Homeless LGBT Youth Advocates Rally at City Hall
On the afternoon of May 31, more than a hundred homeless LGBT youth advocates gathered outside of New York’s City Hall to protest Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s proposed 60 percent budget cuts from the city’s 2013 Runaway and Homeless Youth Services budget. And those from the Campaign for Youth Shelter continue to call on the city and state to create 100 new shelter beds a year until the need is met.
"Mayor Bloomberg gives lip service to serving NYC’s youth, but this budget reflects his true priorities," says James Bolas, director of education with Empire State Coalition. "The budget for youth homeless services is already beyond inadequate, and these cuts will show Bloomberg turning its back on homeless youth."
The Empire State Coalition of Youth and Family Services, a statewide coalition of about 25 community groups and advocates for runaway, homeless and street youth, organized the event.
According to Coalition Executive Director Margo Hirsch, it was part of a daylong series of protests against widespread budget cuts. Among those groups participating were Green Chimneys, the Ali Forney Center, Covenant House, The Door and the Safe Horizon: Streetwork Project.
Hirsch said that five elected officials spoke out against the budget cuts, including City Council members Margaret Chin, Daniel Garodnick, Lew Fidler, Inez Dickens and Melissa Mark-Viverito.
New York City currently has a budget of $12 million for Runaway and Homeless Youth Services, and provides only 250 youth shelter beds. In 2008 the New York City Council released the results of a census of New York City’s homeless youth, which found there were 3,800 youths without shelter.
Mayor Bloomberg has attempted to cut funds from homeless youth services every year since the census was released, and has failed to articulate a plan for the provision of adequate shelter for the NYC’s homeless youth.
This year, he has proposed to cut $7.2 million from DYCD’s already inadequate $12 million budget. These funds support desperately needed street-outreach, drop-in centers, crisis residential services and transitional living programs.
"We’re seeing Mayor Bloomberg use the recession as an excuse to chop services he’s been chipping away at for years," says Charles King, CEO of Housing Works. "We know that housing saves money in the long run, and more importantly, it saves lives."
Although Ali Forney Project Executive Director Carl Siciliano joined the Empire State Coalition’s May 31 protest against budget cuts, he continues to press for the Campaign for Youth Shelter plan he has outlined at several visible protests last year at the historic Stonewall Bar and Union Square.
The Campaign for Youth Shelter, a coalition of LGBT providers and advocates, calls on New York City and State to each contribute $1.5 million per year for a total $3 million in annual funding, set aside to create 100 new shelter beds every year until the need is met.
"We have been meeting with politicians for a long time, because it is important to have a plan for homeless youth," said Siciliano. "This is a fundamental flaw in the city, and no one is talking about it."
Siciliano expressed concern that in only rallying against proposed cuts and not for the additional $3 million the Campaign has called for, these elected officials might overlook their earlier requests to end LGBT youth homelessness.
"The Mayor proposed cutting the budget to $5 million, which is obviously deplorable, and we don’t want that," said Siciliano. "But we don’t want the fight for beds framed around the Mayor’s cuts, we want it to be framed around what the need is. And we want to make that really clear."
LGBT youth make up 40 percent of the City’s homeless youth population, and are at escalated risk for violent assaults, HIV infection and suicide when left out on the streets. According to the U.S. Justice Department, one in three homeless teens that are on the street will be forced into prostitution within 48 hours.
"His proposal would eliminate youth shelter beds at a time when the unmet need is enormous, and would endanger the lives of our most vulnerable youth. Every child needs and deserves shelter, and the homeless youth of our city need and deserve a mayor who won’t leave them to suffer in the streets," said Siciliano.