As many as 40 percent of homeless youth in the United States identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender, according to a Williams Institute study. And in New York City, the number of LGBT youth living on the street has reached levels some say signify a public health crisis.
The Ali Forney Center, an advocacy group for LGBT teens, estimates there are around 3,800 teenagers in the city don't have a steady place to sleep each night and that close to 1,600 of them identify as LGBT. And the group points out that in 2012, New York City only provided about 250 beds for homeless adolescents in the city.
The AFC is trying to help those who were kicked out of their homes or rejected by family by opening another of its numerous shelters intended for LGBT youth.
This past week, it announced plans to open its newest shelter New York City by February 2017. Its latest project is one of many programs the AFC works with to offer transitional or emergency housing, health services and job preparation to those in need.
This particular shelter will hold 18 beds and will be located in Manhattan's East Village. It's being funded by private donations, a $3.3 million grant by New York City, and a $300,000 donation left by Golden Girl actress Bea Arthur.
The actress, who died in 2009, frequently advocated for the LGBT community and became involved with the AFC in 2005. She left the donation for the group in her will.
"These kids at the Ali Forney Center are literally dumped by their families because of the fact that they are lesbian, gay or transgender," Arthur said in a 2005 interview. "This organization really is saving lives."
Carl Siciliano, the executive director of the AFC, credits Arthur's donation and advocacy work for the group as one of the biggest reasons they've survived recessions and hurdles — like Hurricane Sandy in 2012, which devastated one of its centers.
He went on to say that Arthur's involvement was "a turning point" that brought attention and donations to his foundation.
"Now between our 12 housing sites and 24/7 drop-in center we are able to provide for over 1,000 youths per year," he wrote in a 2015 Huffington Post article explaining Arthur's involvement with the AFC.
As a way of thanking her for being a friend to the community, the AFC will call its new shelter the Bea Arthur Residence for Homeless LGBT Youth.