Wednesday, November 18, 2009

In New York City At Night

There's a pretty heartbreaking piece about LGBT homeless youth that ran in The Indypendent several weeks ago. A social worker from Sylvia's Place, one of the few shelters available to LBGT homeless youth in NYC, took extreme exception to the bleak portrait painted of the organization and some client profiles. You can read the comments below the article to get his valid perspective. Still, there's no getting around the fact that conservative estimates are that there are close to 20,000 homeless queer youth in this country, and less than 250 beds nationwide to house them and help keep them safe. You can read the full story here.

"Across the room Damien Corallo slouched in a chair, looking grim. Somebody had stolen his iPod. “Things are always getting stolen here,” he said. I sat down next to him and, just as Collazo had said, once I got him talking, he did not want to stop. When he was a kid, his father was sent to jail and his mother sent him and his two siblings from San Juan, Puerto Rico, to New York City to live with his aunt. His brother was gay and Damien, who is transgender, had been dressing like a boy as long as he could remember.

“One day our aunt told us she didn’t want any faggots in the house. And we figured out that she had given our rights over to the state. So we left,” Corallo said. “I’ve lived in 32 group homes or foster homes. I’ve lived in shelters, halfway houses, safety houses. I’ve been into lock-up, stuck in residentials. I have been in every kind of home. I went to juvie for drugs. I used to inject drugs and snort coke. I was in for about a year. It was not friendly. It was a Missouri state jail and then I went to rehab.”

Corallo said he stayed in a group home on Long Island. Three years ago he moved to Sylvia’s, where he’s been ever since. On three occasions, he’s been beaten in what he described as “gay bashings.” He’s been called a faggot and a freak more times than he would like to remember. Somewhere along the line he contracted HIV, which has since turned into AIDS. He has attempted suicide more than once, and he relapsed, too — he’s got track marks up and down his arms and a chronic twitch. He is using crystal methamphetamines and heroin again. He said he wants to break the habit, but “I could never stay clean in this situation.” Corallo is 18 years old."

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