Advocates for the homeless say every night 3,800 people under age 24 sleep on the streets of New York City. 40% of them identify as runaway lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender. Activists had lobbied for the slashed youth shelter budget to be restored this year. But they were disappointed when Governor Andrew Cuomo outlined his budget proposals last week.
Gay City News reports:
In last year’s budget, state funding for homeless youth programs in New York City declined from $1.4 million to about $745,000. The Campaign for Youth Shelter, a coalition of advocacy groups including ESPA and CBST, is calling on the state and the city combined to increase RHY funding each year by $3 million until the unmet demand for youth beds in the city is satisfied.
With each bed costing between $35,000 and $42,000 a year to maintain, according to the city’s Department of Youth and Community Development (DYCD), that spending could increase inventory by as many as 87 beds a year. Currently, there are only about 250 government-funded youth beds in the city, with the most recent estimate of the number of homeless young people, 24 and younger, on the streets every night — conducted by the Empire State Coalition in 2007 — standing at 3,800. As many as 40 percent of that population identifies as LGBT or questioning.
Advocates had hoped the state would commit half of the $3 million, leaving the remainder up to the city budget. Instead, Cuomo proposed the $745,000 spent over the past year. The shortfall in funding that last year’s cut created was made up by the City Council. That make-whole, however, did nothing to add to the inventory in the way advocates are seeking.
Carl Siciliano, who runs the Ali Forney Center, which provides housing and services to homeless queer youth, said, “Governor Cuomo’s budget proposal is bad news for the 1,600 homeless LGBT youth stranded on the streets of New York each night without access to a shelter bed. These youth, who suffer horribly and whose lives are in danger, deserve the attention and concern of their governor no less than the other members of our community.”
Siciliano made note of estimates that gay marriages could generate as much $100 million in economic activity and tax revenues annually, and said “the LGBT community has a moral obligation to demand that our tax dollars protect the most vulnerable and desperate members.”
About two-dozen activists affiliated with Queer Rising demonstrated outside Cuomo’s Midtown office hours after the budget speech. The protesters held cardboard boxes, inscribed with the first names, ages, and hobbies of anonymous homeless youth printed over the statements, “I am homeless” and “I am a real person.”