By Justin Ocean
Originally published on Advocate.com May 06 2009 12:00 AM ET
In 1979 the story of a 15-year-old boy who was gang-raped and thrown out of a New York City homeless shelter for being gay jarred life partners Emery Hetrick, a psychiatrist, and Damien Martin, a professor at New York University, out of their comfortable existence. They used their resources to benefit those with none and created the Institute for the Protection of Lesbian and Gay Youth in Manhattan's East Village. After Emery's death from AIDS in 1987, the institute was renamed in the men's honor; Martin died four years later. The Hetrick-Martin Institute remains the oldest and largest service and advocacy organization in the nation for at-risk LGBT youth, providing health programs, academic support, job training, HIV testing, showers, and meals.
"Life began for me there," Luna Luis Ortiz, 36, says of his first visit to the organization during its 1988 Thanksgiving feast. "It was this mecca."
Ortiz, now a health specialist at Gay Men's Health Crisis, was educated at the Harvey Milk School, a private precursor to the now-public Harvey Milk High School run by the city's department of education. The school caters to LGBT students who would face harassment at other schools, and since it's housed within the offices of Hetrick-Martin, the center's services are just an elevator ride away. Hoping to keep those services available for the next 30 years, jeans maker Levi Strauss is sponsoring a website -- GiveThemHopeNow.org -- and a slew of parties seeking to raise $500,000 for the institute.
A Hetrick-Martin client in the 1990s, 32-year-old Manuel Sánchez credits the institute's programs as inspiration for his work as a coordinator at GMHC: "It instilled in me the need to give back to places that have helped you along the way."