The Ali Forney Center, a non-profit organization that supports homeless LGBT youth, was so near and dear to Bea Arthur's heart that she left the charity a sizable amount of money in her will when she passed away three years ago. But AFC's Drop-In Center—where kids living on the street could walk in and receive food, showers, clothing, medical care, housing referrals, employment assistance, HIV testing and treatment, and mental health and substance abuse services—was completely destroyed by Hurricane Sandy. Located on West 22nd Street, just a half-block from the Hudson River, the center was flooded with at least four feet of water, irreparably damaging all equipment and supplies, according to Executive Director Carl Siciliano.
Siciliano said, "I do not see us being able to return there, especially since our lease ends in January."
In her lifetime, Golden Girls actress Bea Arthur was very involved in fundraising for AFC—the nation's largest services and advocacy organization working on behalf of LGBTQ runaway and homeless youth—contributing sizable personal donations through the years. In her will, she left AFC $300,000, which came at a tough economic time for the organization, after a series of government budget cuts almost forced Siciliano to shut the doors.
Arthur was so instrumental to saving the charity that this past July, when AFC received $3.3 million in funding from the city of New York to renovate an East Village city property as a shelter, they named it the Bea Arthur Residence for Homeless LGBT Youth. But that facility won't be ready for several months, said Siciliano, and the Chelsea Drop-In Center was paramount to helping "the most vulnerable youth served by AFC, those stranded out on the street awaiting shelter."
"We are pursuing every means possible to take care of our youth in the interim," said Siciliano. "It is my hope that our community and city will rally behind us as we prepare to face one of the greatest challenges in AFC's history."