Gay City News selected Out My Closet, a non-profit group serving the clothing and other needs of homeless and under-resourced LGBTQ youth, as a beneficiary of this year’s Impact Awards. The group, founded in 2013 by Michael Narain, helps youth by delivering new and lightly-worn clothing to providers serving this population, offering counseling ranging from art and music therapy to physical and mental health and educational, vocational, and career training, creating a safe social media platform for engaging LGBTQ youth, and helping educators foster LGBTQ groups in schools.
On April 10, Schneps Media CEO Joshua Schneps and Gay City News editor Paul Schindler presented Narain and the group’s treasurer, Christopher Mora, with a check for $2,950 from the sale of raffle tickets at the gala as well as a generous direct donation of $1,250 from Desiree Asher.
Dignity is key to Out My Closet’s ethos, with the group’s website emphasizing, “We NEVER deliver items in garbage bags or boxes but rather create shopping-like experiences where clients may sample our selection and take as many articles that they desire.”
Narain, who came from an under-resourced immigrant family himself, worked full-time while earning media and marketing degrees at Hunter College and the Fashion Institute of Technology and then spent 10 years at major fragrance houses. Recovering from shoulder surgery in 2009, he volunteered at Bellevue Hospital, where he worked with people facing life-challenging illnesses and decided to go on for professional training in social services. He currently manages a homeless transitional site serving clients with severe mental illnesses.
At Out My Closet, Narain works with most LGBTQ organizations in New York, and has since extended the group’s reach to South Florida, Los Angeles, and South America. The group has donated more than 16,000 articles of clothing, shoes, and toiletries, and touches even more lives through social media campaigns such as “Heeling Words,” where he enlists celebrity support.
“As a gay youth, I didn’t have any mentors,” Narain said. “I battled with issues of self-esteem, religious and cultural conflicts… This is why I am fueled today.”