Wednesday, August 19, 2009

The Bea Arthur Residence for LGBT Youth

In November of 2005, Golden Girls star Bea Arthur staged a special, one-night only version of her earlier 2002 one-woman Broadway show as a benefit for New York's Ali Forney Center. Bea was always a friend of the gay community, and that night, worked to raise $40,000 for the construction of housing for homeless gay and transgender youth. (I got to meet Bea backstage that night, which I later wrote about in The Q Guide to The Golden Girls. See photo at right.)

Now, after the beloved actress' death this past April, The Ali Forney Center will be naming its first purchased residence (up until now the charity has worked solely with rented space) in honor of Bea. The Center will make the formal announcement at a memorial service being held for Bea on September 14 at New York's Majestic Theater.

See the press release below for additional details.


August 18 | 365gay Newswire

The Ali Forney Center, the nation’s largest organization dedicated to homeless LGBT youth, will formally announce it’s plan to name a residence for LGBT youth in honor of Bea Arthur at her memorial service on September 14th at the Majestic Theater in New York City. The Ali Forney Center is working with a group of Bea’s close friends and colleagues to plan the memorial service.

“Bea Arthur was tremendously kind and generous to the Ali Forney Center,” says Carl Siciliano, Founder and Executive Director. “The caring and concern that Bea expressed for our kids meant the world to us, and we are thrilled to be able to give honor to her memory in this way.”

In November of 2005, Bea flew to New York City from her home in Los Angeles in order to give a special benefit performance of her one-woman show. The performance raised over $40,000 for the Ali Forney Center.

In an interview for Next Magazine Bea explained her decision to offer her support. “I’m very, very involved in charities involving youth and the plight of foster children. But these kids at the Ali Forney Center are literally dumped by their families because of the fact that they are lesbian, gay, or transgender – this organization really is saving lives.” Bea continued to offer her support, both as a donor and as an advocate. In one of her very last interviews, published in the New York Blade in May 2008, Bea spoke with pride of having done the benefit for the Ali Forney Center, and indicated that she would do anything to help gay kids disowned by their parents.

The Ali Forney Center currently offers eight residential sites in New York City to provide shelter and housing to homeless LGBT youth, all of which it rents. The Oak Foundation has recently provided the Ali Forney Center with generous financial support in order to purchase housing sites. The Ali Forney Center is committed to naming its first purchased site the Bea Arthur Residence for LGBT Youth.

“Before Bea became involved with us, we only had two sites, and could only shelter 12 kids.” says Siciliano. “We were struggling to respond to an epidemic of homelessness that was not very well understood, even in the LGBT community. Bea’s support and advocacy really helped raise awareness in our community. Bea Arthur played a crucial part in our efforts to expand our capacity to respond to the hundreds of LGBT youths who come to us for help. She feels very much like a patron saint!”

The Ali Forney Center is the nation’s largest organization dedicated to homeless LGBT youth.AFC currently provides eight residential sites offering emergency shelter and longer-term housing, and additionally provides two drop-in centers, which offer medical care, mental health treatment, HIV prevention, testing and treatment, housing and benefit assistance, and job training and placement services. The mission of the Ali Forney Center is to help homeless LGBT youth be safe and become independent as they move from adolescence to adulthood. Ali Forney was a queer youth who was murdered on the streets in 1997, when there was no safe shelter for LGBT youth in NYC.

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