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On 7th Street, LGBT Youth Find New Alternatives

AlternativeSpringBreak-05Jim Hohl A group of university students on an alternative spring break, volunteering with New Alternatives, with some of the organization’s LGBT homeless youth.

Robert Smith, 24, describes his childhood as magical. Growing up in Myrtle Beach, S.C., Mr. Smith had everything a child could ever ask for — European vacations, the latest gadgets and even a hefty trust fund.

“I was a platinum-spooned, spoiled rotten trust fund baby,” said Mr. Smith with a grin. “Anything that someone could possible want, I had.”

But when Mr. Smith turned 19, that all changed. After coming out to his family, his grandmother cut him off financially, removing him from her will because she would no longer support his lifestyle. After spending several years moving around the south, Mr. Smith, who had just been kicked out of his older brother’s apartment, booked a flight and headed to New York.

“After paying for the flight and my hostel stay, I only had $55 in my pocket,” said Mr. Smith. “When I couldn’t afford the hostel anymore, I went to the Street Works Project and stayed in their emergency beds for about a week. From there, I went to Sylvia’s Place for three weeks before heading to Trinity Place Shelter for a year, where I attended the Back to Work Program and got my life together.”

Mr. Smith is now the executive assistant to the chief operating officer at a computer analyst company, and it’s a title he says with pride. But there’s another organization that he credits for his success — New Alternatives for LGBT Homeless Youth.
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5 Questions With | Natasha Dillon

Natasha DillonNatasha Dillon.

Natasha Dillon thinks she’s boring — but that’s not really the case at all.

Earlier this month, Borough President Scott Stringer announced the newly appointed selections to Community Board 3, which covers the East Village, Lower East Side and parts of Chinatown. Ms. Dillon, a 26-year-old East Villager and gay rights activist, was one of these new appointees, after previously serving on the board as a community member. And while some insist that this crop of new appointees seems rather eclectic, Ms. Dillon insists that she’s actually quite boring.

As a financial consultant, who’s currently working on a master’s degree in investment management from Pace University, Ms. Dillon seems like the average young East Village resident, except this activist and founder of a local East Village advocacy group, Queer Rising, has been arrested four times in the last year for her public actions for marriage equality in the United States. Her most recent arrest came earlier this month, after a group of Queer Rising members blocked traffic near Governor Andrew Cuomo’s Manhattan office on Third Avenue for nearly 10 minutes.

However, Ms. Dillon has a somewhat different, slightly less radical, agenda for the East Village. Serving on the economic development committee, her main concern is to bring life back to local businesses — and to the East Village.
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