Mayor Michael Bloomberg released his budget yesterday, and it’s not a pretty read for children. According to Council Speaker Christine Quinn, it could axe 42,000 slots for childcare.
Also, according to a press release from the Ali Forney Center, it will wreak havoc on the number of beds available for homeless youth.
We included Tiffany Cocco, a homeless lesbian who has stayed at AFC, in our list of the 100 Most Powerless New Yorkers. As we noted back in January, “Cocco (and nearly 4,000 homeless youth, who are disproportionately LGBT) has to fight for one of less than 300 shelter beds for homeless kids. Of those on the street, about 20 percent become HIV-positive. The budget to help combat homelessness has gone down under Mayor Bloomberg’s tenure, while rates of homelessness (and his personal wealth) have consistently risen.”
The beds currently funded this fiscal year don’t begin to address the problem. Now, according to AFC, the mayor plans to cut an additional “$7 million to the city’s Runaway and Homeless Youth Services, ” which will “eliminate 160 youth shelter beds.”
As many have pointed out, the cost of providing a shelter bed per year (roughly $30,000) to a homeless young person is much less a cost to society than dealing with any one of the problems down the road a homeless teen will often find themselves facing (HIV infection, mental illness, chronic homelessness, incarceration).
Here’s a link to a report, commissioned by the Bloomberg administration in 2010, which specifically calls on the city to “broaden access to runaway and homeless youth services for LGBTQ youth” and to expand ” the number of regulated shelter beds for LGBTQ homeless youth and young adults ages 16 to 24 by at least 200 over the next five years.”
Here’s the full press release from AFC (emphasis added):
NEW YORK, NY – May 3, 2012 – The following statement, responding to Mayor Bloomberg’s newly released budget and its cuts of $7 million to the city’s Runaway and Homeless Youth Services, and plan to eliminate 160 youth shelter beds, can be attributed to Carl Siciliano, executive director of the Ali Forney Center:
“Mayor Bloomberg’s plan to throw 160 homeless children out of their shelter beds and into the streets is cruel, reckless and contemptible. These cuts create an even bigger crisis for the LGBT teens who are thrown out of their homes and forced to endure homelessness on the streets of our city. The LGBT community needs and demands political leaders who will protect our children. Instead, Mayor Bloomberg has proposed eliminating more than half of their shelter beds. The Ali Forney Center, and all those who work with and care about LGBT homeless youth, will not be silent in the face of this decision, which offends us as a community and needlessly puts our young people in harm’s way.”
Today’s cuts come in spite of the fact that the need for youth shelter beds continues to grow; in 2011 alone, the waiting list for AFC’s 77 shelter beds grew to 199 youths – an increase of 40 percent over the prior year. In total, the city only funds 250 shelter beds, for a population of 4,000 homeless youth. In response to this crisis, the Ali Forney Center and a number of allied LGBT organizations have launched the Campaign for Youth Shelter. This initiative calls on New York City and State to back an additional $3 million in annual funding, set aside to create 100 new shelter beds every year. The Campaign today calls for the city to raise its Runaway and Homeless Youth Services budget from the just-announced $5 million to $13.5 million, both revoking today’s cuts and including the city’s half of the annual $3 million.
In June of 2010 the Bloomberg Administration released a report on Homeless LGBT youth which recognized that LGBT youths without shelter faced significant risk of violent assault, HIV infection and suicide. The report called for the creation of 100 additional shelter beds for LGBT youths.