HHS official visits Ali Forney Center
An official with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Service toured the Ali Forney Center’s West Chelsea facility on Friday, Oct. 29, as part of the agency’s efforts to address homelessness among LGBT youth.
David Hansell, assistant secretary of the Administration for Children and Families for HHS, met with Carl Siciliano, executive director of the Ali Forney Center, and four Ali Forney clients. Steven Gordon, associate director of supportive services at Ali Forney, also participated in the tour.
"One of our jobs is to figure out how to provide and support to homeless and runaway kids-all kids," said Hansell.
Ali Forney received a three-year $450,000 grant from the ACF earlier this year to expand its street outreach. And the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration (SAMHSA) also awarded Ali Forney a 5-year $1.75 million grant to expand its medical and mental health services, and to develop substance abuse services.
As EDGE previously reported, the Department of Justice’s Office of Violence Against Women awarded Ali Forney a $83,000 annual grant to offer counseling to youth who have experienced domestic violence. "There really is a sense of awareness LGBT youth have been disenfranchised and they are trying to find a way to rectify it," said Siciliano, referring to the Obama administration’s response to homeless LGBT youth. "There is no other segment of the gay population suffering for being gay than youth are. It’s just appalling."
Siciliano: People should not feel homeless
JaKhari came to Ali Forney last December after his parents kicked him out because he is transgender. He was suicidal when he first arrived, but JaKhari told Hansell that Ali Forney’s staff have helped him begin to turn his life around.
"They understand you; they are going to help you and they will not judge you," said JaKhari. "They’re able to find a space where they can have a community."
Jonathan, another Ali Forney client who hopes to become a district attorney and the first gay U.S. Supreme Court justice, agreed. "I come here and I know I’m safe-I’m loved," he said. "We’re people. We have feelings. We have emotions."
Siciliano stressed to Hansell that Ali Forney’s model allows clients to "feel like normal human beings" and have a sense they "feel part of things."
"I don’t want people to feel homeless," added Siciliano.
Hansell told EDGE in a follow-up interview he feels Ali Forney provides a blueprint for other organizations that seek to expand their LGBT-specific outreach. "The model that Ali Forney provides is a good example of how well that can be done," he said.