The following statement on the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy can be attributed to Carl Siciliano, the Executive Director of the Ali Forney Center (AFC), the nation's largest services and advocacy organization working on behalf of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning (LGBTQ) runaway and homeless youth.
"I am saddened to report that this past weekend we were finally able to inspect our Drop-In Center on West 22nd Street - which serves as the entry point to many of our programs for LGBTQ youth, including medical care, HIV testing, mental health services, housing referrals, an employment assistance program, and more - and it is destroyed. Water went at least four feet up the walls, and everything in there, including phones, computers, refrigerators, supplies, and the building floors has been irreparably damaged. I do not see us being able to return there, especially since our lease ends in January.
"This facility provided care to the most vulnerable youth served by AFC, those stranded out on the streets awaiting shelter. Having our drop-in center destroyed means it is likely that we are among the hardest-hit of all LGBTQ organizations in the city. While our new 24-hour drop-in center will open as planned in a different location, it will not be ready for full service for several months.
"We are pursuing every means possible to take care of our youth in the interim, and it is my hope that our community and city will rally behind us as we prepare to face one of the greatest challenges in AFC's history."
In the meantime, the NYC LGBT Center has offered to let the organization temporarily use some of its space, which will be vetted on Monday.
The best way people can reach out to help in this very challenging time is by making monetary donations. Go to AFC's website at www.aliforneycenter.org/hurricanesandy.
Pictured: Executive Director, Carl Siciliano at Day Center with clients and staff