This morning, the White House announced that Carl Siciliano, executive director and founder of New York City’s Ali Forney Center, has been selected as a Champion of Change in the Fight Against Youth Homelessness. Siciliano founded the Ali Forney Center (AFC) 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 young LGBT people with safe, dignified, and nurturing environments. Siciliano and his team at the Center are 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. Carl Siciliano promptly responded to the honor:
It is thrilling that as we celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Ali Forney Center, we are also being recognized by the White House for our pioneering work on behalf of homeless LGBT youth. When we opened the Ali Forney Center, the challenges we faced were daunting; there was very little awareness of the plight of homeless LGBT youth, especially on the federal level, and it was difficult to obtain support for our work. I am very grateful to President Obama for recognizing the needs of homeless LGBT youth and incorporating their care into his vision of ending youth homelessness. I am also grateful to the White House for recognizing the quality, innovation, and importance of the Ali Forney Center, which is a testament to all of the individuals who have served on the board, staff and as volunteers.
At the Champions of Change Fight Against Youth Homelessness event, to be held on Thursday, July 12 at 1:30 PM EDT, agency representatives and various White House officials will participate in a discussion with Siciliano and fellow Champions of Change to hear about their efforts to serve homeless youth; these discussions are meant to instigate more inclusive policies and better practices to aid vulnerable populations.
This award comes at a time when LGBT youth, in particular, are at disproportionate risk on the streets and in need of attention. Several studies cited in the Report of the New York City Mayoral Commission for LGBTQ Runaway and Homeless Youth, released by DYCD in June 2010, found that:
-LGBTQ youth face significantly greater incidents of physical and sexual assault than heterosexual youth.
-LGBTQ youth experience greater incidents of substance abuse and mental health disorders.
-As many homeless LGBTQ youth are forced to resort to prostitution to survive, recent studies have indicated that approximately 20% of NYC’s homeless LGBTQ youth become infected with HIV.
-Depressive disorders disproportionately impact LGBTQ youth, with 63% of LGBTQ youth having considered or attempted suicide compared with 29% of heterosexual youth who indicated the same.
The award will bring more attention to Siciliano and his team’s work at the Ali Forney Center. In spite of $ 7 million in cuts to homeless services proposed by Mayor Bloomberg, demand for beds at the center has skyrocketed in recent years. To help alleviate the crush, the Ali Forney Center and allies have launched the Campaign for Youth Shelter (video below), which is asking the city and state of New York for $3 million in funding that will help accommodate LGBT youth who are struggling disproportionately on the streets.
GLAAD congratulates Carl Siciliano and applauds his efforts to combat LGBT youth homelessness.