Roaring fires, holiday parties, trees, ornaments and cheer jingle their bells in the forefront of our minds during this holiday season. While our homes and hearths are places of comfort and joy for yuletide festivities, an alarmingly large number of gay and lesbian youth have no home in which to celebrate the season.
It is estimated that between 20 and 40 percent of all homeless youth in New York City are members of the LGBTQ community. In most cases, these teens have been either kicked out by family members for their sexuality or forced to live in a household so oppressive that flight seems the only viable option. Teens must often choose between physical abuse at home and the lonely dangers of the street.
Fortunately, over the past several years, a number of celebrities are helping turn the tide by using their power to address this crisis. One such celebrity is Pop Icon Cyndi Lauper. Cyndi recently launched the Forty to None Project in an effort to bring awareness to the plight of homeless LGBTQ youth, a cause which she herself found to be urgent. While participating in a magazine photo shoot in the West Village of New York City, the songstress was struck by the stories of young men and women living on the nearby streets of the pier. As a result, she founded the project, in connection with her True Colors Fund, in an effort to educate and empower the gay and lesbian community on the issue.
In addition to Cyndi Lauper, celebrity photographer Mike Ruiz’s name has become synonymous with the Ali Forney Center. The center, founded in 2002, was created specifically to address the needs of homeless LGBTQ youth by providing them with both housing referrals and important resources and care to meet a variety of needs. Ruiz can often be seen rallying for the center’s cause both in social media and in his day to day life. In fact, Mike is such a strong advocate that he even used his own birthday this year as a vehicle to raise funds for the center.
While homeless youth are subject to far higher rates of violence, drug abuse and health challenges, there is hope on the horizon for these teens. Leveraging their celebrity, people like Cyndi Lauper and Mike Ruiz are helping to shine a spotlight on this crisis. This holiday season, let us consider following their lead by giving directly to organizations that impact the lives of our LGBTQ homeless youth.
For more information on the Forty to None Project, visit http://fortytonone.org . For additional information on The Ali Forney Center, visit http://www.aliforneycenter.org .