside to create 100 new shelter beds every year. Currently, the city only offers around 250 shelter beds for homeless youth, although a census released in 2008 by the Empire State Coalition found that almost 4000 youths must go without shelter each night in New York. LGBT youths make up a disproportionate 40% of this population. Nonetheless, New York State recently cut its funding for youth shelter beds by 50%, although the existing beds are only enough to serve a tiny percentage of this population.

More information on the Campaign for Youth Shelter is available at: http://aliforneycenter.org/youthshelter.html

Said Carl Siciliano, Executive Director of the Ali Forney Center: “At a time of year that many of us associate with warmth and family, these faces and voices remind us that far too many LGBT youth in New York have no accepting family to go home to and no warm, safe place to sleep. Providing shelter to these youth must be made a priority for the LGBT community, and our hope is that the real and very compelling stories of these young people will put a face on this issue that no one can turn away from. We are thrilled with Frank and Bill’s generous donation and hope their generosity will inspire others to join us in our efforts to increase support for the LGBT young people left out in the cold.”

Said Frank Selvaggi and Bill Shea: “We have been concerned about the most vulnerable members of our community, especially in light of the drastic cuts in funding that have historically helped keep our homeless youth safe. Through our contribution, we want to lead by example and challenge our peers and colleagues to do the same. During this holiday season, we all need to look deep into our hearts and wallets so that all members of our community, particularly our endangered and homeless LGBT youth, can be safe.”

Selvaggi and Shea are longtime activists and philanthropists for a variety of issues. Selvaggi serves as Treasurer of the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund and is on the Board of Directors of Freedom to Marry. Shea is the National Director of Creative Services of Autism Speaks, the nation’s largest autism science and advocacy organization.

About the Ali Forney Center

The Ali Forney Center (AFC) was started in June of 2002 in response to the lack of safe shelter for LGBT youth in New York City. The Center is committed to providing these young people with safe, dignified, nurturing environments where their needs can be met, and where they can begin to put their lives back together. AFC is dedicated to promoting awareness of the plight of homeless LGBT youth in the United States with the goal of generating responses on local and national levels from government funders, foundations, and the LGBT community.

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