The other victims of Sandy, part two: New Alternatives NYC
Hurricane Sandy cut a path up the east coast and left a ton of devastation to be dealt with, that’s undeniable. People are dead, homes and lives have to be rebuilt, and the services that provide a safe haven to LGBT kids have been destroyed.
The Ali Forney center took a huge hit, to the point that their program was at risk for being able to help kids at all. The community rushed in, and in short order $250,000 was raised to help get them back up and running. That’s a great thing, right?
They’re not the only program out there. They’re easily the most visible, and when it comes right down to it, the gay internet rushes to their aid every chance they can, but New Alternatives, NYC also provides for LGBT kids and they got hit hard too. I honestly haven’t seen a single word of press about their need until I saw it on NG’s blog. Information from their own site shows that they’ll step up for kids who just don’t fit in “other” programs. They don’t apply for grants and other assistance because the reporting requirements would mean that they have to pay staff to keep up with the bureaucracy of it all, and they’d much rather spend their time and what little money they do have on the kids who need it.
- New Alternatives works with youth that slip through the cracks in the programming that other organizations offer, either because they’re “too” mentally ill, or unwilling to come into the shelter or foster care systems, or “too” trans, or simply “too” different.
- New Alternatives is based on a low barrier-to-entry harm reduction model — one where youth can just walk in off the street and be fed, or clothed, or get help with everything from getting a Social Security card to applying to a GED program or college without having to fill out a pile of paperwork or commit to continuing in some kind of program.
- New Alternatives is funded solely through individual donors, small foundations, and fundraising events. As a very small organization, and one of the few agencies working with youth in the 21-24 year old demographic, there are three primary reasons why we do not apply for government grants: first of all, because most would restrict our right to serve youth in the 21+ demographic; secondly, because the reporting requirements far exceed the kind of time that our tiny staff has; and finally, because the overhead for the kind of documentation those grants require would mean that most of the money would go for staff time and paperwork, leaving little money for actually helping our youth.
Our youth and our services:
- Most of the youth New Alternatives works with are 18-24 years old. Gender Identities and expressions are across the entire spectrum, but we have a disproportionately high percentage of trans youth, primarily because they are the most discriminated against by other programs, the police, the public at large, etc.
- New Alternatives has been offering home-cooked hot meals prepared by volunteers to over 50-70 youth every Sunday night since our inception in 2008 for a total of more than 5,700 meals to almost 700 young people.
- Youth are also offered casework services, food, clothing, and the opportunity to participate in the “Life Skills” programming offered after Sunday dinner: around 1/3 of clients who come for dinner stay to learn more about topics including emotional and social competencies (e.g., anger management, conflict resolution, boundaries) as well as practical life skills (e.g., avoiding HIV).
- In addition, New Alternatives coordinates donations for textbooks and other school supplies for 10 New Alternatives clients who are currently attending college or vocational programs.
Don’t get me wrong: I think that the AFC is a great program and they need help getting back to functionality. I just think that a better response would be to remember they’re not the only ones out there trying to make a difference in the lives of a very vulnerable population.
Donations for New Alternatives can be made on their website linked above.
(thumb via the New Alternatives site)