By Trudy Ring
Originally published on Advocate.com November 16 2012 3:59 PM ET
Donors have stepped up to help the Ali Forney Center, an organization serving homeless LGBT youth in New York City, after its drop-in center in West Chelsea suffered severe damage during Hurricane Sandy.
The storm, which hit lower Manhattan hard October 29, caused flooding at the drop-in center, located on West 22nd Street half a block from the Hudson River. The staff, finally able to inspect the damage a few days later, found that the space was uninhabitable, with computers, phones, and other equipment and supplies destroyed.
After executive director Carl Siciliano posted about the destruction on Facebook, donors came through with $100,000 in three days, and the total has now grown to $250,000, the Associated Press reports. Contributions have come not only from the U.S. but from England, France, Sweden, Canada, and Mexico. Celebrities have helped out, with board member Ally Sheedy and Mike Ruiz hosting a fund-raising event for the center last Sunday (watch Sheedy talking with MSNBC’s Thomas Roberts, below), and Pam Grier and Joseph Gordon-Levitt making pleas for help via Twitter.
“This shows the power of social media, when prominent people link digitally with a healthy network of people who connect emotionally,” Ryan Davis, a social media activist and Ali Forney Center board member, told AP.
The Ali Forney Center had already planned to close the Chelsea location when its lease there ended in January, and was having a new space for the drop-in center renovated in Harlem. Siciliano told AP that staffers hope to have the Harlem property open by Christmas. It is bigger than the Chelsea space and, unlike that site, will allow for 24-hour operation of the drop-in center, where young people can get food, clothing, a place to shower, medical testing, and other services. In the meantime, the drop-in center has a temporary home at New York’s LGBT Community Center on 13th Street.
The storm did not harm the Ali Forney Center’s housing facilities in Brooklyn and Queens, its administrative office in midtown Manhattan, or another drop-in center in Brooklyn. Still, the organization has to raise more funds to replace the equipment lost at the Chelsea center and get the Harlem location ready. A total of $400,000 is needed, AP reports.
“I wish every day thousands of people would help get homeless kids off the street,” Siciliano told the news service. “Too bad it takes a storm to get people to see how bad they have it.”
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