Rise Above Coffee is proud to be the LGBTQ+ Coffee that gives back, and each month, we feature a non-profit doing exceptional work in the LGBTQ+ community. This December, we’re shining a spotlight on the Ali Forney Center.

The Ali Forney Center is a 501(c)(3) non-profit committed to saving the lives of homeless LGBTQ+ youth. The AFC mission is to protect this vulnerable population from the harms of homelessness and empower them with the tools to live independently.

Ali’s Story

The organization was named in honor of Ali Forney, a homeless, gender-nonconforming youth. Forced into living on the streets at age 13, they resorted to street work and drug use to survive. Ali had a helping heart and educated anyone they encountered about HIV prevention and safe sex. They were murdered on the street at age 22, after nearly 10 years of homelessness. Ali’s tragic death brought awareness to the horrors faced by homeless LGBTQ+ youth in New York.

Helping Others in Ali’s Name

In honor of the organization’s namesake, the Ali Forney Center works to house and protect all LGBTQ+ youth living on the streets of New York. What began in 2002 with 6 beds in a church basement is now a comprehensive, 24-hour program that never closes its doors. And the need for these services is staggering. In New York City alone, 40% of homeless youth identify as LGBTQ+.

Clients of the Ali Forney Center come from all walks of life, and 80% are kicked out of their homes just for being who they are. The rest run away due to rejection, abuse, or neglect. Despite these difficult circumstances, they are all incredibly resilient.

Programs and Services

In the 20 years since they began, the Ali Forney Center has grown to become the largest agency in the country dedicated to LGBTQ+ homeless youths. They strive to provide quality services in an LGBTQ+ affirming environment.

Given the discrimination and harassment these youths face daily, AFC places emphasis on providing comprehensive support to help them develop a sense of pride and security in their LGBTQ+ identities. Critically, they approach each young person with respect and sensitivity with the goal of building trust. 

The following are just a few of the services the Ali Forney Center provides to homeless LGBTQ+ youth:

  • A 24-hour drop-in center, the nation’s first for LGBTQ+ youth
  • Emergency housing – 66 beds across six housing sites
  • LEAP program for job readiness and education – a six month vocational and educational prep course for ages 16-24
  • Health services – daily HIV and Hep C testing; HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment; STI testing and treatment; hormone replacement therapy; contraception and insurance enrollment
  • Provider resources – for others providing services or support for homeless LGBTQ+ youth

The Ali Forney Center aims to provide more than just food, water, and shelter for those in need. From leadership and staff to youth counselors, AFC is committed to helping provide stability, healing, trust, and education to LGBTQ+ youth to help get their lives back on track and work toward safe, permanent, independent living.

As a non-profit, the Ali Forney Center is also proud to operate at a high efficiency rating. Only 4% of revenue is spent on fundraising, while 11% funds program operations, and 85% goes directly to serving their clients.

Ali’s murder has never been brought to justice, but their spirit lives on in the work of the Ali Forney Center, and in each of the lives they change.   

Coffee for a Cause

In support of the Ali Forney Center, December’s #coffeeforacause is Unicorn Alley, our nutty, vanilla blend that’s roasted in small batches. When you buy Unicorn Alley coffee during the month of December, a portion of the proceeds will be donated directly to The Ali Forney Center! 

To learn more about the Ali Forney Center, find out how you can get involved, or donate directly to the cause, visit their website and be sure to follow them on social media!