Before New Alternatives launches into our annual holiday appeal, we want to extend our thanks to the many of you that reached out after Hurricane Sandy to ask after our youth, and after us. As Hurricane Sandy blew in, New Alternatives remained open, serving our weekly Sunday dinner early to get the youth on the last train, and referring 10 homeless youth who had been sleeping on the streets to hurricane shelters. Like so many New Yorkers anxious to locate loved ones, New Alternatives had some tense days following the storm, but all of the youth we customarily see are now accounted for. We lost our entire inventory of frozen and perishable food when our new home on Christopher Street went dark along with the rest of the world below 14th street – a tough blow for an organization that runs on a shoestring. Still, we were up and running the Sunday after the storm, serving emergency takeout pizza to over two dozen youth, many of whose already precarious living situations have become even less secure in Sandy’s wake, with couches at a premium and New York’s already severe housing shortage worsening. Thanks again for caring.
When 16-year-old Jay arrived at New Alternatives, he was struggling. He faced homophobic bullying on a daily basis from both staff and youth at his group home. His self-esteem was low and he was depressed, and at high risk for suicide. New Alternatives staff advocated for Jay to be moved to a safer placement and provided hours of supportive counseling. Our weekly Life Skills group became a refuge, where he felt supported by his peers, while New Alternatives’ college trips inspired Jay, fueling his drive to complete high school despite the obstacles he faced. Jay’s self-esteem and mood improved, and he landed an internship with City Council Speaker Christine Quinn. Now he’s a student at Brandeis University, majoring in political science.
As we move into the holiday season, most of us find our thoughts turning to festive foods, family traditions, and warm memories – images of home made even more precious in Sandy’s wake. But NYC’s 4,000 homeless youth face the holiday season alone, cold, and hungry, with an already severe housing crisis worsened by the recent disaster. With less than 300 shelter beds designated for youth, most wind up sleeping in abandoned buildings, on the subway, or staying at an adult shelter, where they are frequently robbed, beaten, bullied, and even sexually assaulted.
At New Alternatives, we provide a hot, home-cooked meal for any LGBT homeless youth who drops by on Sunday evenings – a night when no other agencies are open for this population. Since opening in 2008, we have served more than 5,700 meals to almost 700 young people, who enjoy not only the food, warmth, and safety we provide but also the feeling of community they find with other youth and supportive adult volunteers.
After dinner, our weekly Life Skills group provides an opportunity for homeless youth to discuss their challenges in a safe space. Recent topics have included intimate partner violence, living with HIV, suicide, and addiction.
In addition to our Sunday programming, we provide case management and crisis intervention services for a wide range of situations, including finding emergency shelter and permanent housing, obtaining government benefits, replacing identity documents, resolving legal issues, and getting back into school.
We also assist homeless college students—a dozen, at last count, by finding donors to pay for their books and school supplies, and by providing psychosocial support to help them transition from homelessness into student life.
New Alternatives is a grassroots, 99% volunteer organization that operates on a skeletal budget of less than $120,000 per year and without federal aid or a single full-time staff member. Like everyone else, our organization and our youth are hard pressed by the economic crisis. We’re not exaggerating when we say that without your help we cannot continue to keep our doors open: we’re struggling month-to-month.
Our new Christopher Street location offers an amazing opportunity to provide services in the heart of the LGBT youth community, but as the numbers of youth we serve increase, (our Sunday night dinner numbers have doubled since September, as the weather turns harsh) so do our costs for food, staff, and security. Please make a tax-deductible gift today. $35 is the cost of a name change for a transgender youth, the first step towards obtaining ID required for employment. $75 purchases a textbook for a homeless college student. $250 buys a Sunday dinner for 50 youth. You can donate online at www.newalternativesnyc.org or mail a check payable to “New Alternatives” to 83 Christopher St. NYC NY 10014.
New Alternatives for LGBT Homeless Youth