Talk about paying it forward.
When 19-year-old Daniel Pierce was brutally attacked by his own father and thrown out of his home after coming out as gay, the Internet rallied to his defense. But it's what Pierce did after the video went viral that may truly define this brave young man's next chapter in life.
As Mic reported last week, an online campaign raised more than $90,000 for Pierce after a disturbing video of the confrontation circulated widely in which Pierce is pelted with anti-gay insults and beaten for going "against God." Instead of keeping the money for himself, Pierce announced he is donating thousands of the crowdfunded dollars to help build a new homeless shelter for LGBT youth.
He wants to ensure other young people in his shoes won't suffer a similar fate — being cast out to the street for being honest about who they are.
"It's been a crazy ride," Pierce said at an event last week for Atlanta charity Lost-n-Found. "I just want to thank everyone for the kind comments. It's just helping me get through a lot of this. I'm glad I can share my story and hopefully change some lives with it."
Lost-n-Found works to keep homeless queer young people in Atlanta off the street and helps them transition into permanent living arrangements. A team from the organization has been working with Pierce, per a statement on their website, to ensure that he's safe and will have access to resources moving forward.
According to Gay Star News, the new shelter will triple Lost-n-Found's current capacity. That means 18 young LGBT people will now have a new safe haven.
As many as 40% of the homeless youth population identifies as LGBT, according to various national estimates. For each teen kicked out of their home for being queer, thousands more may remain in the closet because they're afraid of suffering the same fate as Daniel Pierce. But this is also why Pierce and other high-profile LGBT youth are so important — they send the message that it's possible to turn even the worst situation into a positive, especially if you have a little help.
Many of the young people who will stay at Lost-n-Found may have endured similar confrontations or worse, but without a viral video or fundraising campaign. Hopefully a day will come when we don't need these types of shelters anymore, but until then, let's take a second to celebrate the tireless efforts of advocates all across the country who have dedicated their lives to making sure queer children have a safe space to call home.