So, I found the answer to my first act problem, and as usual the answer lay in two things: the character and breadcrumbs.
The first thing I did after isolating the problem was to do some character journaling, to peel back the layers of the onion and really get a handle on Nate's emotional wounds and scars. And lo and behold, there they were; his timidity, his fearfulness, his conflicting goals of wanting to be safe and wanting to win the respect and love of his only remaining relative. Once I had those firmly in mind, I simply had to brainstorm how those scars and conflicts would manifest themselves into action. It didn't have to be big, sweeping, plot altering action--but it had to be dramatic enough to create tension in the scene.
Which is where the breadcrumbs came in. As usual, the Girls in the Basement left me plenty of breadcrumbs to lead me to a solution. Little hints and clues as to how those character traits could end up creating trouble for the protaganist--he tries this, but it makes things worse because...And the answers were right there, waiting for me to trip across them.
Today's lesson? (Of which I've been reminded about 327 times now) Trust your subconscience. It knows things. Important things about your story.