Nonprofit Homeward NYC operating housing for at-risk LGBTQ+ in Harlem

Malik Hanley can laugh today after years of pain.
“Me and my mom got into quite the argument about my sexuality, and it went all the way left...she didn’t like it and she kicked me out,” Hanley told News 12 New York.
Hanley entered the shelter system soon after. It was then that he was connected with Homeward NYC, the nonprofit that is running a new 50-unit LGBTQ+ supportive living space in Harlem. He moved into one of their other three locations in 2011. CEO, Jeannette Ruffins, says 37-40% of homeless youth identify as LGBTQ+. She says she hears stories like Hanley’s all too often.
“When you have been pushed out of your house for who you are and how you identify, it sort of fractures your sense of self and you end up just feeling vulnerable,” Ruffins said.
She says supportive housing is a way for homeless youth to help restore their self-worth. Residents pay 30% of their income for the apartments and the city picks up the rest. The community also offers social work support, case managers and life skills managers. Ruffins says trauma informed care is key.
“It's primarily recognizing that what happened to you shapes how you react and how you walk in the world...it’s a difference between what is wrong to you what happened to you? And how do we move away from your trauma responses to help you have more positive productive responses?” she said.
Hanley can relate – he says he was shut down and resistant to help when he first arrived. Eleven years later, he’s thriving. He transitioned eight years ago, just wrapped a city job, and loves skateboarding.
“I’m proud, I’m loud, looking to move, get a car, pretty much I’d say I’m a light feather,” he said.
The building is full, and Homeward NYC is no longer accepting applications. They don’t want to keep a waitlist because they want people who are homeless to find housing as soon as possible.