The White House has named Carl Siciliano as a “Champion of Change” for his work advocating on behalf of LGBT homeless youth. Siciliano is the founder and executive director of the Ali Forney Center, one of the nation’s few and largest shelters dedicated to create a safe refuge for LGBT young people with nowhere else to go. The champion responded to the announcement in a press release:
SICILIANO: It is thrilling that as we celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Ali Forney Center, we are also being recognized by the White House for our pioneering work on behalf of homeless LGBT youth. When we opened the Ali Forney Center, the challenges we faced were daunting; there was very little awareness of the plight of homeless LGBT youth, especially on the federal level, and it was difficult to obtain support for our work. I am very grateful to President Obama for recognizing the needs of homeless LGBT youthand incorporating their care into his vision of ending youth homelessness. I am also grateful to the White House for recognizing the quality, innovation, and importance of the Ali Forney Center, which is a testament to all of the individuals who have served on the board, staff and as volunteers.
Because of family rejection, rates of LGBT youth homelessness are disturbingly high: as many as 40 percent of all homeless youth identify as gay or trans. Just this week, Cyndi Lauper launched the “Forty To None” campaign to add to the good work Siciliano and others are already doing to address this crisis. Unfortunately, efforts like the Ali Forney Center can only address the symptom of homelessness until family acceptance of LGBT youth becomes a societal norm.