Glen Cove-based Saint Christopher's Organization Family of Services (SCO) recently won a $500,000 donation from Lady Gaga and the Robin Hood Foundation targeted to homeless, disconnected, and LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bi-Sexual, Transgendered, and Questioning) youth programs.
Gaga awarded the donation in person at the Robin Hood Foundation’s Annual Gala on May 9 in Manhattan.
SCO helps over 40,000 homeless, disconnected, and developmentally disabled youth and adults in Long Island and New York City each year, about one third of which are teens.
“These kids really need therapy, a place to live, to learn how to go to school, how to get a job – basically how to become self-sufficient adults," said SCO Director of Institutional Advancement Renee Swanson. "They have had no role models and very little help.”
SCO runs three homes in New York City specifically for LGBTQ youth who are homeless or have been abused or neglected by their families and communities.
LGBTQ youth need access to separate housing because they are often bullied by other children in traditional group homes, according to Swanson.
“By keeping [LGBTQ youth] all together, they no longer have to deal with the issues of being gay and feeling left out or feeling different, which is why Lady Gaga focused on this population. Then they can deal with the problems that all kids have,” she said.
Swanson says that the money will be used to provide housing, job training, medical care, and counseling.
“These are the programs where funding has been cut so this money couldn’t have come at a better time,” she said.
Swanson added that the Tyree Learning Center in Sea Cliff will likely not receive any of the funds because the award money is targeted to SCO’s homeless, disconnected, and LGBTQ youth programs.
Gaga selected five charities dedicated to helping impoverished and at-risk youth in New York City from among a list of vetted grantees of the Robin Hood Foundation, New York’s largest poverty-fighting charity.
Awards were based upon the results of a 10-day public poll conducted on Gaga’s Facebook page. SCO received the top prize with 40 percent of votes, followed by The Door, Hetrick-Martin Institute, Lawyers for Children and Safe Horizon, which will receive grants of $200,000; $150,000; $100,000, and $50,000, respectively, over a two year period.