By Jared Chausow
By Katie Toth
By Elizabeth Flock
By Albert Samaha
By Anna Merlan
By Jon Campbell
By Jon Campbell
By Albert Samaha
The 1997 study which was commissioned by the mayor's office was suppressed after its author, medical anthropologist Michael Clatts, appeared on NPR in April of 1998. The report was mentioned by WNYC reporter Beth Fertig during the broadcast.
Daniel Tietz, an expert on homelessness who selected Clatts to do the study for the Giuliani administration, says that the next day, "The mayor's office called me and said that if Clatts talked to the press again, he would not get any work with any city agency again. They made it clear that they would go after him and seek damages."
The mayor's office would not return phone calls. Though the administration has suggested in the past that the report was flawed, it has never said why it was suppressed. But advocates for homeless teenagers think they know why. "Giuliani's political aspirations are such," says Margaret Brennan, executive director of the AIDS and Adolescents Network of New York, "that he just doesn't want to have any embarrassing information come out such as not having met the needs of this large and growing population."
Among the report's findings:
Tietz says he commissioned the report from Clatts because Clatts, who did not return Voice calls, had studied homeless youth extensively and had an "international reputation" for his work with street kids. At the time, Tietz was an administrator with the Post Graduate Center for Mental Health, which has a number of city contracts to produce social-service studies. He is now with Housing Works, the AIDS service nonprofit that is embroiled in a long-standing battle with the mayor. He remains dismayed that the administration has suppressed the study, entitled Needs Assessment: Services and Housing for New York City's Homeless Street Youth with HIV/AIDS. Adds Brennan, "Having read the report, I didn't get the feeling the city was being vilified. The report offered a lot of helpful suggestions. If the city was really interested in meeting the needs of this population, they could have had a serious examination of this report and then thought about developing a plan to help homeless kids."
Some of the report's findings have been disputed by the mayor in other forums. The mayor's preliminary management report for 1999 says the city is slated to provide services for 2200 homeless and runaway youth. City officials have repeatedly stated that it's impossible to count the actual number of street youth. But, counters Brennan, "That's bullshit. They don't want to find them because then they would have to provide services for them."
In the year since the study was suppressed, advocates say, the situation for homeless kids has become worse. "Our outreach program sees at least 3000 kids a month throughout the city," says Carl Siciliano, program director at SafeSpace, a drop-in center and shelter for homeless kids. "In the past six months alone we've seen 436 new faces."
George Moore, a nurse and HIV specialist at Covenant House the largest homeless youth shelter and service provider says he's also seen at least 400 new faces come through the medical clinic in the last six months. Although it holds the lion's share of the shelter beds in the city (even the NYPD's Homeless Outreach Unit brings the 18- to 21-year-old homeless kids it finds to Covenant House's shelters), Covenant House receives less than 5 percent of its funding from the city.
"There's no doubt in my mind there's a lack of services [for homeless youth] in New York City," says City Council member Kenneth Fisher, chair of the Youth Services Committee. "It's not an easy population to provide services for, and it's largely invisible. There was an inadequate number of shelter beds, medical facilities, and counseling centers before 1998, and it hasn't gotten any better."