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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, February 5, 2016 - Volume 44 Issue 06
NYC's Ali Forney Center launches fundraising drive to obtain anti-LGBT Atlah Church property
Section One
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NYC's Ali Forney Center launches fundraising drive to obtain anti-LGBT Atlah Church property

The Ali Forney Center (AFC), the nation's largest and most comprehensive organization dedicated to homeless LGBT youth, announces that it is raising funds to purchase Atlah Church located at 36 W. 123rd St., New York, NY 10027, which is being put up for auction due to unpaid bills and tax liens. Atlah Church has been the home of Rev. James Manning, who has notoriously utilized the sign outside the church for a series of incendiary statements inciting hatred and violence against LGBT people.

The Ali Forney Center, which currently houses 107 youths throughout NYC including 24 youths in Harlem, also provides a 24 hour drop-in center a few blocks from Atlah Church, which serves over 1,000 homeless LGBT youths per year.

'The biggest reason our youths are driven from their homes is because of homophobic and transphobic religious beliefs of their parents', said Carl Siciliano, founder and executive director of AFC. 'Because of this, it has been horrifying for us to have our youths exposed to Manning's messages inciting hatred and violence against our community. It has meant the world to us that so many Harlem residents have stood up to support our young people, and are now urging us to provide urgently needed care at the site of so much hatred. If we are able to obtain the space it would truly be a triumph of love over hatred.'

AFC hopes to raise at least $200K through an initial public fundraising effort, and will seek to leverage those funds to obtain additional support from local government, major donors and foundations. If the Ali Forney Center is not able to obtain the building, it commits to utilize any funds raised to increase its housing and vocational services for homeless LGBT youth in another site.

Since 2014, local Harlem residents have opposed Rev. Manning's messages of hatred and violence by organizing a series of events to raise funds for the Ali Forney Center, as well as to increase awareness of the needs of homeless LGBT youths. Also, they have organized a series of protests outside of Atlah Church. These efforts, under the name of Love Not Hate, have been coordinated by Stacy Parker Le Melle.

'I am ecstatic to imagine a future where our Harlem corner will be a home of compassion, not hatred. We have a homeless problem in New York City. The de Blasio administration is working hard to remedy this, but LGBT young people are especially vulnerable with the shelter system. They need protection. The Ali Forney Center is a beacon, but they need more space for transitional housing and job training. I can't imagine a better use for that property. Who needs more luxury condos? We need to care for the most vulnerable in our midst.'

Le Melle continued 'When the ATLAH story broke on Thursday, immediately I heard from neighbors: wouldn't it be amazing if an LGBT group could acquire the property? What if it were the Ali Forney Center? We all knew that this would be poetic justice. We need to care for those kicked out of homes, often on religious-based grounds. We need to care for those most vulnerable to ATLAH's hate speech.'

AFC's Harlem based programs provide 50,000 meals a year for homeless LGBT youth and offers interventions such as medical and mental health care, hormone replacement therapy, case management, educational and career services plants to utilize the Atlah site to provide housing to LGBT youths. AFC also plans to launch a catering business run and operated by its clients.

The AFC fundraising page can be found at: http://aliforneycenter.donordrive.com/event/harlemnohate/

ABOUT THE ALI FORNEY CENTER
The Ali Forney Center (AFC) is the nation's largest organization dedicated to homeless LGBT youth. AFC is committed to providing these young people with safe, dignified, nurturing environments where their needs for housing and support can be met, and where they can begin to put their lives back together. AFC is also dedicated to promoting awareness of the plight of homeless LGBT youth in the United States with the goal of generating responses on local and national levels from government funders, foundations, and the LGBT community. For more information, please visit www.aliforneycenter.org.

STATUS OF LGBT YOUTH HOMELESSNESS IN NYC
In 2008, a New York City Council-funded census identified 3,800 youths experiencing homelessness in NYC, with 1,600 of those youths identified as LGBT. There are currently only 450 youth shelter beds in NYC, with only approximately 107 beds dedicated to LGBT youths. In a recent announcement by Mayor de Blasio and his administration the city unveiled its plan to nearly double the number of youth shelter beds throughout NYC but it must identify providers who are able to accommodate this increase.

Courtesy of the Ali Forney Center

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