Ali Forney Center blasts proposed state cuts to homeless youth funding
Call it budget battle 2.0!
Just weeks after Mayor Michael Bloomberg restored funding his administration had threatened to cut from the city’s homeless youth programs, organizations and politicians alike are blasting Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s proposed budget that would eliminate $85 million from youth and family services. The proposed Primary Prevention Initiative Program (PPIP) would consolidate a variety of child welfare, juvenile and youth development programs into a $35 million block grant. Cuomo’s proposed budget would also eliminate the state’s Runaway and Homeless Youth Program (RHYP). And local social service organizations would have to compete for PPIP funds.
Carl Siciliano, executive director of the Ali Forney Center, said the proposed cuts would eliminate 37 of the city’s 108 youth shelter beds. "Obviously we’re in a situation where there aren’t enough beds to begin with," he said, noting the proposed cuts would disproportionately impact homeless LGBT youth. "It’s inconceivable to try and balance the budget on the backs of kids."
Siciliano further compared PPIP’s grant application process to a kennel owner who feeds his dogs half the amount of food they normally receive and forces them to fight for it. Jeanne Mullgrav, commissioner for the city’s Department of Youth and Community Services, said the city would lose $1.4 million in RHYP funding under Cuomo’s proposed budget.
"The city of New York understands that in this challenging economic climate, difficult budget decisions are required," she told lawmakers in Albany on Wednesday, Feb. 16. "The tough choices must be equitable and rational, without unduly shifting the fiscal responsibilities to localities, or disproportionately impacting our young people and the most vulnerable."
City Councilmember Lew Fidler [D-Brooklyn], who chairs the Council’s Youth Services Committee, told EDGE it appears the proposed state cuts would have a far more adverse impact on the city’s homeless youth than those the Bloomberg administration had sought last fall. "It’s kind of out of the frying pan and into the fire," he said. "Obviously we’re going to have to lean on our state colleagues to do the right thing."
A 2007 report indicated more were more than 3,800 homeless youth in the five boroughs. Up to 40 percent of them were either lesbian, gay, bisexual or questioning. Five percent of homeless youth counted in a City Council-sponsored census in 2007 were transgender.
Mullgrav stressed to Albany lawmakers that services for the city’s runaway and homeless youth "are essential," but the state faces a nearly $10 billion budget deficit. New York City continues to grapple with a $4.58 billion budget shortfall.
Jeffrey Gordon, spokesperson for the New York State Division of Budget, told EDGE he could not confirm the number of beds for homeless youth the governor’s proposed budget would eliminate. He said PPIP would fund non-residential programs, but funding for residential programs would have to come entirely from municipalities themselves.
"This represents a savings of $35 million for the state," noted Gordon.
Siciliano blasted this response.
"I am shocked and appalled that the state would abandon homeless children to the streets," he said. "What kind of family-to balance its budget-would throw its’ kids out to the streets? This plan is an affront to basic human decency."