The Ali Forney Center in New York City is the largest agency dedicated to LGBTQ homeless youths in the US—assisting nearly 1,400 people per year.
The Ali Forney Center is Laurence King's US charity partner this Christmas, with a portion of Christmas web sale revenue going to support the organization. The charity was nominated by Simon Doonan, author of Drag: The Complete Story. At the start of his book's development, Simon pledged to donate all proceeds from the sale of his book to the Ali Forney Center.
Tyler is the Special Events & Communications Manager for Ali Forney, he has been with the organisation for 3 years.
Tell us a bit about the Ali Forney Center, its namesake and history.
Our organization's namesake, Ali Forney, was a gender-nonconforming teen who fled his home at 13. He entered the foster care system where he was bounced around to several homes, and was beaten and abused. Ali ended up living on the streets at the age of 15. Ali was dedicated to helping other young people and publicly advocated for the safety of homeless LGBT youth. Tragically, in December of 1997, Ali was murdered in Harlem—shot in the head and left for dead.
Since AFC's launch in 2002 with just six beds in a church basement, the organization has grown to become the largest agency dedicated to LGBTQ homeless youths in the country—assisting nearly 1,400 youths per year through a 24-hour Drop-In Center which provides over 70,000 meals annually, medical and mental health services through an on-site clinic, and a scattered site housing program which provides over 160 beds for homeless LGBTQ youths each night.
AFC relies heavily on the generosity of the public to be able to provide beds and services to young people who have been cast out of their homes because of their LGBTQ identities. In addition to supporting the organization financially, those interested in AFC's mission may apply to the organization's volunteer program, sign up to be a Life Coach to the youths who use AFC's services, contribute via AFC's Amazon Wish List, and more. The opportunities available are always evolving, and the most up-to-date ways to stay engaged are on AFC's website.
James (name has been changed for confidentiality purposes) came through Ali Forney’s doors in 2018.
When James was 14, he developed a crush on a classmate. He wrote the boy a note and planned to give it to him. His mother found the letter and confronted him. James confided that he was gay and begged her not to tell his father.
James grew up in the south, in a small town outside of Mobile, Alabama. He went to church on Sunday with his mother, father, and three brothers. His father was known in their village as a leader in the church.
When confronted with the fact that his son was gay, James' father resorted to emotional abuse, telling his son he was sure to die of AIDS and would go to hell for his lifestyle. He encouraged his other sons to rough up James to teach him how to be a man. The abuse worsened over the next three years.
At 17, James met a man on the internet who bought him a bus ticket to New York. James saw the opportunity as an escape. Upon arriving in New York, James was met with the reality that the man was looking for more than a friendship. When James turned down his advances, he was kicked out.
James ended up on the street, sleeping on trains, and searching for food in garbage cans or through begging on street corners. He spent his first Thanksgiving in NYC at a soup kitchen. He was connected to the Ali Forney Center by one of our Outreach Specialists on the streets.
James has been in our care for a year. He is thriving and works part-time at a fast-food restaurant while completing High School. In spite of the abuse, he misses his family and home. He wants to go to college and be successful, with the hopes that his parents will accept him.
However, that may turn out; the Ali Forney Center will be here, helping him every step of the way.