Jaylin, 28

“I identify as a bunch of things. I identify as she, her, they, them or theirs. I’m a trans woman.”


“I always knew I love men, I knew since I was about six. I came out when I was 17. I came out as non-binary first, but I’m also trans. So it's both. My friends were totally okay with it. My parents were not as accepting of it and to this day they still are not. I remember my father saying that I am an abomination and that he didn't want a child like me. He blamed my mother for me being who I am. He told her that she wasn't a good mother and that he thought that I was raped as a kid and that was why I turned out the way that I was. Usually it was my father that would bash me. My mom didn't bash me, but she wasn't okay with my type of a lifestyle either. I remember her telling me, when I was six years old, that if that's who I am going to be when I’m older, she don't want me in her home.”

A new life

“Recently I left Jersey and I moved to New York. I wanted to start over, a totally new life, a life where I could be myself. I finally moved out of my parents' house at 25 where I lived under the radar all those years. First I was renting a room, I had a full-time job in the healthcare field for two years. After I lost my job in April I was a little homeless and stayed with friends and people that I knew. I had saved up about $2,500, but by the end of May I had totally run out. So now I'm in the process of trying to get some help from the state of New York. I’m still struggling really badly and I'm still broke and still trying to figure out my life in this big city. I'm staying with someone and I'm not paying but I know that eventually I'm going to have to move on. Hopefully I find work soon and hopefully I can bring back the life that I used to have where I always pampered myself. I always went to the spas and I always got my nails done. So I want to get back to that. Back to being glamorous.”


“The wonderful Kate Barnhart of New Alternatives is helping me to reorganize my life here in New York because I'm all over the place and I need some guidance. When I first moved here, I had to go to a shelter. Being homeles its hard. It's a very difficult situation. You have to be a really strong person. I had some trouble in the shelter and I didn't feel safe, it was a very dangerous place where I’ve met very threatening people. Kate gave me resources and she helped me find the right solutions to the bad things that I was dealing with.”


“What I've learned is that if you're homeless, you have to have a job. Some people can't get into shelters and some people have to live in their cars. I you don't have a car and if you can't get into the shelters, then you'll be on the streets. And that's even harder. If you have a job you can pay and go to a gym and take a shower there.”

When I’m ready

“At some point I would like to get into entertainment and become a singer and an actress. I want to take pictures when I'm ready, when I'm actually ready. I am going to start gender affirming surgery soon. Traveling, looking beautiful and wearing expensive clothing, posing for magazines…that’s what I want to do, hopefully before I'm 30, in two years. But I just can't focus on that now because I'm not financially in the right place and I can't take care of myself. So I need to first take care of that.”

Interviewed in the summer of 2022



Terry, 37

“I identify as a gay male at the current time, but that may change at some point in the future.”


“I grew up in Wisconsin. A lot of snow. A lot of blizzards. My coming out to my family was very easy, but overall it was hard on me because I was young at the time. I was around 12 years old when I came out to my family. Basically I ended up hiding it from others for a lot of years because it wasn't socially acceptable. There was a lot of homophobia in the nineties. I would've came out to my family sooner had the times been different. It's a wonderful thing that I'm accepted by them and I look forward to hopefully being reunited with them. Haven't seen them in a long time, I miss my family very much.”

Ms. Kate

“When I turned 18 I moved to New York City. I wanted to be famous, I wanted to be in the spotlight. I wanted to be where everything was. I was told by movies and television that New York City was the place where I needed to end up. So here I am. I found a roommate at first and then ended up homeless. I thought I might end up homeless at some point during my journey to New York City. So I looked up tools and resources for being homeless, and that's how I stumbled upon Ms. Kate and Sylvia's Place. Since then, Ms. Kate has stayed in touch with me. To this day, she's still helping me get the services because the city of New York is just simply not helping LGBTQ homeless people. New Alternatives has been really wonderful for me because I'm not having to sit on a sidewalk for the next 30 years, waiting for the city to lift a finger. Ms. Kate is helping me with all this stuff, getting my IDs together, getting my social security card, getting my New York state ID, trying to find me housing and trying to get me back to my family.”

“I love New Alternatives for their honesty. In my experience they have done much much more than any other organisations in New York City or America.”

Trying to get HIV

“The shelters are not an adequate place for people suffering homelessness. They don't even provide meals. The shelter system only wants to house people that are reliant, totally dependent upon the system. And it is a shame because in the gay community, a lot of people go around trying to get HIV just to be housed easier. They do nothing to accommodate people that don't have HIV.”

Outside for 20 years

“Over the last 20 years, New York City has failed to house me and other people. That's why the sidewalks are so filled with homeless people. Every day I have to beg for money, sitting outside of restaurants and hoping someone gives me their leftovers. It's been like that for 20 years. I sleep on the sidewalks and very dark quiet places where I won't get my stuff stolen. It's usually on the east side of Manhattan, because on the west side they steal your stuff. Nobody bothers me over there. I have a quiet sleep. I carry a sheet around with me because that way I can just lay anywhere I need to. In winter we wear the clothes all winter long and we never get to take them off. You never get to see your legs. You never get to see your arms.”

Maybe it’s a dream

“I want to explore what it's like to be a gay male that's not homeless. I'm making little improvements here and there, and I'm actually enjoying what it is to be a gay male. And I look forward to indulging more in just having gay friends, having a boyfriend, having someone to love me, having someone to come home to. It is not too much for anybody to ask I would say. I just look forward to the next steps in my life, settling down with somebody, having someone love me, having someone grounded and being grounded myself. Maybe it's a dream, but hey, it could happen. At the end of the day, even if it's a dream, I'm entitled to dream, too.”

Interviewed in the summer of 2023

Audio : https://www.fromthestreetstotheheart.com/terry

Stephen, 23

“I identify as a bisexual polyamorous trans man. My pronouns are he, him. I currently reside in Brooklyn, New York.Originally I am from south Florida.”

It hit me

“It was extremely rough growing up in Florida. A lot of my childhood traumas originate in my Jamaican heritage and my parents' conservative upbringings. To this day Jamaica is still the number one most homophobic country in the world. I knew as a child that my family was homophobic. I was being bullied mercilessly throughout my entire school experience and was not really able to make friends. Going online on social media tought me a lot. There were other queer children at my school. We were all openly queer and treated as freaks and outcasts and we banded together for safety and for comfort. We were all experimenting with different labels and identities because of all the information that we found online. At 16 it hit me. I realised I’m gay as hell. I’m a man who likes men. That's why things aren't making sense. I don't want to be a girlfriend or a wife. I want to be a husband and a boyfriend. I desperately crave men in the way that men crave men.”

Kicked out

“At 18 I moved to my fathers family in the Bronx where I was forced to come out as I began my medical transition. My family disowned me. They didn't want anything to do with me anymore and kicked me out. I moved in with my partner at the time. They were also living with an extremely abusive family. We were living in terrible conditions, literally surrounded by roaches and rats every single day. We lived there for three months until their mentally unstable mother kicked us out.”

I know what hell is like

“From December 4th, 2018, we entered into the New York shelter system. After a long, brutal and painful 12 hours waiting to be processed the most traumatic period of my life started. You do not know cruelty, you do not know lack of humanity, lack of basic decency. You do not know the horrors of the state that we live under in this country, and the systematic oppression of people until you've experienced homelessness in those shelters. We are treated as less than human. We are treated as second class citizens. We were treated as dogs. I survived the shelters for three years and I know what hell is like.”

“We were placed into a family shelter. The first one being Auburn Place in Brooklyn. We had to put my partner as head of household. Now keep in mind, both me and my ex are transmasculine. They had already been medically transitioning and they had already had all their documents changed and updated. Due to just starting hormone therapy and lacking updated documents, my partner and I were perceived as a cisgender couple by shelter staff. In the shelter system only the head of household was allowed to speak, which forced me to advocate for my partner who struggled to communicate. Staff threatened violence if I spoke out, emphasizing the power dynamics within the shelter where the head of the household held all authority.”

“The Auburn Place Shelter was a living nightmare. Security measures resembled TSA checkpoints with aggressive staff. Any sign of dissent or discomfort was met with harsh treatment, including physical violence. Elderly, disabled, and vulnerable individuals were subjected to brutality by security guards for minor infractions, such as voicing complaints about living conditions. The living quarters were dehumanizing, resembling prison cells with minimal amenities and unclean conditions. Residents were forced to endure unbearable smells, including the stench of a decomposing body. The lack of dignity extended to basic hygiene items, with residents receiving meager supplies and limited access to essential items like toilet paper. The strict curfew enforced by the shelter resulted in residents being kicked out for minor infractions, leaving them to fend for themselves on the streets. Overall, the Auburn Place Shelter represented a place of despair, where residents endured physical and psychological trauma while struggling to survive in deplorable conditions.”

*For a detailed account of Stephen's experiences in the Shelter, listen to the audio recording via the QR code.

Interviewed in the summer of 2023



Ramon, 19

“I'm pansexual. I look at myself as kind of like a woman but meant to be a man at the same time. I feel like I'm meant to be both, at once.”

Shed in the backyard

“I was born in Georgia, but adopted at three years old into a racist white family. They adopted me to have a slave, literally. They would call me their nigger slave. Pretty much everything I did was controlled by them, to the point where I had no rights. They wouldn't do shit and expected me to do everything. When I first got my first job, I was happy thinking I'll be able to use the money to move out. They only helped me get the job so they wouldn't have to work.”

“I wasn't even allowed to sleep inside. I had to sleep in a little shed in the backyard. For me it was the worst but best thing that's happened to me. I feel like without that I wouldn't be as strong as I am.”

A way out

“At 15 I was homeless for the first time. I ran away. I purposely put myself in the psych ward by cutting myself. I wasn't trying to kill myself at that time. I have had attempts, but that time I was trying to find a way out. And I knew if I did something and said I was suicidal, they’d put me in a psych ward. So I went to the psych ward. My parents were coming to pick me up after I got discharged, they had to. I ran. I stayed in a very drugged up neighborhood that put me on some drugs for a while that I wish I had never gotten into.”

“I got the police involved. Instead of finding a better home for me, they forced me back into that bad situation. I was 16 or 17 years old.”

“When I was 18, I could legally leave and went to stay with one of my homeboys for a while. After that I moved to King Street, South Carolina where I was working at a corner store. I got a place to stay, but no pay. I worked from seven in the morning ‘til five in the morning the next day. I only got two hours of sleep, in the back, every night.”

Sylvia’s Place

“Through people I knew I ended up living in Brooklyn. I went to the hospital after my most recent suicide attempt. After staying there for a short while I went to Sylvia’s Place. Sylvia’s Place is an emergency shelter for LGBTQ+ youth. Sylvia’s, mainly because of Ms. Kayla, is one of the best experiences of my life. I've never had somebody to call mom. It’s not in my dictionary. But she's so caring, it was an accidental slip up …I was like, ‘Hey Mom.’”

Helping others

“My dream is to be a musician, a rapper, but not for myself. Everything I do is to help others, to let people know they're not alone. I don't want anybody else to have to go through what I've been through. With my music, when I make it, I'm going to buy a mansion, not for me. I'm going to live there but it’s gonna be a shelter, so people that are homeless and in a similar situation as I am in right now, will have a connection with somebody that can really help them.”

Interviewed in the summer of 2022



Torreano, 29

“I come from Jamaica, Queens, New York, and I identify as a gender fluid gay individual.”


“It makes me laugh whenever I think about it. I was coming out to my grandma when I was 13ish. My Grandma, who had legal guardianship over me, was watching her soap operas when I tried to tell her I am gay. She was a strict woman, but she was laid back at the same time. I just spilled it out. She reacted by saying, ‘And you interrupted my show for that? I'll talk to you as soon as the shows are over.’ She told me she did not care if I am gay or not. My grandma was okay with it because the apple don't fall too far from the tree. My mom is bisexual and almost all my siblings are LGBTQ.”

My journey

“From the age of 13 I lived with my aunt, who became my legal guardian, after my grandma passed away. One day when I was 19 my aunt told me, ‘I don't appreciate you trying to be gay up in my house.’ My aunt and uncle were like wolves in sheep’s clothes and told me to leave. I was crying and my aunt was not.”

“That started my journey. I asked them what to do since I'm homeless now? They sent me to Street Works who brought me to Sylvia's Place (LGBTQ shelter). It's a short stay so you only can be there for a certain amount of time and then transfer to somewhere else. In total I stayed there more than eight times. That was because I was very picky and I was raped and abused in other shelters. I'm surprised I'm not crying talking about it because there was a lot of physical abuse in there.”

Shelter system

“I decided to stay in shelters. I did not take any independent living or whatever because I don't want to have restrictions. I don't want to have to sign somebody in and there's still a curfew. In the shelter you can't bring people after a certain time either. I stayed in Ali Forney Center and multiple other places and kept trying to survive and figure out what I needed to do from there. It was one of the hardest things to go through in your early twenties. I've been in the shelter system on and off for 10 years. It wasn't in the cards for me to get my apartment, until now, literally 2 weeks ago.”


“I'm not currently working, but I am entering school soon. My future goal is to have several food trucks and create healthier foods that tastes like unhealthy foods. The idea is to create a healthy alternative for my brothers and sisters out there. Besides that, I’d like to hire and employ people that were previously incarcerated or very young people. That way I can provide them with work experience and a credit. It's so hard to get a job out there when you are very young, so I want to provide that. Five years down the line, I eventually want to open up a food truck that's specifically for homeless people and shelters, because not only do we have a problem with housing, we also have a problem with food. It is such a sad shame. A salad costs about $20 these days!”

Interviewed in the summer of 2023



Paris, 39

“I'm a transgender lady, about to be 40. Originally I'm from the Bay Area of California but I've been living in New York for the past 16 years.”

In the shelter

“I am in a shelter. I'm in a women's shelter. I'm a transgender woman. I've been in the shelter system for about three, four years. Also I am an alcoholic, but I'm a working alcoholic. I'm working on it. I identify as an alcoholic. That's why I'm in the shelter so that's what's up and that's what it is. I've diminished my drinking. I used to wake up and have my first cup of coffee with my can of beer, but I'm working on it. I like being beautiful. And when I am too intoxicated, it takes away from my beauty. My beauty is more important than anything.”

Fierce bitch

"Before the shelter I was living with my ex-husband and I was working. I worked for a great company. I was living the life, but I unfortunately lost my mother. And that's when I lost my mind and I ended up in the shelter. I couldn't breathe. My mother was my everything, I didn't know how to function. But she taught me how to be strong. So I lost her but everything she taught me still was in me. I had no choice but to be strong. I couldn't let her death ruin me. That's when I became Paris. I won't be judged by anybody. I'm still a fierce bitch, go ahead Paris. Let Paris shine.”

Prom queen

“I've always been feminine. I was the first guy in high school to run for prom queen in 2001 losing by only two votes, to the most popular girl in school. That's how much I slay the game. I am that bitch. Some people are born this way. I was born way more feminine than I ever was masculine. There never was anything masculine about me, ever.”


“I just recently got on hormones four months ago, literally, just four months ago, but, I've been Paris since 2003. I would dress extra feminine, but I guess I still identified as a gay man, just an extra feminine over the top gay man. Then my femininity grew to a point where I would just get in drag on certain occasions. It was so comfortable.”

“Right now I'm wearing natural hair and my homegirl, my roommate, did my hair. I like all the drama with my makeup. That's the girl I am. I'm an all over the top girl.”


“Back in the day I did administrative work and danced on the side. I would go nine to five in the office and go dance at night from seven to nine. That was my life for a while. I used to dance professionally and sometimes we'd go places.”

Being Paris

“These days I keep myself busy with getting cute, figuring out what I'm going to wear and what the weather's going to be like. I always make a way to be Paris even though I’m in the Shelter. Everybody knows Paris. Everyone wants to be my friend. I'm a cool girl. Paris Hilton is where I got my name. Back in 2003 Paris Hilton was the it girl. Paris Hilton used to get paid to go to clubs, just to sit there. I emulated her. Who gets paid to sit in a club and just be pretty? Who does that? Nobody at that time. Things have changed. But I took that name and I ran with it.”

Interviewed in the summer of 2023



Reign, 29

“I'm from Paraguay. I was adopted when I was few months old. My parents raised me in downtown Tribeca. I Identify as pansexual and I am trans.”

Coming out

“My parents were always okay with it. My mother's brother was a gay activist who was a lawyer. He changed a whole lot of laws trying to get things in order for the future. So my mother was already perfectly fine with it. That's probably the only thing she was fine with about my life.”

“My father had to get on board. He was brought up a little differently, but he was always accepting. He was always loving. We consider ourselves the inseparable little triangle team. It's really sweet to see everyone together again.”

On the streets

“I was on the street for four years. Before that I lived with my ex in a room in the Bronx for a couple of years, but we had to leave. Other places didn’t work out so we ended up on the streets. It was terrible, but it was worth it, I learned a lot. I held myself to a certain standard, I always took a shower so I didn't care what people called me. At the end of the day I took care of myself. I didn't tell everyone about the terrible things. I tried to hold myself to a humble kind of status. I tried to be very nice. I always gave people compliments. I didn't ask anyone for anything.”

“People are hard. People will call you all kinds things but it's the city that I live in. I love it. I've also seen extreme kindness and extreme love, just random acts, just random people that you would never expect. I've gotten a lot of kindness from this city. A guy came down the subway stairs, he said, ‘Hey, I saw you drawing and how are you?’ And he really talked to me. He really sat there and asked me how I was, and then he gave me 10 bucks. He saw that I cared about something. I wasn't going to use it for anything else. I was going to go get food. I seemed like I needed it.”

My own piece of heaven

“With the help of New Alternatives I finally got into a place. I got it only because of my HIV status. It’s a lot of hassle to get all the paperwork done, but I finally just took care of it and I got my housing. I was really, really happy. I accomplished more in that half year than in the five years I was with my ex. It just felt like such a relief. I have my own little place, my own piece of heaven. I take care of it. I clean every day. This is the first time that I actually have my own place."

“It's right around the corner from my mother. I help her as often as I can, as often as she'll allow me to, but they know that they need the help. The both of them now. My father lives with her, so they're kind of together and that's great. I mean, I like seeing them happy. I like being able to help and it's much easier than it was. Yeah, things have gotten better. I was working on a job, housing and schooling all at the same time. It's all happening right now because of that. Yeah, so I'm really, really happy.”

Interviewed in the summer of 2022




Redemption, 34

“I'm a pansexual male.”

Autism spectrum

“As someone on the autism spectrum, navigating the complexities of homelessness added another layer of challenge to my journey. My name is Redemption, a name I embraced symbolizing a pivotal moment of transformation in my life. I come from Gary, Indiana.”


“My journey into homelessness unfolded unexpectedly after I left seminary in New York City, grappling with feelings of disorientation and uncertainty about my future. This sudden turn of events left me in a precarious financial situation, still reliant on support from my mother with whom my relationship was strained.”

“Faced with the looming threat of homelessness I wrestled with conflicting emotions and uncertainties about my next steps. Returning to Gary, Indiana seemed the only option. It was during this tumultuous period that Father James, a compassionate figure at the seminary, extended a lifeline of support. Recognizing my vulnerability and inability to navigate the harsh realities of homelessness, Father James made a promise to assist me in finding my way back to New York if I ever needed to leave Gary. Reluctantly I accepted his offer, boarding a bus back to my hometown. Returning to Gary felt like a regression, a step backward in my journey toward independence and self-discovery. The strained dynamics of living under my mother's roof once again added to the emotional turmoil I was experiencing. Yet, amidst the challenges I found moments of clarity and determination.”

Back to New York City

“With resolve and resilience, I began exploring alternative paths forward, seeking opportunities for personal and professional growth. It was evident to me that returning to New York was the best course of action. Arriving in New York, I stumbled upon Sylvia's Place, a shelter catering to queer youth like myself. At 23, I felt out of place, labeled as a youth despite my adult years. Yet, I was grateful for the sanctuary it provided, offering refuge from the harsh realities of the streets. Survival became my primary focus as I navigated the labyrinthine social services system.”

“Obtaining food stamps and cash assistance became essential. However, the stigma of homelessness weighed heavily on me. I encountered stereotypes and misconceptions from those who couldn't comprehend the complexities of my situation.”

Societal prejudices

“Finding employment proved to be a Herculean task, hindered by societal prejudices and systemic barriers. Despite my qualifications as a paralegal and my aspirations, I faced obstacles at every turn. I refused to succumb to despair. With unwavering determination, I fought for my rights and dignity. Reflecting on those turbulent times, I realized the profound challenges of homelessness extend far beyond the lack of shelter. It's a battle against societal prejudices, systemic barriers, and the relentless cycle of poverty. Yet, through it all, my faith and resilience remained unshaken. Today, I find myself housed in a modest apartment, a far cry from the streets that once threatened to swallow me whole.”

Interviewed in the summer of 2023



Marc, 35

“I’m a gay man born and raised in New Jersey. My pronouns are for the most part, he or they, but it really doesn't matter to me as long as it's not being used in a disrespectful way. If you're like, ‘girl,’ that’s fine with me.”


“I never really came out. I am who I am. However I still feel uncomfortable sometimes, not with who I am but with the masculinity of it all. I struggled with that a lot because I didn't grow up with a father in the house. I kind of had to figure out how to grasp that masculine energy. Now I don't care, I go get my nails done in the salon and I wear things like these super short shorts.”

Bad boys schools

“I'm originally born and raised in New Jersey. My grandmother raised me. My mom didn't come and live with us until I was eight. I always knew who she was, she had me at 17 and she got into the streets and all that. She died when I was 12, brain cancer. I used to get teased and bullied a lot. I was a nerd. As a result I started rebelling. And so I had to go to bad boys schools. I was in juvenile detention and then group homes. It all just kind of led up to me coming out here.”

Virgin Mega Store

“I came to New York at 17. I was in youth shelters out in Jersey and decided to go to New York. Had nothing but $250 in my pocket. I was on the streets. I remember being in the middle of Christopher Street in the Village and not even knowing where I was. I used to chill out a lot at Union Square Park. I'd sleep on the train, go to Virgin Mega Store, find a bathroom, freshen up and just enjoy the New York experience. It was really new to me. I wasn't used to being on my own.”

Playing house

“I escorted a little bit which really wasn't my thing. I just felt like I was degrading myself afterwards. However it was a means of survival for a while. I ended up going to Sylvia’s Place (LGBTQ youth shelter). A cool experience because when I was at Sylvia’s I met a different group of people. After a while I started meeting guys in prospect of dating and basically playing house and living with them.”

“I ended up contracting HIV a year after I arrived in NYC, I didn't know until later on. I wasn't getting checked because at this point I was getting into the fast life of hanging out in the clubs and doing cocaine and just being a hot mess. I got real heavy in drugs like cocaine, crack cocaine and meth. I’m sober from meth for 2 months now, I got tired of it. I wasn't using it for the purpose other gay guys would use it for because it doesn't make me sexual. It's helped me open my mind more.”

“I have really bad anxiety and PTSD. I've been through a lot. I grew up in therapy and taking medication. Now I kind of just respect the fact that I'm grown and I know my triggers, everything I've gone through on this journey has gotten me to where I'm at now.”

My house

“This is the second time I have my own place. The first time I was still on drugs so I ended up giving the drug dealer my key to my apartment for $200 worth of crack. I've been in my apartment in the Bronx for a few years. I’m comfortable. It’s a bit messy but it’s mine. I could honestly say at 35, I'm content with who I am. I'm still learning, and I'm still in a process, but I'm super happy.”

Interviewed in the summer of 2023



Lily, 36

“I'm from a small town called Taunton, Massachusetts. I am trans.”


“Growing up was rough. I grew up in trafficking. I was adopted at six years old from a very horrific situation. Out of the frying pan into the fire as they say. I was a child sex slave from 6 years old to 23. I escaped. It wasn't even that I was escaping the trafficking because that was my normal. I was walking away from a violent situation where I was the villain. Not that I was the villain in that situation, but that's how I got treated. I bounced around from group home to group home. Eventually I met my co-parent and a few months later our first child was on the way and I got my life together.”

“I first came out when I was about seven. I got shoved back in the closet. I was so young. It's not like it is today. The second time I came out, I came out to my children and my co-parent, which led to my homelessness and the loss of my children. Coming out is something I regret. I do not regret being my true self. I just regret letting the monsters know who I was.”

Men’s shelters

“I came to New York about 11 years ago, a year after my son was born. My co-parent had family in the city. We moved here so my kids could have family. Worst mistake ever. I experienced homelessness almost a month after I came out of the closet. She brought me to court. She basically accused me of every horrible thing that has ever happened to ME. That was the thing that broke me. Having to relive the atrocities of my life and think of my children. Never once during the court battles was it brought up that I am a she or that this was maybe a hate crime against ME.”

“I went to men's shelters because the shelter system wasn't that accepting. Legally they're not supposed to, but they asked me for proof of my trans identity and I was naive enough to not fight that. I got sent to a rather violent men's shelter. I bounced around to a men's mental health shelter, MICA, because of course if you call yourself a woman you must be crazy. The MICA shelter was its own special kind of hell. It's a very lovely idea, a safe space for mentally unstable people. In reality it was violent, dirty, bug ridden, and abusive both from the clients and the staff.”

I got to be Lily

“After I moved out of the MICA shelter I got an apartment. I worked like crazy but once I lost the court case I broke down and lost my jobs and I got transferred to a woman's shelter. The woman's shelter was one of the first places I got to be Lily. I clearly remember a fist fight in the woman's shelter over who got to do my makeup. I felt like a queen. I got to wear women's clothes for the first time in two years after my transition.”

“I bounced around between a couple of women's shelters until I got on my feet at a super SRO (Single-Room Occupancy). It is not the best situation by far. It’s in the Bronx. It is quite a dangerous neighborhood. It’s an adult group home. Basically we are not allowed to cook. We are not allowed guests. We are forced by curfew. It is a homeless shelter that's just very expensive to live in.”

Need to help

“I have a need to be the person that I really needed when I was struggling as a child. I have an unhealthy and sometimes destructive need to help others. I've lost friends by being too helpful. There are many things I don't understand how to do in my adult life that I should have learned as a child. I don't know if it's the autism or the lack of socializing as a youth. I don't understand the concept of friendship that well. I do as much as I can to reunite the letters of our community because together we are powerful. United we rise, separated we fall.”

Interviewed in the summer of 2022



Michael, 30

“I'm attracted to men.”

Growing up

“I'm from Queens. I was born in Elmhurst, but I grew up mostly in Maspeth. Growing up was pretty good. I mean, normal parents, normal childhood, normal everything. Later I found out my parents weren't really my parents. When I was 16 I told everyone I was gay. I was bullied in school. Wouldn't say it was difficult for me growing up, but it was hard for me to be myself. I lived with my parents, don’t live there anymore. Why would I want to be in a place where I'm not welcome? I still deal with my dad/half uncle because he gives me money. I just don't deal my mom/aunt.”

Keep to myself

“I've been coming to New Alternatives since I was 18. I slept on the street a couple of times then found out about DHS (Department of Homeless Services). So I would go between DHS and the street. New York City has a law, if you're homeless, they have to give you a bed. You go and you tell them you’re homeless and they'll tell you where to go. With me personally, to be safe in the shelters I just keep to myself. It's like, don't mess with them then no one will mess with you. Besides a bed you also get cash assistance and food stamps. So, right now I’m either at DHS or sleeping on the streets.”

Sleeping on the streets

“To sleep on the streets basically you just need to find where the group of homeless people hang out. You’ll find a spot around there, but you just don't want to be too close to them, you don't want problems. I have a few spots. You got to see if they're nice to you first. Ask them if they mind if you sleep around there somewhere. Avoid problems with ‘em or they rob you. And so it's good to not be friends with them, but be like acquaintances. Don't give too much information.”

A voucher

“The thing about DHS is you have to spend 90 days in the shelter and they give you a voucher. It's only good for five years. If you go to DHS, they help you get off the street. They send you to HRA (Human Resources Administration) and give cash, food stamps and Medicaid. Then you need to get your state ID, your birth certificate and your social security card. After you're in the shelter 90 days, you get a voucher and you can start looking for apartments.”

“For a regular apartment you sign a year or a two year lease. After the year or two years is up, you've got to go and look for another apartment. Then when that five year voucher is up, you have to go back to DHS and again spend another 90 days in a shelter. You got to do the whole thing all over again. It's horrible.”

It’s a lifestyle

“I’m just living life, just breathing. It's New York City, people are going to get mad when I say this.… but there's not really homelessness in New York City. You could always go to DHS, but I understand sometimes the shelters can be traumatic. I understand some people can’t handle being around all those people being on all those drugs. But I could. It’s a lifestyle. Let’s put it this way, if I was rich I'd have a house.”

“I do wish I had a brother, a best friend. We could get a room and live together and just live life and have fun. For the moment I’m ok. Life is just breezy. I go wherever the wind takes me.”

Interviewed in the summer of 2022



Giselle, 32

“I'm a transgender female from the Bronx.”

Group homes

“I was born in Puerto Rico, raised in the Bronx and grew up in group homes. Group homes are like foster care. I was put in group homes because my grandmother used to abuse me. She used to hit me. This was before I came out. Ballet was my escape from home. Ballet after school was the only way I would be able to stay out longer. When I changed into my dance clothes my teacher saw the marks on my back and she asked me if my grandmother was hitting me. I told her I was scared and about what happened at home. Then they spoke to my grandmother.”


“I came out when I was young. I was caught in the middle of a sexual act with one of my friends in my grandmother's house. That’s when I came out. It was a big thing. As soon as my grandmother found out, she called everybody in the family. It was so embarrassing. I have a brother, a sister and cousins and all that, but I don't talk to them. I choose not to for my mental health.”


“I lived in group homes from 8 to 18. All male group homes at that time. I knew I was different but because I never grew up around LGBTQ people, I wasn't exposed to trans people and all that other stuff. I knew either you are gay or straight. I found out there was more when I moved into a LGBTQ group home. It was a big family and I got along with everybody. We used to run away from the group home and break curfew and stuff like that. It was fun.”


“That was my first time seeing trans women. Wow. I was 16. That’s how I learned about hormones. I met girls from Philadelphia at the home, they were on their hormones for a long time and they told me about it. They told me about black market silicone and black market hormones, but they also told me that you can go to your doctor. I did’t talk to my grandmother so I couldn’t have her sign for hormones. Some people go to the black market but I waited until I was 18 to start my hormones. Then I could go to a doctor and do my thing.”

My own place

“When I aged out of the group homes I became homeless. From 18 to 24 I was in shelters. Then I got my first apartment through a program. I lost my apartment after a year over domestic violence and I was back in the streets. Then I got into another program that put me in supportive housing where I was allowed visitors ‘til a certain time. I was there for a couple of years. Now I have my own place. It's a studio but it's mine. It's in the Bronx around Yankee Stadium area. I had my interview on Monday and they said I can move in on Friday. So I was pretty stoked. Me and my boyfriend at the time got intoxicated and celebrated the whole weekend. I was happy. I'm proud of myself. I put in all the footwork.”

Interviewed in the summer of 2023



Infinite, 28

“I'm from Staten Island, New York, and I'm gay.”

Wu-Tang Clan

“Coming out was really fucking annoying. It was 2013, I was in high school and I had a singing video go viral because of my dad's name. My dad is Ghostface Killah, member of the Wu-Tang Clan. Instead of people talking about me singing, they was calling me a fucking faggot and so on. They was calling me Sweetface Killah. It was really hard.”

“With a family that’s so hardcore it felt uncomfortable to try to embrace who I was and to even speak out about it. It was hard when that video came out and they was doing all that slander on me. I remember getting a call from my dad saying, ‘yo, what the fuck! You ruining my career?"

"I lived with my mom and she was asking me questions I didn't know how to answer. People kept asking me if I was gay. It was a lot of trying to have acceptance in myself. It took me a long time to learn that.”

Never felt safe."

“After some altercations with my sister I had to basically get out of there. I felt it was not fair because why do I have to go to a shelter while you guys are living in a home for free. It just didn't make any sense. But I had to make that sacrifice because I was going to be able to get out of that darkness. I've lived with friends even before living in the shelter. I was always having problems at home. It was never a real home because my home never really felt safe. So I would always have moments where I'm home and then all of a sudden I'm living with my friends.”

Scary as hell

“I literally found out so much more about myself on that travel from Staten Island to the shelter in Queens. I had nothing to do but think. I didn't sleep in there because I am a bougie ass bitch. I would stay up until I was able to leave again to go back to Staten Island to my cousins and sleep throughout the day. My curfew was at 10 pm, we weren't allowed to leave the place until five 5 am”

“It was a halfway house, a place for men who got out of jail and other homeless people. It was scary as hell. I’ll never forget someone trying to eat my food and ending up giving it to him. It's like you're in a cell with someone because it's fucking small. It's not an actual room to be honest. It's really dirty and it's buggy. I've learned a lot and I am grateful for the strength and all of our strength. Anyone who’s ever been through this kind of situation is really fucking powerful. There are lot of people in my community that go through this. We are really fucking powerful.”

I deserve this

“I got my house all by myself. I fought for it, I deserve this. I have a home now. People don’t have power over me. Now I really can go out and wear what the fuck I want comfortably. Before when I was living with my mom, I used to literally have on clothes under different clothes. I would have on baggy jeans and a skirt under it.”

“Music is my thing, I want to be that girl, but I also have this other job as an after school teacher at an all boys school. It’s fucking crazy for me to be at an all boys school. And you know what, these boys respect me and love me while I am 100% myself.”

Interviewed in the summer of 2023



Ja’Niyah, 34

“I was born in Jersey and raised in New York. I'm transgender.”


“When I came to New York I was 19. I grew up in the system. When I turned 18, I signed myself out of the system and I ended up back with a part of my family. It didn't work out so I disappeared and came to New York to start a new life.”

“The system in Jersey is different from New York. If you have a relative you can't be separated. But in New Jersey they don't care so me and my brother were separated. I went to a program called Somerset Hill School, which shut down because of the abuse that was going on there. It was an all boys school. You live there, you eat there, everything. It was very abusive. They would lock you in rooms, make you sit on the floor in Indian style, make you face the wall and they would put restraints on you. If you had to use the bathroom they ignored you so you ended up doing it inside the room and then you'd get in trouble for that. There was a lot putting their hands on us and stuff like that.”

Just like me

“I started transitioning around 21. I didn't really know anything about the gay lifestyle, I just knew I felt different. As I grew up everything was behind closed doors or secretive. When I came to New York I saw people just like me. I didn't feel alone anymore. I felt like I was home even though I was homeless. Here I’m able to express myself the way I want to express myself without so much people telling you, you can't dress like that, or act like that, or be that way, or whatever the case may be.”

Better on the streets

“I was homeless for about five years. I was in and out of shelters where I was almost molested. It was always a drama, a situation with somebody bothering me or somebody picking on me. It was best for me to be on the streets at the time. I slept in the park, benches on the train, Christopher Street, at the Piers and places like that. Or I would find people to whom I gave what they wanted, sexually, so I had a place to sleep or eat. It's been a rocky road I should say.”

"I started off in SROs (Single-Room Occupancy). Those are small apartments with a private room but shared kitchen, bathrooms and other amenities. You can have your own room and your own space. I had to push myself to actually do the work for me to be safe, so I didn't have to be on the street. It's been a long journey. I’m still here.”

Interviewed in the summer of 2023



Ember Claire, 21

“I’m from Indiana. I identify as transfeminine.”

Their beliefs

“I come from a small town in Indiana called Terre Haute, where I grew up in the woods. I was homeschooled by my conservative family, who loved me, but their beliefs clashed with my identity. I never came out to them.”

“Looking back, it's clear I've always known who I am, but I only fully accepted it about two years ago. It was hard because of the beliefs my parents instilled in me. Online, I found support from a friend I met on a poetry site, who helped me through tough times.”

“About a month and a half ago I left to start my transition here in New York. I began hormone replacement therapy in early May and have been working on paperwork for surgeries, though it all takes time. Accessing hormones was easier here due to informed consent, unlike in Indiana where it was illegal.”

Had to leave

“New York is more accepting than my hometown. When I wanted to leave my hometown I reached out to several shelters, and only New York responded, so here I am. I left without telling my parents, saying I needed some time away. They might understand, but healing our relationship will take time.”

“I came out to one person, but she didn't understand and I didn't tell anyone else, which was good. Since then, I've been on my own.”

“Leaving Indiana might seem like I've ruined my life, but I feel happier and safer now. I'm still adjusting to the new environment, but overall, I think I'm doing well. I briefly stayed in Chicago for an internship but found it too dangerous.”


“I intended to go to the Ali Fornay Center in New York, but it was closed due to a nearby shooting. I ended up sleeping on the streets for two days until it reopened. It wasn't great, but I felt relatively safe in Bryant Park, sleeping on top of a wall.”

“Afterwards, I stayed at the Ali Fornay Center for about three weeks. Now, I'm living on a boat I found for free on Craigslist, though I'm in the process of getting an apartment because the boat lacks basic amenities. I'm considering transitional housing until I can secure long-term accommodation.”

The future

“As for college, I've spent two and a half years studying computer science, but I'm considering switching to literature or psychology. I hope to find a job combining psychology with my strong math background.”

“Ultimately, I want to make a difference in the world, possibly through writing, counseling, or politics. If I had stayed in Indiana, I believe my life would have been much harder due to my family's beliefs and the experiences of my transgender cousin. My parents are still trying to help, but they often go about it in the wrong way, hindering the healing process.”

Interviewed in the summer of 2022



Levi, 26

“I spent my childhood between Little Rock, Arkansas and Miami, Florida. Growing up in Miami was tolerable, but it's not a place I would choose to live again.”


“To be honest I didn't fully understand what being gay meant when I was younger. Although I played with Barbie dolls, my parents didn't make a fuss about it. They simply assumed I had an obsession with beautiful women, particularly blondes. I started college at 21 which might seem odd considering I graduated high school at 17. My dad didn't push me to go to college. My grandparents raised me as their son. I was spoiled and lucky my dad set up individual accounts for all of us.”

Foolish mistakes

“Moving to New York City was a significant step for me. The financial support of my father was crucial and likely prevented me from experiencing the hardships that many other LGBTQIA+ youth face. I was very comfortable in Upper East Side and I've lived there a majority of my time in New York. Financial difficulties forced me to move around frequently so I have lived all over the city. Foolish mistakes caused me to move to the shelter the first time. Being there opened my eyes to the struggles of others in the LGBTQIA+ community, particularly those who had been abandoned by their families. I was shocked to hear stories of teenagers being forced to live on the streets because their parents couldn't accept their sexuality.”

Back in the Shelter

“Currently I'm residing in the same shelter I was in years ago, Sylvia’s Place. It was a humbling experience being back considering the progress I had made in my life and after many years of stability. It’s shocking coming back and seeing people who I was in this experience with the first time, still there. You can see the struggle and everything they've gone through on their faces. Some of us are of the same age but you can see the abuse of New York City on their face. It’s intense and it's kind of sad being back in the exact same situation.”


“I've struggled with depression and anxiety, exacerbated by the stigma associated with homelessness. I feel embarrassed about my situation. I walk out of the shelter on my way to work in the morning with a fur coat and Christian Louboutin slippers, fabulously dressed. I have a wardrobe in there….it’s a gag!”

“I've kept the truth hidden from my coworkers and friends, fearing judgment and discrimination. My goal is to find stable housing and rebuild my life. I've reached out to family members for support and am exploring options for low-income housing and financial assistance. Despite the challenges I face, I remain hopeful that I can overcome this setback and create a better future for myself.”

Interviewed in the summer of 2022



Izzy, 36

“I just became a resident of New York a week ago. I am from New Brunswick, New Jersey. I am gay.”

In the system

“I'm not sure if I ever had a coming out experience. I had a put out experience where my sibling told the family. They called me to say they still loved me. However another part of my family told me that I was an abomination and I was going to hell. I left those people alone because at the end of the day they weren't putting food in my mouth or giving me somewhere to sleep. Their ignorance is their ignorance. I only grew up partially with my family. I was in the system since I was 7 so what they had to say didn't matter. They didn't raise me anyway. I would love for them to support me, but if you don't, I'm not going to lose any sleep over it.”

“My behavior as a child was so bad that they had to put me in a placement for at-risk youth. The things I had seen at home, the violence between my aunts and uncles, it trickles down to the kids sometimes and they don't realize it until they start acting out. That's what happened to me.”

Chaos and craziness

“At 18 years old I stayed at an apartment In Philadelphia. That was wild, I used sex as a drug back then. I didn't care and wanted to have fun and enjoy my life since I didn't really get to do anything as a kid. It lasted a few years. Then I finally decided to calm down a little bit.”

“Even though I was working I could not afford my own place. It’s very expensive in Philadelphia and if you don't have a subsidy you are screwed. They kept saying, ‘You're not homeless unless you go into a shelter.’ Meanwhile, they were closing every shelter so you couldn't get into them anyway.”

“I went through that for 12 years. The shelters are really, really not safe. They are not geared for LGBTQ people. Eventually I went to a shelter for people in recovery, for three months. I was not in recovery so I had to deal with people that are trying to get off drugs. There was a lot of fighting and drug use going on while I'm working and trying to sleep. Then after 3 months they finally told me they can not help me with housing. So I left and found my own apartment.”

“There were difficulties finding a job and I wouldn't be able to pay my rent because the rent would be too high. To afford the rent you got to get a roommate but finding a sane roommate is very difficult. Then it just became one thing after another, after another, until I finally said, ‘I'm going to New York.’ ”

“I really didn't want to leave because everything I knew was in Pennsylvania. I'm familiar with the chaos and craziness there but Philly is dangerous. They call it the city of the Walking Dead. There were people shooting people every two seconds in front of your doorstep and you’d hear bullets flying through windows or people shooting through cars. I decided it was time to leave. Currently me and my husband are staying in a shelter in the Bronx.”

Interviewed in the summer of 2022



Gia, 30

“I identify as a human being and trans. My pronouns are she and they.”


“I grew up in the Midwest, in Minnesota, which is very traditional and very ignorant. So it was very difficult growing up there. I’ve known who I am from an early age, whether it was kind of something I discovered in myself or not, people were very adamant about telling me what they saw. It became very apparent, from an early age, that I wasn't like other people. I had a deeper interest in myself than I recognized others did.”

“My parents and I were not getting along, me being in the LGBTQ I'm sure had something to do with it. I grew up in a very difficult household. My family isn't very close or warm. People in my family are very driven by things like capitalism and old school ways that are very American.”

“I wasn't going to be able to exist in Minnesota so I left at 21. I was already homeless there for a couple of years, and I knew that New York had more resources for people who were homeless.”

Courage to be myself

“People were very opposed to me. I was confusing, and I think I challenged a lot of people's perceptions of reality, and that makes people very afraid. It made it very difficult for me to be able to do the things other people do. Physically, I have things about me that I think will always make it very hard for me to be able to compromise or be like others. I've always had no choice but to find some sort of courage to be myself. And I got better at it over time. I practiced not giving a shit about what other people think.”

“I never came out. I don't think I was ever in. People had kind of already told me what I was always going to be, whether I made a decision about anything or not. So when I decided to just live fully as a female, it made the most sense. Actually my life got a lot better. They could put me in a category and people need that. I'm a complicated person so my biggest obstacle in life is to learn how to integrate myself into the world by knowing how to simplify everything that I am, which can be very difficult.”

Living in New York

“When I arrived in New York, the first night I had enough money to get a hotel room. I heard about Sylvia’s Place through an LGBTQ church. By the grace of God I got a place to sleep the second night. I stayed for many months, maybe even longer.”

“I like coming back to Sylvia’s Place because it's very nostalgic. It brings me back to parts of myself that I almost can't access otherwise because I don't have familiarity in my life. There are no things around me that really ground me, things that maybe people might find in family or where they grew up. So I kind of have that there, a community-based place, and I really like it.”

“After Sylvia’s Place I was mostly renting rooms. You don't need to have a lease or go through anything official. If you need a place immediately it's probably the quickest way to do it.”

“Now I live in a studio in the Bronx. I'm really happy about it. I love it up there. I've lived there for about seven years now.”

Not ordinary

“For a person in the LGBTQ or trans community your identity can be very suffocating. I don't think that you should spend so much time worrying about your gender expression, the way that society makes you. It can really rot your mind and make you feel that you're not really living life for yourself but you're living it simply for your gender.”

“I'm satisfied with myself. I'm not really upset with where I'm at in life. I kind of think it's interesting. I think it's fascinating to watch. My life has been very fascinating because it's not ordinary and it seems like it just gets more and more bizarre. I just want to continue to evolve and stay fresh and keep developing my swagger. I definitely want to talk on a wider scale about what I think life is about.”

Interviewed in the summer of 2022



Joel, 31

“Born and raised in Philadelphia. I’m gay.”

Had to hide

“I came out slowly when I was a teenager because around my community it was taboo and it kind of still is. I came out as bi first. Basically I had to hide myself for a while. I couldn't truly be who I wanted to be because of the stigma against the gay community. I wasn't accepted. On top of that, I grew up in the hood and projects. So yeah, that's definitely a no.”

“I was acting as straight as possible but at some point I didn't care what people thought about me anymore. However when you walk down the street, you have to watch yourself a little bit more than a straight person. You get bullied more and picked on more so you had to defend yourself and learn how to fight.”


“I must say it's home. It's very interesting to live there. A lot of people don't like it but I loved it. It's where I was born and raised. I was bullied a lot when I was younger. I got called names and on top that I grew up poor, so I didn't always have the best clothes and shoes. I was considered to be white trash or the bottom of the barrel. So it wasn't always that fun. I kind of messed up in high school, I started cutting and stuff because I was going through a lot at that time. My sister's boyfriend passed away. He OD'ed on drugs in our house, that took a toll. On top of that I was helping to raise my little brother so I didn't really have a childhood after the age of 12. I was living with my parents off and on. Sometimes I stayed with my grandparents, who helped to raise me.”


“After I finished high school my grandfather passed away. Then I disappeared for three years because of personal stuff with the family. I was homeless for a while in Philly. I got into a relationship and wound up moving to South Beach, Florida. Unfortunately we lost everything after the house we rented turned out to be illegal. We moved back to my mom's house for a while and lived in my friend's house for three years after that. We were going through a lot. We were together for eight years but it wasn't the greatest relationship. He taught me some valuable lessons in life though and I don't regret none of it. It's just that I wish things could have been better.”

Psych unit

“I came to NY because my boyfriend was here and he had asked me to move here. I moved and it didn't work out the way it was supposed to so I ended up in the shelter. At that time I was on drugs and I was trying to kill myself and was in and out of hospitals, in and out of the psych unit. I left New York for a little while but came back when somebody needed help. The long story short, I got messed over in that situation and I was back in the shelter for four months. Now I'm in a studio by myself and I'm doing pretty good. This place I'm at right now is only a stepping stone. It's too many rules, I can't have people over and it still feels like a shelter to me. Next step is a real apartment for me and my rescued pigeon, my cat, snake and rabbit. I can honestly say right now that I'm happier than ever before. And I'm going to keep on that route because I like the path I'm going on.”

Interviewed in the summer of 2022



Liliana, 33

“I am a demisexual, a gender non-conforming demi girl. That is how I identify myself.”

Kicked out

“I'm from Philadelphia, but I moved to New York about six years ago. In my teenage years I was trying to figure out my identity and who I am. There were many conflicts with my parents. There were times when my mom would tell me to get out of her house. One time she kicked me out and I didn't talk to her for two years. I moved to New Jersey and I was homeless. She didn't know if I was dead or alive. I was homeless in Jersey, I was homeless in Philadelphia and I was homeless here in New York. Recently, after six years, I got on my feet.”


“The first time I came to New York I didn't have my kids with me. It was my job to come up here and secure housing so that I could bring them to New York. Soon I realised it didn’t work like that. I had to go to Drop-In Centers for the night where the food is bad and there were no beds only chairs. You sit upright and you got to sleep sitting upright. I would get a chair to try to put my feet on. They told me I can’t do that. You wake up all the time. It was really hard.”

“The second time I came to New York I had my daughter with me. I had to bring her so they would accommodated both of us. They treat people with children a lot better than they treat people who’re single. We arrived by train at 2 am with only one suitcase with only her stuff in it. Cops brought us to a family shelter. A whole bunch of homeless families lived there but you had your own apartment. So I was in there finally. That was my stability.”

Fake it

“I'm in my own apartment now. I'm happy and I'm stable. The tribulations of what you have to go through to get it is beyond me. To be homeless in New York is a fucking humbling ass experience. New York is one of the craziest places to be homeless. They got a lot of resources though, unfortunately there are a lot of people that can't stand their job who are in charge of those resources. So if they don't like you they're not going to do anything for you. Kiss their ass and fake it till you make it is the main thing you do in this situation.”


“I'm a lot better than where I was before. Mentally I'm in a better place because it's hard to be homeless. People will say, ‘oh get a job.’ but you can’t go to an interview smelling. Am I coming to your house to shower? I don’t think so! They tell you to stop being lazy while I'm here trying to beg for money to get on the train to get to my interview or to go shower. Do you have water and soap for me? If I could wash my ass then I'll be able to get a job. If I get the job, I'll be able to get the money and I won't be here begging you for shit. When someone asks for change, give them the fucking change because they got multiple steps to get through, to get to where you are.”

Interviewed in the summer of 2023



Faith, 25

“I identify as he, him, they, them, she or her. Actually pronouns are open. So just a human I guess. I'm the plus in LGBTQIA+. I'm pan.”

New Jersey

“I grew up in Newark, New Jersey. I came here six years ago to be who I am. It's more lenient and more liberal here. It is very close to New York, but it's very different on the understanding aspect. I definitely had a lot of problems with people minding my business instead of minding theirs. I grew up with my family. My family was understanding, actually, but they weren't understanding to what it was. Jersey is very dumb to the whole LGBTQIA+ aspect. So they just looked at it as gay. But in all reality, gay is man seeking a man. That's not what my case was. So I had to break it down to them and really tell them the difference between every acronym of LGBTQIA+.”


“I've always been out. I was born out. I was born just being who I was. I always knew. I just didn't specifically see a gender in who I like. I see a vibe and an energy.”

“My family accepted me, but that doesn't mean Tom, Susan, and Harry or neighbors or other people around you will accept that you're walking hand in hand with maybe a guy. I am pan so some days it could be a guy or the next it could be a trans woman or an actual woman or someone of any type of pronoun or gender. So they weren't ready for that. My family wasn't the issue. It was the community that didn't have the tolerance for who I was.”

Struggle in New York

“When I arrived in New York I automatically went into the homeless system. It was either homeless system or stay in Jersey with the possibly of getting assaulted at nighttime or beat to death or any situation like that. Something happened to me once in Jersey where someone pulled a gun on me for just walking down the street. They weren’t trying to rob me or nothing, just pulled out the gun because of how I was looking. That was the last straw. I was like, if I can lose my life for being who I am, I'd rather just go somewhere where I can be who I am and not have what I have. So I came here. I started from the bottom. I went to Sylvia's Place. I went to Ali Forney, Street Work and Safe Horizon. They saved my life.”

“I live in a two bedroom. It's shared, but right now I don't have a roommate. It’s a housing program through Housing Works. You pay 30% of your income. You work and have case management sessions and mental health sessions.”

Storage unit

“I had to fight for stability at 18. I had to find a place to live, health insurance, food stamps, cash. I had to find help with my mental health. I had to build a whole new life here. So it definitely took years to be where I'm now. Now I can say I can pursue higher education. I have the time and I have the stability. I have hopes to help other people who have been in my position.”

“I'm happy with what I have. I'm grateful. But I could have been further if I didn't have to go through what I went through. But I am happy though because there were times when I wouldn't know if I was going to sleep in my Cube Smart or outside because they might catch me and I would lose my storage unit. You get what I mean? I'm happy because of that though. I don't have to deal with that no more.”

Interviewed in the summer of 2023



Anabella, 34

“I am born and raised in Puerto Rico. I’m a transgender woman.”


“When I was 21 I decided to come to New York City and try to be independent. I came to New York City with a partner. We ended up on the street immediately. I automatically grabbed some cardboard to sit on, I did not learn that anywhere. I just knew what to do. My boyfriend cried all night but these situations just don’t stress me out like that. He didn't know what to do. So yeah, he moved on. I bet he's doing real good. After we got separated I decided to stay in New York because it felt more independent.”

The only problem

“There's not much of a problem being homeless. The only problem is not having support or not feeling somebody next to you. You can’t count on anybody. The only stable support I have is Kate from New Alternatives.”

“Staying in the shelters was not for me. Why go through such hard times in an enclosed place? It's like basically having to live with bad family. It is not supposed to be difficult, but as a trans girl, going through this experience is hard. There still is not a shelter for only trans girls.”

Boiler rooms

“Staying on the streets is better. Sometimes you meet someone who helps you out and who you can stay with. I have a storage unit for my stuff. I have some places I go to. I stay in boiler rooms of buildings, which is not allowed, but there is water there and it is warm. Also I get water from Laundromats and I take my time in terminals and subway restrooms that are open.”

In a tent

“Right now I am staying in a tent on Queens Boulevard near the Long Island Railroad. Being that it's a highway it's very windy and cold. The cops came today, the city wants to clean up.They had already thrown a whole bunch of my things that were outside my tent into the garbage truck. I managed to save a couple of things. Can't complain.”

“As for my sleeping situation, if it's real cold or if I don't have a tent, I really just mostly sleep on the train. Literally on the train. It's like I turned into a kind of person that barely sleeps. Four hours will be enough.”


“At this point, after 13 years of living on the streets, I feel like there's nothing or no one to blame. I intended things to be better. When I look at my own situation, things should be going my way. So I don't know. I might be in a denial. I mean, I think I am in a denial.”

Interviewed in the spring of 2024



Genesis, 24

“I’m gender nonconforming bisexual.”

Jehovah’s Witness

“I was raised in Brooklyn in a Jehovah's Witness family. I don't know where exactly I'm from because I was adopted. They treated me like a prisoner at home. I couldn't go anywhere unless I had a family member with me, not even to the store that was across the street. They didn't want me to be corrupted. My parents had my whole life mapped out. They forced me to get baptized into a religion I hated.”

“They gave me everything, to be honest. I could literally ask for anything in the world and they would give it to me. You should have seen my room. Thousands of dollars was spent on materialistic things.”

The most expensive thing I remember I had was this white snake skin leather jacket from Italy. It was $3,000 and they bought it for me, without batting an eye. I didn't even want it. My mom just bought it because of an event at school where we had to dress in all white. I had the latest Jordan sneakers. They actually came out that week. I had brand new white jeans, had a silk white shirt, white MCM belt and a custom-made Biggie Smalls white hat. It had his face right there on the front and on the side it had my favorite quote, ‘If you don't know, now you know.’”

Rich kid

“When I came out it was kind of hard. My parents shunned me. I still can't talk to them and it's all because of the religion that they believe in. Everything that pertains to the LGBT community is a sin and should be tossed out, cast away. In school it was easy. Everybody, as soon as I came out was cool, just went along with their daily lives. I didn't have anybody close to me that helped me or anything. I just had to learn everything off of first experience.”

"When I came out, I went from middle class rich kid to bum on the streets. My parents tossed me out without anything that I owned. Instead of giving me clothes and all that, they just tossed me out. They waited ‘til I was long gone and away from the house and donated all my stuff.”

“I went to New Alternatives and they told me about Sylvia's Place, where I stayed for three months. There I gained true friends that stuck with me to the end. I had no clue about anything. If it wasn't for New Alternatives, I think I'd still be on the streets right now."

My life now

“Now I'm living in a SRO (Single-Room Occupancy) in the Bronx. I hate it with a passion. The door to my room has been kicked in so many times. Mind you, it's been three years and they still haven't fixed it. I could lock the door and all I have to do is just tap it and I'll be in. I've had a lot of stuff stolen from that room.”

“I wish I was working right now. I love to help people. I’m good as a health aide but it seems like nobody actually needs an aid these days. The only source of income I get other than from my mother, from time to time, is my cash assistance. That's only twice a month. Often I go hungry.”

“The last time I was really happy was the day I was able to celebrate my birthday for the first time. I turned 23. One of the number one things that Jehovah's Witnesses detest is birthdays. I had a friend named Karen, an older trans girl in the Bronx. She took me to Red Lobster. I didn't know she had it all planned out. She told them that it was my birthday and everything. I've never cried that hard. I was truly happy for months. That was the only time I ever celebrated my birthday. I don't think I could get something that extraordinary or extravagant again. Nobody could one up that. Karen is my ex-girlfriend and it surprises a lot of people because she's older and I'm only 24. She turned 53 this year. But I noticed one thing about that, everybody that I hang out with or I am cool with is older. I'm an old man in young body.”

Interviewed in the summer of 2022



Amber, 33

“I’m a Virgo from Washington DC. My pronouns are she and her. I'm a trans woman.”

Transition at 14

“So I grew up in Washington DC with my grandmother. During the time that I was growing up, I was very different from everyone else. I tried to hide who I was until I turned 14 and then decided to transition. I got put out of my home due to that and I went to go live with my father. It didn't work out. He was an alcoholic. From there I ended up moving into a shelter. At the age of 14 I had my name changed, an F on my ID and my own bank accounts. I went to school transitioning. I was also in prostitution, survival sex work is the better term. I did get a high school diploma while living in a shelter for the LGBTQ community, basically for trans women and gay guys, s and ended up working there as a receptionist.”

50 a month

Four years ago I moved to New York and since then I'm in a shelter program trying to survive. I have my own room and share a bathroom. A lot of people live there. It's like a little apartment and I stay to myself. People know not to fuck with me. I don't bother nobody. I pay five 50 dollars a month. Sometimes I go back to survival sex work because I don't get a pay check or a stipend or anything like that.”

Flourish and grow

“After I finish getting my surgeries I'm leaving New York. I'm going to find myself somewhere else where I can try to flourish and grow. I want to go somewhere where they don't really know about trans people. Then I can live my life as a woman and I don't have to say I'm trans. I can date and marry. Nobody knows me.”

Don’t care about acceptance

“I don't really care anymore about people’s acceptance. I just want people to respect my feelings. That's where I have the most problems in my family. It's like no one respects how I feel as a person. People think being trans is the worst thing in the world, but just because you change your identity or you change your outer appearance does not mean that who you are on the inside is going to change. People have to realize it's no different than a woman who lays on a surgery table to get her body done or a man who go gets a hair transplant. You do things to make yourself feel good. It is about who you are, who you've always been, and you're just adapting to the person that you are within.”

A bad bitch

“I know I'm a bad bitch. Look at me. I'm smoking. I'm going to be honest, I started getting surgeries at a young age. So I've had facial feminization, breast argumentation, two nose jobs and had my body done. So I did all this to blend in with society. However I do know that I suffer with low self-esteem due to my traumas. But when I'm in a room by myself, I know I'm that bitch. I really do. I think sometimes you have to sit in a room by yourself and think about what you've accomplished. You literally changed a whole gender. Just look at you!”

Interviewed in the summer of 2023



Alvin, 25

“Born in the Bronx, raised in Harlem, lived in Queens. Identifying myself as him and he, and a black Hispanic person. I’m attracted to trans women.”


“I consider everyone as women to be honest because I don't understand why they put the word trans. They're women. They just want to make a divide line between different groups of the same people from the same culture. Just like back in the days of slavery, with divides between light-skinned and dark skinned people. They don't realize they're the same kind of people. I treat all people the same. I only judge their actions not the gender or race, none of it. They're all human beings. They're not a threat. They're harmless.”

“I have always been surrounded by females in my household. Trans women remind me of biological women. I only believe in personality. They're all the same women. I tell my girlfriend all the time, ‘You're beautiful. Stop worrying about others. Don't overthink what other people think. It just don't matter.’ I learned that from my older friends who are not sweating over it. I had cis girlfriends. It didn't work out well sometimes because some of them were a little judgmental and some of them do cheat.”

A little isolated

“I grew up in East Harlem where most of my family members lived. Kind of a rough neighborhood. I used to have a little bit of an emotional attachment to my mother because I didn't know how to get along with other kids. I just felt a little isolated. I needed someone to comfort me. I cried a lot which sucks. I was the muted kid, a little bit, and didn’t speak that much. I still don't talk that much.”

“I've been diagnosed with an intellectual disability. Nothing wrong. It's just different. I also have IED (Intermittent Explosive Disorder). When I get upset, I sometimes just lash out.”


“After I was beaten up badly by a group of people, I was sent to the hospital. How it happened was, I was going to go see my girlfriend in Queens and they jumped me. It was like I've been set up or something. Probably was one of my exes trying to get back at me for leaving her for my other girlfriend.

After that I stopped coming back home because my mom was constantly blaming my girlfriend for it, for no reason at all. My mum was always misgendering my girlfriend.

So then I had nowhere to go. I had to distance myself from everybody. There was a problem with acceptance of who I choose to be my partner.”

“I stayed at some of the Drop-In Centers like Sheltering Arms. It was mad people and I don't feel like being around those people. Right now I'm not a people person. I'm a little antisocial. Nah. I'd rather just wait for a room for myself.”


“I would love to have kids very badly. Every time I see people that have kids I’m just like, WOW. I want to take care of kids, feed them, take them to school and make sure they're alright. Me and my girlfriend could get a surrogate. No problem. I also know some of the biological women can’t have kids, so it's the same thing really.”


“I feel bad for everybody in the LGBTQ community when they get beaten up and make fun of. I want to help the LGBTQ community, bringing everybody back together. I want people to treat each other as equal human beings.”

Interviewed in the summer of 2023



Dante, 24

“I'm gay, but that's just a piece of who I am. You can call me he or she.”

Raised in the Bronx

“I'm Dominican and Puerto Rican with a touch of Chinese in me. Yeah. I grew up in the Bronx, New York, mostly raised there, although I was born in Philly and spent some time bouncing between there and Jersey. It was alright growing up, I guess. You know, it had its ups and downs like any other place.”

Foster care

“But let me tell you about coming out. I was about 13, living in a group home in foster care, when something really bad happened to me. That’s how I came out. As for my parents’ reaction to me being gay... well, my mom's okay with it, getting better at least. But my dad, he's still struggling with it. Says he doesn't like it, but hey, I'm not gonna change who I am for anyone.”

“About that group home... Yeah, I don't remember a whole lot about it. It was a rough time, you know? But it's in the past now. Discrimination because I'm gay? Yeah, it happens sometimes. People can be ignorant, you know? But I don't let it get to me.”

A handful

“As for my family, well, it's complicated. My stepfather and my biological dad, they had their issues. I remember a big argument over a gold chain once. We've patched things up since then. My relationship with them is better now. My mom? She's short. That's about all I can say. But we're okay, I guess. She's living in Staten Island now. My dad's on his own in the Bronx. Got a bunch of brothers and sisters, thirteen of them to be exact. They're all here in the city, but living with them? Nah, that wouldn't work out. They're a handful, let me tell you.”


“Ended up in a shelter because my mom didn't pay the rent on our apartment in the Bronx. So, here I am, three years later, still trying to find my own place. Life in the shelter... it's alright. Not the greatest, but it's a roof over my head. Sometimes it's tough being who I am, there, you know? Not everyone gets it, but I've learned to deal with it. I found out about New Alternatives through a friend named Veronica. Been coming here for about a year now. It's a good place, helps me out with finding housing and stuff. Listen, being homeless ain't easy. It's a process, you know? But I'm working on it, step by step. Gotta stay confident and keep pushing forward.”

“So yeah, that's me, Dante. Just trying to figure things out, one day at a time.”

Interviewed in the summer of 2023



Jordan, 23

“I'm 23 years old and I identify as a bisexual.”

Taken away

“I was born and raised in the Bronx and grew up on Harrison Avenue. My mother's been doing crack when she was pregnant with me and I got taken away. When I was nine, my brother was five and my sister was one, we all got adopted. It's been really difficult because I didn't have a mother. My father died when I was three. I had to learn everything on my own.”

Kicked out

“At the moment I live with my girlfriend. I always express gratitude towards her for everything she has done for me. It's easy to overlook the continuous love and support she provides. Even though we occasionally have disagreements, I acknowledge the efforts she puts in for me. At times I find myself engaged in my own struggles, feeling isolated and alone. I'm dealing with issues like getting kicked out of my mother's house because I refused to give her more money than what I had already given her. I mean, she's my mother, but I haven't seen her in twenty years. So in my mind, she owes me the world. She missed out on twenty years of my life. All I've done is give her money, buy groceries for the house and help with clothing expenses. But now it feels like she's more interested in boasting about what I've done for her to her friends than providing me with the emotional support I need.”

Opening up

“My girlfriend introduced me to New Alternatives. I just came for the help but in reality I came to see how other people deal with coming out. I felt this probably would be my time to actually open up. It was difficult because I felt like, as a musical artist, everybody looks at me as straight. But damn, they're just like me. I didn't expect that. And now I don't even care no more. I am who I am. As long as my woman accepts me, then I don't really care about everybody else. Coming out feels good. It's like a relief. I had to hold in something and it just came out, just like when you feel nauseous and throw up. That’s how I felt. My family, I've never told. Only my brother. My brother knows because he's also bisexual. I feel like we should be able to be whoever we want to be in life. If we want to be gay or queer, lesbian, whatever. I feel like it's our decision.”


“I've been on the streets before and I try to stay away from the bad stuff. I've been through stuff, seeing people die in front of my face. Right now we live in a little dangerous part of Brooklyn, Brownsville. What helps is that I carry myself very strong and I get respected. I get judged about tattoos on my face. I'm a musical artist, it is not like I'm a gang banger or nothing, it's just something that I like.”

Making millions

“Currently I work as a garbage collector, cleaning up around the city and stuff. I also get social security and income from my disabilities as well. It's better than nothing now. I dream of becoming successful in music though. It’s going to happen eventually. You have to be patient. I want to be making millions, but I got to be making hundreds first now.”

Interviewed in the summer of 2022



Corey, 22

“I'm from Brooklyn, New York, Red Hook. I identify as transgender.”


“I was born here and grew up here. It was rough. I had to fight a lot growing up and I had to raise myself. The majority of my childhood I battled a lot of life struggles that were actually meant for adults. It was very hard growing up in Brooklyn. Very chaotic.”

My own person

“Since the day I was born, I was always just my own person. I never followed the rules growing up, I just did my own thing. I didn't really have a lot of friends. I mostly stayed to myself and was my own best friend. I’d just hang out and do things by myself.

Growing up in my dad's house, I really couldn't be myself the way I would like to be myself. So I kind of had to put on a mask and present myself more masculine in the household than feminine. When I went into foster care, again, at the age of 15, I just decided to be my authentic self because I wasn't living in my dad's household. But now me and my dad's relationship is very good. It's much better now than how it used to be, and I'm very proud of that. So it's the complete opposite of how it was before.”


“At the age of 15 I realized I was transgender. I don't really care if people accept me or not. I accept myself. I don't live for nobody. I live for myself. So love me or hate me. Currently, I haven't been on my hormones. So I'm looking a little more male presented. I'm just taking my transition slowly. I'm doing it at my own pace. I don't really care if I look feminine today or masculine tomorrow. It's just how I feel inside and I’m taking my time.”

Not a home

“I was never really necessarily homeless as in living on the streets. Growing up from age 6 to 12 I was in foster care. I would consider that homeless because I wasn't in a home. I didn't feel like I was home. I was always moving from place to place. I was never in a stable environment. I experienced not having a home, not having a family. I was living in a place where your family are strangers.”

“When I moved back with my father, I found out my mother passed in 2012. It was very heartbreaking because I was never invited to her funeral. I don't even have any ashes or nothing from her. But it's okay.”


“I see my future to be very bright and very good after starting to be more laid back and nonchalant, not reacting to everything that bothers me. You're going to walk through life with people that have negative things to say to you, who try to put you down. So just say, ‘Fuck the haters.’ Keep yourself motivated and know that you are a star. You're a true born star. Keep going and don't give up no matter how hard life will get.”

“I go to school. I do poetry. I go to the pier. I write a lot. I read. I listen to music. I smoke hella weed and watch a lot of anime and reality tv.”

“In the future I would like to be a staff member of the Ghost Project*. Make a big difference in the Brooklyn Community Pride Center and other Pride Center locations by bringing more youth who don't know about this center, here.”

*The Ghost Project is a black, transgender-led nonprofit organization geared toward providing awareness, support, empowerment, and visibility to members of the transgender and non-binary communities of color who are either struggling with or have overcome gender identity-related issues.

Interviewed in the summer of 2023



Chocolate, 48

“I was born in Haiti, raised in Canada, came out here when I was 12 years old. I am a transgender woman.”

Dress up

“I was being bullied in school because I didn't speak English. My father was abusive, my mom was beaten every day. So she got away from him and took all of us out of Haiti. When I was a baby I became a citizen of Canada.”

“When I was five years old, I knew I wasn't a boy because I didn't want to play with no ball. I wanted to play the Barbie dolls. I wanted to dress up, but I couldn’t. My family was West Indian, very strict. I remember I got molested by a neighbour when I was six and I didn't tell my mom. My mom found out about it. My father was mad at me and told my mother I wanted to get molested. I don’t understand how a six year old wants get molested.”


“At 12 years old I came to live in New York City with my father and stepmom. I don’t understand why my mom sent me to live with that abusive man. I never liked my stepmom. My dad beat me every day for not calling her mom. I was so lost and afraid. I was missing my own mom. In high school I was bullied because I was different. The kids called me a faggot. When I was younger I had rage in me because I was miserable. I had no friends in high school. My father was so mean. He was abusing me every day from when I was 12 to when I was 21. One day I just blacked out and beat a girl, who bullied me, until I got tired of it. I was trying to throw her out the window but the window was locked. God was on her side. I got thrown out of school, but I'm proud of myself. I used the anger that I had in a positive way. I actually graduated high school and I graduated for myself. I didn't graduate for my father. I just wanted to show I was really smart.”


“When my father got sick he went to a nursing home and I became homeless. That's when I found out about prostitution. So I got into prostitution to get myself out of homelessness. It was so hard and scary. When I found out I was infected with HIV at 34, I stopped prostitution because I didn't want to infect nobody else. I didn't want nobody to go through what the fuck I went through because I know what AIDS is capable of doing to your body.”

“At 16 I started smoking heroin and doing cocaine. After two years I stopped on my own. I didn’t stop smoking cigarettes and I didn't stop smoking crack though. Luckily now I have kicked those habits. Now I live in Flatbush in my own apartment. I have a big one bedroom. I'm independent. I live by myself.”

Best decision

“I remember the first time I saw a transgender woman, I was maybe 17. Oh my god she was so beautiful! I wanted to become just like her. That's when I found out about hormones and stuff like that. At 18 I started taking hormones and my life changed. Best decision I ever made was to transition because I was miserable in my own skin. That's not a good feeling. Being a trans is not easy. A bunch of judging critical people look at you like you are dumb, but you got to stand for yourself. You got to stand for what you feel and don't let nobody tell you anything is wrong. Only your God tells what's wrong with you. No one else. Because we all was born in sin and we die in sin. A lot of transgender young people commit suicide because of the judgment and what people think about them. But you shouldn't care about anybody. Think about you. Think about yourself. That's more important than what anybody else thinks. Loving yourself is the greatest love that God could give you. And once you find that, you never go back. I never went back. That's how I found self-love. When I found my worth, that's when I stopped prostitution.”

Interviewed in the summer of 2023



Kevin, 33

“My preferred gender pronoun is he, I'm a trans man. I was born in the Bronx but raised in Queens.”


“When I was 7 my mother was incarcerated and I was put into foster care. My adoptive parents were okay. I think they expected me to understand that they were my parents now but I was old enough to remember my own family. It was hard for me to adjust. They were nice people but there were times they really didn't understand me. I was different than other kids my age.”

Born female

“I was born female, my parents expected me to like all the little girly stuff. I was more into playing with my brothers G.I. Joes and Tonka trucks. I didn’t want to wear dresses. We always seemed to butt heads about that. It made me feel like I was a bad kid, like I wasn't fulfilling a part of their dream of having children.”

“Because we couldn't see eye to eye on certain things I left at 18. I felt like they were trying to mold me into someone I didn't want to be, they couldn't see who I really was at my core. At first I came out as gay to them, I figured it would be easier than just saying, ’Hey, I'm transgender.’ Being gay was already something that was hard for them to wrap around.”

“When I told my father that I feel more attracted to women than men he said, ‘How do you know that if you've never tried to be with a man?’ I told him I have no desire to. I think one of the most hurtful things that my mother has ever said to me was when she asked about transitioning. She asked me about the medication, the hormones and who paid for that. When I told her it was Medicaid she said to me, ‘I am appalled that my hard earned tax money would go to something like that.’”

Street homeless

“After that I grabbed my bag, I left and I didn't come back. I stayed in a hotel room for a little bit until I lost my job. Then I became street homeless.”

“The streets of Queens were very dangerous. I encountered a lot of really creepy people. A lot of unfortunate events have happened but it was definitely a learning experience. It was very lonely. I remember it was in the middle of winter and I only had a pair of shorts and a T-shirt on. I remember seeing one of my ex-girlfriends at a Twin Donuts. She brought me to a shelter so I could at least have a bed and get off the street. That’s where I started my journey of trying to get off the street and stay out of the train stations and stop sleeping in parks.”

“I got into a relationship. We were always bouncing back and forth between the shelter and the street. Couples shelters are more difficult to navigate because you're sharing one bathroom with at least six, seven other couples on the floor. Everyone is in each other's business. After we broke up I also sometimes stayed with friends.”

“I chose to sleep on the train rather than going into a shelter. As a trans man you are not safe in either men’s or women’s shelters. When people find out things that they don't understand, they start fighing. The most difficult part of being a trans man in a shelter is trying to get people to understand you and respect you.”


“This went from 2009 ‘til three years ago when I got my first apartment. However I lost my apartment and ended up getting back onto the streets until one of my friends took me back in and said, ‘No more, this is it!’ Now I'm working. I'm stable and I don't have to worry about being on the street.”

Interviewed in the summer of 2023



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