March 13, 2017

How the early days of an epidemic inspired this leader to fight for LGBT youth

New Alternatives for LGBT Homeless Youth founder Kate Barnhart uses her personal experience to guide her work

Kate Barnhart, center, is the founder and executive director of New Alternatives for LGBT Homeless Youth. Photo courtesy of the organization


Meet the finalists for The Atlantic’s Renewal Awards, underwritten by Allstate. These individuals are the forces behind the 25 nonprofits competing for $100,000 in grant money. Five winners will be announced March 30 at The Renewal Summit in Washington, on, and here, on The Renewal Project.

Kate Barnhart’s passion for her work stems from her personal experience. As the founder and executive director of New Alternatives for LGBT Homeless Youth, she brings a compassion and understanding to the LGBT youth she serves.

The 41-year-old was a firsthand witness to the early days of the AIDS epidemic and how it affected the LGBT community. Today through her organization, she is helping to give refuge to these marginalized youth and to empower them to thrive in their neighborhoods.

Meet Kate Barnhart and follow New Alternatives for LGBT Homeless Youth on Twitter at @NewAlternatives.

This questionnaire has been edited for length and clarity.

What inspired you to do this work?

I was an LGBT youth during the crisis years of the AIDS epidemic and I saw members of our community dying around me and so I got involved in AIDS activism with ACT UP and began doing HIV/AIDS peer education. I started a peer education program in my high school.

What ways are you helping to make your community thrive?

I am the Director of New Alternatives, working with LGBT homeless youth who would otherwise fall through the cracks in our system. In addition, I am still involved in activism–particularly around LGBT issues, homelessness, and healthcare. Last weekend I spoke at the healthcare professionals’ protest in front of New York Congressman Dan Donovan’s office [to show support for the Affordable Care Act].

What do you love about your community?

I love the creativity and the spirit of the LGBT community.

What’s one thing you want outsiders to know about your community?

I want outsiders to know that the LGBT community is very diverse. We’re not just the stereotype people may see on TV—we come in all ages, colors, sizes, shapes, religions, etc

What leader or leaders inspired you?

Pete Seeger and Larry Kramer.

Margaret Myers

Margaret Myers is the editor of The Renewal Project.