US: Influx of donations aim to save LGBT youth rescue centre destroyed by Superstorm Sandy

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A rescue centre for homeless LGBT youths in New York City, which was destroyed by Superstorm Sandy, is on the way to being rebuilt after a social media campaign was launched to save it.

The Ali Forney Centrer was evacuated just before the storm, and was destroyed in just hours by four-feet of floodwater when it hit. The relief-centre provides medical care, counselling and a safe place to sleep, for homeless LGBT teenagers.

Bloggers, and tweets by actors Pam Grier and Joseph Gordon-Levitt, contributed to the plight of the centre going viral, and within three days the cause had received 1,000 donations totalling over $100,000 (£63,000).

Carl Siciliano, executive director of the centre, said: “I wish every day thousands of people would help get homeless kids off the street,”

“Too bad it takes a storm to get people to see how bad they have it,” he continued.

The centre was founded by Mr Siciliano ten years ago in the Chelsea area of Manhattan. It was named after Ali Forney, a 22-year-old youth shot to death in Harlem in 1997.

Mr Forney had been homeless since the age of 13, when his mother had thrown him out of their home.

Ryan Davis, a social media expert, who sits on the board of the Ali Forney Centre, said:

“This shows the power of social media, when prominent people link digitally with a healthy network of people who connect emotionally.”

The total currently stands at over $250,000 (£157,000), with donations pouring in from England, France, Sweden, Canada and Mexico, as well as others, but the centre needs $400,000 (£252,000) to be fully rebuilt.

New York City officials had estimated that LGBT youths represented about half of the nearly 4,000 homeless young people in the city.

The Ali Forney Centre would regularly see more than a hundred youths arrive daily, looking for support.

The Associated Press reported that, on Wednesday, a gay youth, Giovanni Stanley, 20, who had used the services of the centre, and is now working towards gaining a high-school equivalency diploma, was saddened to hear the it had been destroyed. He said:

“They did so much for me; they helped me with Medicaid, food stamps, housing.”

Back in 2011, after offending gay fans with a homophobic outburst, 30 Rock star Tracy Morgan made amends with a visit to The Ali Forney Centre.

Until enough money has been raised, the Ali Forney Centre has been temporarily set up in a nearby community centre.