Did you know that there are approximately 3,800 homeless young people in NYC? Did you also know that 40 percent – or 1,500 – identify as LGBT? These statistics are important and vital to understanding the epidemic of homelessness for LGBT young people, but statistics won’t let you know what it means to be young, LGBT, and homeless all because your family rejects you for who you are. Statistics won’t change hearts and minds, but stories will.
“I was 15 the first time I got kicked out of my house. My lowest point of trying to make it on the streets was three weeks ago. My girlfriend and I had to sleep on the roof of a building in the Bronx. It was raining cats and dogs. I let her sleep, and stayed awake to make sure we were safe.” –Tiffany “Life” Cocco
Homeless for the Holidays is a campaign through the Ali Forney Center to raise awareness about the lives of LGBT youth who are homeless. Designed to feature a different young person three times a week for the month of December, the campaign illustrates the very real struggle that each of these young people face as part of the larger push to increase funding and access to services and beds for homeless LGBT youth.
The Ali Forney Center’s ED, Carl Siciliano writes, “Every young person deserves to be loved,” which is at the heart of the campaign. For each of the young people featured in the campaign, Siciliano says, “[C]oming out meant being driven from their homes, denied of love, denied of all economic support, made to suffer utter destitution. And, shamefully, despite the numbers of such youth across the nation reaching epidemic proportions, their plight has not been at the forefront of the attention of the LGBT community.
Siciliano calls these youth the unsung heroes of the LGBT movement, for having the courage to tell their stories, to come out, and to face such terrible rejection for their honesty. He asks the question, “How horrible it is that kids are made to experience such brutal abuse, just for being who they are.”
So take a moment and hear these stories. Read about what it means to be young, LGBT and without a place to live.
Here are more excerpts from the Homeless for the Holidays campaign:
“I try to be bubbly and joke, but it is really hard when you are hungry and don't get any sleep. I remember one night I was trying to sleep in the piers. But I was just crying and crying all night, wishing God could just take me out of this.” --Gisele
“I feel like I shouldn't be going through this, but it's going to make me stronger. I hope to get into a GED course real soon. When I get my diploma I want to join the Air Force so I can have a way to pay for college.” --Envy
“Last night I rode the trains and then slept in Penn Station. It was kind of scary and I was afraid of being robbed, but I am so thankful I was inside where it was warm. A lot of homeless people were trying to sleep there. The police kicked out a lot of the people trying to sleep. I am thankful I looked good enough to be a customer waiting for a train. The police left me alone.” --Connor
Siciliano concludes, “I thank all of the youths who told me their stories, and allowed me to look into their eyes and photograph them. It was courageous of them to do so - for many teens being abandoned by your family and becoming homeless is experienced as humiliating and shameful and you don't want people to know. I hope that we will care enough to listen to the devastating stories these kids have to tell.”
GLAAD has worked with the Ali Forney Center to help these and other young people share their stories and shine light on the harsh realities of family rejection and LGBT youth homelessness. We also applaud the Ali Forney Center for giving these young people a platform to tell their stories and thank each of them for doing so. We hope more young people will join this project, and others like it, to share their stories of what it means to be young, LGBT and homeless. These stories will go a long way toward changing hearts and minds and make a difference for young people everywhere.