Less than two weeks after the ATLAH church, home of virulently anti-LGBT Rev. James David Manning, announced it had been foreclosed and was being put up for auction, the Ali Forney Center launched the #harlemnohate campaign and has raised $200,000 as an initial goal towards buying the building to provide housing for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) homeless youth in Harlem.
“It has been an extraordinary two weeks,” said Carl Siciliano, Excutive Director and Founder of the Ali Forney Center. “We have been overwhelmed with support and encouragement and now have the opportunity to turn a place that has promoted hatred and violence into a safe space for LGBT homeless youth,” continued Siciliano.
“Ali Forney, who inspired the founding of the organization, was murdered in Harlem in 1997, only 12 blocks from ATLAH. In 2013 Islan Nettles was beaten to death in Harlem only one mile from ATLAH. Could there be a more just outcome to the ATLAH foreclosure than that the young LGBT people most endangered by the hatred and contempt Manning promotes would take over his building?” said Siciliano.
“AFC’s acquiring the beautiful and historic building that now stands as a symbol of hate would be extraordinary, but the bottom line is this: the Ali Forney Center has 200 youths per night on the waiting list for our beds. As an organization, we have no obligation more urgent than to increase our capacity to provide housing to these vulnerable youth. With the support of the Harlem community, those who have contributed and many others offering to help, we approach the February 24th auction with confidence and hope. Given the real estate market in Harlem we anticipate the bidding will go significantly higher than the $1.02M owed and we are in discussion with potential developers and investors to acquire the building and we anticipate having a partner by the time of the auction. We will continue fundraising through the #HarlemNoHate campaign and make every effort to be in as strong a position as possible to acquire the building,” concluded Siciliano.
To contribute to the campaign, supporters can go to harlemnohate.org.
Since 2012, the Ali Forney Center has provided a drop-in center in Harlem, the only 24/7 drop-in center for homeless LGBT youth in the nation and mere blocks from the current site of the ATLAH Church. The site provides care to over 1,000 youth per year and the youths residing in the AFC housing program utilize this center for a whole host of services, including medical care, mental health treatment, hormone replacement therapy, HIV education, testing and treatment including PEP and Prep, and educational and vocational training and placement services. AFC currently has 12 residential sites scattered across NYC, however none are within walking distance of our drop-in center. The proximity of the church site now available represents a remarkable opportunity to provide housing near the hub of the organization’s support services.
The Ali Forney Center does more than just house homeless LGBT youths. In order to help them to escape homelessness they need the opportunity to be strong, proud and independent. In order to achieve this AFC take initiative to help young people find employment. Over the past two years the Harlem-based drop-in center has provided an intensive work training and placement program. The food service industry has proven to be the field in which the greatest numbers of young people have gained employment and so AFC is committed to launching a catering business that would be owned and operated by LGBT young people, enabling them not only to learn cooking and food handling skills, but also the host of skills that come with managing and implementing a business. To be able to provide a space for this catering business within walking distance to AFC’s vocational training services would be ideal.