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NYC Officials Again Demand Shelter for Homeless LGBT Youth

by Winnie McCroy
EDGE Editor
Sunday Oct 23, 2011
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In anticipation of a Monday, Oct. 24, rally in Union Square, the Ali Forney Center has once again called upon Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Mayor Michael Bloomberg and other state lawmakers to support the Campaign for Youth Shelter. This initiative calls for $3 million per year in funding to create 100 youth shelter beds annually, until all homeless youth in the five boroughs have beds.

"Despite the recession, which caused the waiting lists to balloon at the youth shelters, and despite the 2008 census, which showed that over 4,000 youths were without safe shelter in NYC, the state has progressively eroded its support for homeless youth, recklessly jeopardizing their lives. I think it is deplorable," said Carl Siciliano, executive director of the Ali Forney Center. "Currently the city and state only provide 200 youth shelter beds, and that includes the 70 beds the City Council added between ’05 and ’08."

According to Siciliano, the Cuomo administration cut contributions to LGBT youth shelters, providing $1.5 million in the 2011 fiscal year, but only ponied up $750,000 for FY 2012. He noted that Bloomberg had also proposed cutting the city’s homeless youth services funding every year by 50 to 60 percent, but the City Council intervened on their behalf.

Despite the efforts of the Ali Forney Center and other groups, an average of 3,800 youth between the ages of 16 and 24 are without stable housing each night. A census conducted by the Empire State Pride Coalition and released by the City Council in 2008 found that 40 percent of these youth identified as LGBT.

LGBT youth are eight times more likely to be homeless that heterosexual youth-the leading cause for this is family rejection. With gay youth coming out in greater numbers and at an earlier age, this homophobia and rejection force many into homelessness.

"The crisis of LGBT youth homelessness in NYC results from the collision of parental homophobia with unjust political policies," said Siciliano. "The Campaign for Youth Shelter allows the LGBT community to say loud and clear that it is wrong for parents to throw their queer children to the streets, and it is wrong for our elected officials to allow them to stay in the streets without safe shelter."

Neglecting to provide these youth with stable housing and a nurturing environment can lead them to higher levels of physical and sexual assault, substance abuse and mental health disorders, prostitution, higher rates of HIV infection, depressive disorders, and attempted suicide.
Nearly 63 percent of LGBT youth have considered or attempted suicide, as opposed to 29 percent of young people.

Participants in the Union Square rally will attempt to raise awareness around these disparities, and urge city and state officials to do more to address the lack of shelter for LGBT youth.

Speakers will include Siciliano; Theresa Nolan, director of New York City and LGBTQ Youth Programs for Green Chimneys; Cathy Marino Thomas, Board President of Marriage Equality New York; Harmony Santana, star of the film Gun Hill Road and a former homeless LGBT youth and New York City Councilmember Lew Fidler.

The move to advocate on behalf of the city’s homeless youth continues to gain momentum.

Queer Rising held "A Box Is Not a Home: Protect Our Homeless Queer Youth" action on Wednesday, Oct. 19, in Union Square. And support for the Ali Forney Center’s event has come from the Bronx Community Pride Center,

Congregation Beit Simchat Torah, Green Chimneys NYC, the Lambda Independent Democrats of Brooklyn, Queer Rising, Gay Men’s Health Crisis, PFLAG New York City and The Trevor Project. Urvashi Vaid, Kevin Jennings, Matt Foreman, Carson Kressley, Sandra Bernhard, Alan Cumming, Ally Sheedy, and Justin Bond are among the activists and celebrities who have also lent their support.

"We hope that the Campaign for Youth Shelter, by galvanizing the LGBT Community to say it is unacceptable to leave kids out in the street without safe shelter, will change the political dynamic to become more favorable to these incredibly vulnerable youths," said Siciliano.

The rally will take place in Union Square at 6 p.m. on Monday, Oct. 24. Log onto http://aliforneycenter.org/youthshelter.html for more information.

Winnie McCroy is the Women on the EDGE Editor, HIV/Health Editor, and Assistant Entertainment Editor for EDGE Media Network, handling all women’s news, HIV health stories and theater reviews throughout the U.S. She has contributed to other publications, including The Village Voice, Gay City News, Chelsea Now and The Advocate, and lives in Brooklyn, New York, where she writes about local restaurants in her food blog, http://brooklyniscookin.blogspot.com/

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