The Institute for the Protection of Lesbian and Gay Youth (IPLGY) was founded in 1979 in the apartment (144 East 36th Street) of Dr. Emery S. Hetrick (1931-1987), a psychiatrist, and Dr. A. Damien Martin (1933-1991), a professor at New York University. There they gathered a group of concerned adults to discuss at-risk LGBT youth in New York City affected by homophobia, physical abuse, homelessness, chronic truancy and school drop out, and involvement in sex work. Up until 1983, they continued to meet at the East 36th Street apartment and also had meetings at various locations including the Washington Square United Methodist Church and the LGBT Community Center.
In 1983, with private support from Hetrick and Martin, the group began providing direct services to address the physical, social, educational, and therapeutic needs of LGBT youth. At that time, it received a gift from an anonymous donor that was matched with its first public grant from the New York State Division for Youth. This allowed IPLGY to lease an office at this East 23rd Street location in the fall of 1983. Here they continued to offer and expand its social services by providing LGBT youth counseling and a drop-in center. IPLGY provided educational training throughout the city with a street outreach crew that worked at night on the piers in Greenwich Village.
“Blacks, Jews, and Hispanics are not thrown out of their families or religion at adolescence for being black, Jewish, and Hispanic. Gay and lesbian kids are.”
To address chronic truancy of LGBT youth – who were afraid to attend schools for fear of harassment and violence – they established the Harvey Milk High School (HMHS) in collaboration with the New York City Department of Education. It became the first public high school in the country for youths victimized in public schools because of their sexual orientation or gender expression.
HMHS opened on April 15, 1985 at the Washington Square United Methodist Church and in the fall relocated to the LGBT Community Center. By early 1986, IPLGY realized that operating HMHS offsite was too challenging. As a result, the institute relocated to a larger space next door at 110 East 23rd Street in order to accommodate its offices and create a separate classroom space for HMHS. Subsequently the agency moved to an office on West Street for a period.
IPLGY was renamed the Hetrick-Martin Institute in 1988. Today, HMI and the Harvey Milk High School operate out of 2 Astor Place in Manhattan.