He was young and homeless. The Ali Forney Center gave him⁠—and other LGBTQ youth⁠—hope.
Capital One
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Capital One

In 2015, Skye Adrian became homeless. 19-years-old, gay and a recent New York City immigrant, he had no one to count on for support.

Skye AdrianCapital One

Until four years ago, Skye lived on the Caribbean island nation of Jamaica, which began to feel less and less safe for him due to the anti-LGBTQ laws that govern the country. Being a gay man in Jamaica is criminalized and can carry a jail sentence. For Skye, that was no way to live.

"I was tired of trying to be who I wasn't," he says. "I was tired of trying to change myself. I was tired of having to always watch my back just because of how I am—how I walk, how I talk, how I dress."

So Skye moved to New York City. He'd expected to live with family, but that quickly became a challenging situation. When he found himself homeless, he didn't want to go to a shelter because of the stigmas and stereotypes associated with living in one. Skye tried couch-surfing with a friend, but that arrangement became impossible quickly.

"Maybe a week or two of staying with my friend, he texted me that if I don't have sex with him or his friend, then I wouldn't be able to stay there," Skye says.

Unfortunately, this type of exploitation isn't uncommon. According to the National Coalition for the Homeless, LGBTQ homeless youth are more likely than their straight counterparts to be forced to exchange sex for a place to sleep. More than 58% of homeless LGBTQ youth have been sexually victimized.

Skye knew he had to get out of his situation, but his worries about a shelter weren't unfounded. Many homeless youth who identify as LGBTQ have been mistreated at traditional homeless shelters—especially if those shelters are primarily geared towards adults.

Skye needed help, and the Ali Forney Center (AFC) was there for him.

The Ali Forney CenterCapital One

AFC is a different type of shelter system. Founded in 2002 in memory of a homeless gender non-conforming youth who sought justice for his peers, AFC was created to keep LGBTQ kids on the street safe, give them the tools they needed to thrive, and provide medical, psychological, and case management services. It's now the largest organization in the country dedicated to helping homeless LGBTQ youth.

"The idea was to open a shelter that was LGBTQ supportive," says Alex Roque, AFC's Director of Development. "We opened in the basement of a church with six cots. Our first night, we had 20 young people waiting for those six beds, and within a very short period of time, it became 100 young people waiting for those six beds. Within about six months we'd seen about 1,000 young people trying to get into those six beds."

Today, AFC has 19 locations throughout New York City. It helps more than 1,400 teens a year, and operates a drop-in shelter that's open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year that serves as a point of entry for any LGBTQ youth looking for support. For teens that don't have a safe place to sleep, the center isn't just a beacon—it's a lifesaver.

"LGBTQ young people are eight times more likely to be homeless than non-LGBTQ young people," Roque says. "Once homeless, LGBTQ youth are also eight times more likely to experience violence in the streets. They are also more likely to experience substance abuse and HIV infection as well as suicidal ideation."

When Skye came in for an intake interview at AFC, his fears lessened.

The Ali Forney CenterCapital One

From his first moments at AFC in Harlem, he knew he would be taken care of. He was immediately put at ease by AFC's commitment to justice for LGBTQ youth, and the services he was offered quickly made him feel safer than he had felt in a long time. "It was a beautiful experience," he says.

During his first visit, Skye was connected to a case manager who assessed his needs. His case manager also worked with Skye to help him find housing, legal aid, and work. There was also a medical clinic on-site, so Skye knew exactly where he could go if he needed to see a doctor or speak to a counselor about his mental health.

When Skye needed support concerning his rights as an immigrant, AFC had a representative from the Urban Justice Center come in to help. And through his involvement with AFC's Learning, Employment, Advancement, and Placement program (LEAP), Skye gained valuable job and networking skills, all while being paid for his participation.

"One of the major issues for an immigrant is a consistent or steady source of income," Skye says. "That's not necessarily a reality for most immigrants. The center made that a reality for me."

AFC's partnership with Capital One is helping create that reality for more and more of its clients.

An event at The Ali Forney CenterCapital One

LEAP is made possible through AFC's work with several state agencies and Capital One's Future Edge initiative, which bridges the gaps between underserved communities and technology—helping people master the skills they need to succeed in the 21st century economy. The LEAP program, Alex Roque says, is perhaps AFC's most concrete response to homelessness.

He adds: "A lot of the work that we do is stabilizing, helping to heal, addressing trauma, addressing substance abuse; but no other program that we offer is really focusing directly on building skills towards [helping clients gain] the independence they would like for themselves."

Capital One provides financial support for LEAP and their associates volunteer directly with AFC clients. "The Capital One partnership specifically supports the financial literacy, financial mobility, financial engagement and financial development of our young people," Roque says.

"The program includes helping our young people understand what opening a bank account means, helping young people understand what budgeting means, and what establishing credit means and why it's important."

These are things that a parent or other caregiver might teach a child. For the clients who may not have any connection to their parents or the community they left behind, AFC takes on that responsibility.

"It goes beyond a company or a corporate identity, it's representing humanity in a very human way," Roque says. "Volunteers from all walks of life connect with our young people, talk to our young people, are part of their lives, and don't want anything from them except to help them succeed."

For Skye, the support he received has been life-changing. Now 23, he's devoting his career to ensuring that future generations of LGBTQ youth don't have to fight for help the way that he did.

Skye Adrian and Alex RoqueCapital One

Today, Skye is a policy consultant with New York City's Youth Action Board, a position he was appointed to based on the advocacy work he began at AFC. This position has allowed him to speak about his experience as a homeless youth, fight for the rights of his peers, and work on creating policies that will alleviate the strife that homeless youth face.

This year, Skye has also started his training in aircraft operations. It's something he says would never have been possible if he hadn't worked with AFC.

As he looks toward his future, he's committed to making the world a safer place for all LGBTQ youth, especially those who are experiencing homelessness.

"Homelessness doesn't define someone's capability," Skye says.

Photo courtesy of Kenneth and Jill Gonsalves
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It can be expensive to have a pet. It's possible to spend between $250 to $700 a year on food for a dog and around $120-$500 on food for a cat. But of course, most of us don't think twice about the expense: having a pet is worth it because of the company animals provide.

But for some, this expense is hard to keep up, no matter how much you adore your fur baby. And that's why Kenneth and Jill Gonsalves decided to help.

Kenneth had seen a man scraping together change in a store to buy pet food, so he offered to buy the man some extra pet food. Still, later that night he couldn't stop thinking about the experience — he worried the man wasn't just struggling to pay for pet food, but food for himself, too.

So he went home and told his wife — and immediately, they both knew they needed to do something. So, in December 2020, they converted a farm stand into a take-what-you-need, leave-what-you-can Pet Food pantry.

"A lot of people would have watched that man count out change to buy pet food. Some may have helped him out like my husband did," Jill says. "A few may have thought about it afterward. But, only someone like Kenny would turn that experience into what we have today."

"If it weren't for his generous spirit and his penchant for a plan, the pantry would never have been born," she adds.

A man with sunglasses hands a box of cat food to a woman smiling Photo courtesy of Kenneth and Jill Gonsalves

At first, the couple started the pet food pantry with a couple hundred dollars of pet food they bought themselves. And to make sure people knew about the pantry, they set up a Facebook page for the pantry, then went to other Facebook groups, such as a "Buy Nothing group," and shared what they were doing.

"When we started, we weren't even sure people would use us," Jill says. "At best, we were hoping to be able to provide enough to help people get through the holidays."

But, thanks to their page and word of mouth, news spread about what they were doing, and the donations of more pet food started flooding in, too. Before long, they were coming home to stacks of food — and within a couple of months, the pantry was full.

Yellow post-it note with handwritten note that reads: "Hi, I read your story on Facebook. Here is a small donation to help. I have a 3-year-old yellow lab who I adore. I hope this helps someone in need. Merry Christmas. Meredith" Photo courtesy of Kenneth and Jill Gonsalves

"The pounds of food we have gone through is well, well, well into the thousands," Jill says. "The orders from our Amazon Wish List alone include several hundred pounds of dry food, a couple of hundred cases of canned food, and thousands of treats and toys. But, that does not even take into account the hundreds of drop-offs, online orders, and monetary donations we have received."

They also got many 'Thank you notes' from the people they helped.

"I would like to thank you for helping us feed our fur babies," one note read. "My husband and I recently lost our jobs, and my husband [will] hopefully [find] a new one. We are just waiting for a call."

Another read: "I just need to say thank you from the bottom of my heart. I haven't worked in over a month with a two-year-old at home. Dad brings in about $300/week. From the pandemic to Christmas, it has been tough. But with the help of beautiful people like you, my fur baby can now eat a little bit longer, and my heart is happy."

Jill says that she thinks the fact that the pet pantry is a farm stand helps people feel better.

A woman holding a small black dog and looking at the camera is greeted by Jill Gonsalves Photo courtesy of Kenneth and Jill Gonsalves

"When we first started this, someone who visited us mentioned how it made them feel good to be able to browse without feeling like they were being watched," she says. "So, it's been important to us to maintain that integrity."

Jill and Kenneth aren't sure how many people they've helped so far, but they know that their pet food pantry is doing what they hoped it would. "The pet owners who visit us, much like donations, come in ebbs and flows," Jill says. "We have some regulars who have been with us since the beginning. We also have some people that come a few times, and we never see again."

"Our hope is that they used us while they were in a tough spot, but they don't need us anymore. In a funny way, the greatest thing would be if no one needed us anymore."


Today, the Acushnet Pet Pantry is still going strong, but its stock is running low. If you want to help out, visit their Facebook page for updates and to find ways to donate.
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Dr. David McPhee offers advice for talking to someone living in a different time in their head.

Few things are more difficult than watching a loved one's grip on reality slipping away. Dementia can be brutal for families and caregivers, and knowing how to handle the various stages can be tricky to figure out.

The Alzheimer's Association offers tips for communicating in the early, middle and late stages of the disease, as dementia manifests differently as the disease progresses. The Family Caregiver Alliance also offers advice for talking to someone with various forms and phases of dementia. Some communication tips deal with confusion, agitation and other challenging behaviors that can come along with losing one's memory, and those tips are incredibly important. But what about when the person is seemingly living in a different time, immersed in their memories of the past, unaware of what has happened since then?

Psychologist David McPhee shared some advice with a person on Quora who asked, "How do I answer my dad with dementia when he talks about his mom and dad being alive? Do I go along with it or tell him they have passed away?"

McPhee wrote:

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When Sue Hoppin was in college, she met the man she was going to marry. "I was attending the University of Denver, and he was at the Air Force Academy," she says. "My dad had also attended the University of Denver and warned me not to date those flyboys from the Springs."

"He didn't say anything about marrying one of them," she says. And so began her life as a military spouse.

The life brings some real advantages, like opportunities to live abroad — her family got to live all around the US, Japan, and Germany — but it also comes with some downsides, like having to put your spouse's career over your own goals.

"Though we choose to marry someone in the military, we had career goals before we got married, and those didn't just disappear."

Career aspirations become more difficult to achieve, and progress comes with lots of starts and stops. After experiencing these unique challenges firsthand, Sue founded an organization to help other military spouses in similar situations.

Sue had gotten a degree in international relations because she wanted to pursue a career in diplomacy, but for fourteen years she wasn't able to make any headway — not until they moved back to the DC area. "Eighteen months later, many rejections later, it became apparent that this was going to be more challenging than I could ever imagine," she says.

Eighteen months is halfway through a typical assignment, and by then, most spouses are looking for their next assignment. "If I couldn't find a job in my own 'hometown' with multiple degrees and a great network, this didn't bode well for other military spouses," she says.

She's not wrong. Military spouses spend most of their lives moving with their partners, which means they're often far from family and other support networks. When they do find a job, they often make less than their civilian counterparts — and they're more likely to experience underemployment or unemployment. In fact, on some deployments, spouses are not even allowed to work.

Before the pandemic, military spouse unemployment was 22%. Since the pandemic, it's expected to rise to 35%.

Sue eventually found a job working at a military-focused nonprofit, and it helped her get the experience she needed to create her own dedicated military spouse program. She wrote a book and started saving up enough money to start the National Military Spouse Network (NMSN), which she founded in 2010 as the first organization of its kind.

"I founded the NMSN to help professional military spouses develop flexible careers they could perform from any location."

"Over the years, the program has expanded to include a free digital magazine, professional development events, drafting annual White Papers and organizing national and local advocacy to address the issues of most concern to the professional military spouse community," she says.

Not only was NMSN's mission important to Sue on a personal level she also saw it as part of something bigger than herself.

"Gone are the days when families can thrive on one salary. Like everyone else, most military families rely on two salaries to make ends meet. If a military spouse wants or needs to work, they should be able to," she says.

"When less than one percent of our population serves in the military," she continues, "we need to be able to not only recruit the best and the brightest but also retain them."

"We lose out as a nation when service members leave the force because their spouse is unable to find employment. We see it as a national security issue."

"The NMSN team has worked tirelessly to jumpstart the discussion and keep the challenges affecting military spouses top of mind. We have elevated the conversation to Congress and the White House," she continues. "I'm so proud of the fact that corporations, the government, and the general public are increasingly interested in the issues affecting military spouses and recognizing the employment roadblocks they unfairly have faced."

"We have collectively made other people care, and in doing so, we elevated the issues of military spouse unemployment to a national and global level," she adds. "In the process, we've also empowered military spouses to advocate for themselves and our community so that military spouse employment issues can continue to remain at the forefront."

Not only has NMSN become a sought-after leader in the military spouse employment space, but Sue has also seen the career she dreamed of materializing for herself. She was recently invited to participate in the public re-launch of Joining Forces, a White House initiative supporting military and veteran families, with First Lady Dr. Jill Biden.

She has also had two of her recommendations for practical solutions introduced into legislation just this year. She was the first in the Air Force community to show leadership the power of social media to reach both their airmen and their military families.

That is why Sue is one of Tory Burch's "Empowered Women" this year. The $5,000 donation will be going to The Madeira School, a school that Sue herself attended when she was in high school because, she says, "the lessons I learned there as a student pretty much set the tone for my personal and professional life. It's so meaningful to know that the donation will go towards making a Madeira education more accessible to those who may not otherwise be able to afford it and providing them with a life-changing opportunity."

Most military children will move one to three times during high school so having a continuous four-year experience at one high school can be an important gift. After traveling for much of her formative years, Sue attended Madeira and found herself "in an environment that fostered confidence and empowerment. As young women, we were expected to have a voice and advocate not just for ourselves, but for those around us."

To learn more about Tory Burch and Upworthy's Empowered Women program visit https://www.toryburch.com/empoweredwomen/. Nominate an inspiring woman in your community today!