NEW YORK — The Ali Forney Center, the nation’s largest organization working on behalf of homeless LGBT youth, on Monday announced that longtime New York activists Frank Selvaggi and Bill Shea had donated $100,000 to the center to kick off its “Homeless for the Holidays” campaign, aimed at raising $1 million to increase the number of beds for homeless LGBT youth in New York City.
The “Homeless for the Holidays” campaign was launched to support the Campaign for Youth Shelter, an effort led by the Ali Forney Center in collaboration with other service providers and activists in the local LGBT community which is calling on Mayor Bloomberg, Governor Cuomo, the New York City Council, and the New York State Legislature to back an additional $3 million in annual funding, set aside to create 100 new shelter beds every year.
Currently, the city only offers around 250 shelter beds for homeless youth, although a census released in 2008 by the Empire State Coalition found that almost 4000 youths must go without shelter each night in New York. LGBT youths make up a disproportionate 40% of this population. Nonetheless, New York State recently cut its funding for youth shelter beds by 50%, although the existing beds are only enough to serve a tiny percentage of this population.
Said Carl Siciliano, Executive Director of the Ali Forney Center:
“At a time of year that many of us associate with warmth and family, these faces and voices remind us that far too many LGBT youth in New York have no accepting family to go home to and no warm, safe place to sleep. Providing shelter to these youth must be made a priority for the LGBT community, and our hope is that the real and very compelling stories of these young people will put a face on this issue that no one can turn away from.
We are thrilled with Frank and Bill’s generous donation and hope their generosity will inspire others to join us in our efforts to increase support for the LGBT young people left out in the cold.”
Selvaggi and Shea are longtime activists and philanthropists for a variety of issues. Selvaggi serves as Treasurer of the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund and is on the Board of Directors of Freedom to Marry. Shea is the National Director of Creative Services of Autism Speaks, the nation’s largest autism science and advocacy organization.
“We have been concerned about the most vulnerable members of our community, especially in light of the drastic cuts in funding that have historically helped keep our homeless youth safe,” the couple said, in a statement.
“Through our contribution, we want to lead by example and challenge our peers and colleagues to do the same. During this holiday season, we all need to look deep into our hearts and wallets so that all members of our community, particularly our endangered and homeless LGBT youth, can be safe,” said Selvaggi and Shea.