For homeless youth and their advocates, the fight for resources can be fierce. New York City has about 4,000 homeless youths — many of whom are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender — yet its government funds just 259 shelter beds. Waiting lists for these beds, particularly at centers that cater to young LGBT homeless people, are growing.
But on Monday, the Ali Forney Center, an organization that provides housing for gay homeless youths in New York, announced some good news for those seeking a shelter bed. The New York City Council and the Manhattan borough president designated $3.3 million to help renovate a city-owned building and transform it into a new 18-bed shelter.
The space will be named after former “Golden Girls” star Bea Arthur. Before her death in 2009, Arthur served as an icon for many gay people and left the Ali Forney Center $300,000 in her will. That year was the height of the recession, when the facility had been in danger of eliminating beds because it had fallen behind on rent, the center’s executive director Carl Siciliano recalled on Monday. And Arthur’s gift to the center prevented that.
Since many young gay people are forced to leave home after coming out to their parents, what Arthur’s support symbolizes is almost as important as the money, Siciliano said. “It’s wonderful for our young people, who have been so rejected, to know that someone as important as Bea Arthur supports them.”