By Michelle Zenarosa
New York City is working to aid some of the 38,000 homeless youth in the city. In a statement released Monday, the city has decided to turn over a vacant East Village property to The Ali Forney Center, creating additional housing and services for LGBT youth.
The aid comes at a time when about 40 percent of homeless youth in the U.S. identify as LGBT, according to a study by the Center For American Progress. More specifically, in New York City, LGBT youth are eight times more likely to be homeless, says Carl Siciliano, executive director at The Ali Forney Center.
The center currently rents three-bedroom apartments to house some of its clients and is reimbursed through government contracts. The facility will save money for the city in the long-run because the rent paid is less than it would be to have its own housing facility.
The upcoming building, the Bea Arthur Residence for Homeless Youth, named after the late “Golden Girls” actor who left the center $300,000 in her will, is going to be the first building the organization owns.
“For long term sustainability of our programs, we want to start owning buildings,” Siciliano said. “These last few years there haven’t been any new dollars for housing for youth but we’re try to do a lot of advocacy for the state to understand how bad the need is.”
When open, the new facility will house up to 25 youth in a year and provide case management, counseling and education services for its clients.
There are over 100,000 homeless LGBT youth in the United States. However, the numbers for facilities fall far below what’s needed, with fewer than 300 beds dedicated to LGBT youth.
“Mainstream youth shelters are being more accommodating than they used to be but they have a long, long way to go,” Siciliano said. “Many youth shelters in this country are run by religious organizations that are not very accepting of gay people so it’s a big problem for kids to find a place.”
The center hopes to have the new facility completed by the end of 2013.