By Yepoka Yeebo
Special to DNAinfo
HARLEM — Cyndi Lauper is helping establish Manhattan's first permanent housing for homeless lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender youth in Harlem.
Many homeless LGBT youth face violence in mainstream shelters, forcing them to rely on a small network of gay-friendly facilities, advocates say. The True Colors Residence, set to open in winter 2011, will provide young people between 18 and 24 with a place to live while helping them get back on their feet.
“Kids are coming out in greater numbers as they see themselves accepted and represented on TV and in movies, but they’re still being kicked out of their homes or running away and living on the streets," Lauper said in a statement.
“We need to make sure we’re taking care of them. This is the next generation of the LGBT community.”
The residence, which will be built on W. 154th Street near Frederick Douglas Boulevard, was the brainchild of Lauper, her publicist Lisa Barbaris, and Colleen Jackson, executive director of the West End Intergenerational Residence, an Upper West Side facility geared toward young families and older low-income adults.
The 80s pop singer, known for her hits "Girls Just Want to Have Fun" and "True Colors," will donate money for the facility through her True Colors Fund, is an honorary board member and is championing and promoting it, Jackson said.
"There are no permanent residences [in Manhattan], and LGBT youth make up 40 percent of the runaway and homeless population, maybe even more," said Jackson. "It's outrageous."
There are between 15,000 and 20,000 homeless youth in New York City, according to estimates from the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force. Roughly 3,000 to 8,000 of them are LGBT, or comprising 20 to 40 percent homeless youth in the city, the Task Force said.
Currently, there are four emergency shelters and two transitional living shelters that house youths for up to two years. The True Colors Residence will provide young people with a permanent residence.
The six-story building will contain 30 studio apartments, a communal space, a library and computer room. It's expected to cost roughly $11 million. Residents will sign a year-long Section 8 lease, and pay rent according to their income.
Most of the funding came from the city's Department of Housing Preservation and Development, with additional funds from several city, state and corporate sources.
“New York is an expensive city for most people, much less young people with no support,” said Theresa Nolan, director of Green Chimneys, which runs programs for LGBT youth, including a West Harlem facility that provides temporary housing. She said most youth programs only accept people up to age 21, "so a lot of people fall out of youth housing when they’re just getting the hang of living independently and they’re most vulnerable.
"[True Colors] is affordable, and they get a little bit of support," she said. "That’s priceless for young people.”