Advocate for Homeless LGBT Youths to Be Honored at White House

By Julie Bolcer

Originally published on Advocate.com June 29 2012 2:27 PM ET

The Ali Forney Center, the country’s largest organization working to support runaway and homeless LGBT youths, announced Friday that its founder and executive director, Carl Siciliano, will be honored next month at a Champions of Change event hosted by the White House.

According to a news release from the Ali Forney Center, Siciliano will attend an event at the White House July 12 with other leaders in the fight against youth homelessness. Honorees and government officials will discuss policies and best practices to help the population of young people living on the streets and in shelters, not limited to LGBT youths. Attendees will also be featured on the White House website.

Siciliano is based in New York, where he began working with homeless youths including Ali Forney, his organization’s namesake, who was murdered in 1997. Since then, he has become an outspoken voice for the increasing number of youths in need of shelter. Although an estimated 3,800 youths in New York City are homeless and some 40% identify as LGBT, the city only funds 250 shelter beds for this population. While fighting proposed budget cuts in recent years, Siciliano and other advocates have launched the Campaign for Youth Shelter, which calls on the city and state to provide an additional $3 million annually to create 100 new shelter beds each year until shelter waiting lists are eliminated.

"It is thrilling that as we celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Ali Forney Center, we are also being recognized by the White House for our pioneering work on behalf of homeless LGBT youth,” said Siciliano. “When we opened the Ali Forney Center, the challenges we faced were daunting; there was very little awareness of the plight of homeless LGBT youth, especially on the federal level, and it was difficult to obtain support for our work. I am very grateful to President Obama for recognizing the needs of homeless LGBT youth and incorporating their care into his vision of ending youth homelessness. I am also grateful to the White House for recognizing the quality, innovation, and importance of the Ali Forney Center, which is a testament to all of the individuals who have served on the board, staff and as volunteers."

The Champions of Change initiative brings leaders on policy challenges facing the country to the White House each week. Some of the past LGBT honorees have included the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network for its work against bullying and Cleve Jones for his efforts to fight HIV/AIDS.

A separate White House event honoring LGBT Pride Month Champions of Change is also expected to take place next month.