Peter Cicchino founded the Lesbian and Gay Youth Project at the Urban Justice Center in 1994 to address the dire need for legal assistance for the thousands of homeless lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) youth living in New York City. His mission was to assist in the struggle to build a world free of discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identification. He believed the elimination of homophobia and transphobia is part of a broader struggle for social justice and human equality. At the time, when he wrote the project’s mission statement, he said: Our ultimate aim is to contribute to the building of a world in which every human being has his or her material needs met and human rights and dignity respected: a world in which humanity, in all its diversity, is allowed to flourish.
When Peter first developed the Lesbian and Gay Youth Project, there were very few programs serving LGBT youth in New York City. In fact, most city and state agencies at the time denied the very existence of LGBT youth in their care. LGBT street youth are a population that was essentially being ignored; a population largely invisible yet very present on our streets. Yet Peter saw them, and started this Project with the simple purpose of helping LGBT youth secure basic necessities so they could move from life on the streets. In founding the project and in living his incredible life, Peter sought no less than a world in which every human being has his or her material needs met and human rights and dignity respected.
This is what Peter dedicated his life to and this is what we continue to fight for in his name. 20 years later, his project remains the only legal project in the nation dedicated to working with low-income and homeless LGBT youth. This vision and inspiration behind the project still drives it today. It is at the heart of the work that we do. The Lesbian and Gay Youth Project, now named in Peter’s honor, believes that no LGBT young person should face discrimination or homelessness. We believe that each is entitled to a basic standard of living, including a place to live, legal immigration status, and a source of support and the opportunity to live a happy, safe and fulfilling life.