Activists protest New York funding cuts for homeless youth

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lgbt homeless youth Lambda Legal photo

lgbt homeless youth Lambda Legal photoNew York, a city that symbolizes wealth and power the world over and is home to Wall Street wizards who regularly bank incomes of legendary proportions, is also home to thousands of street kids, a disproportionate number of whom are gay. Drawn by the allure of the Big Apple, destitute children from all over the country somehow find their way to New York, only to discover that its cold streets and bright lights do not offer solutions to their problems.

Estimates of the number of homeless LGBT kids in New York range from a low of 3,000 to a high of 8,000, depending on whose statistics you rely on. All agree that there are thousands. Who are these kids? Their stories are as diverse as America itself, and yet as similar as the jeans and hoodies they tend to wear. Though to a person with a normal heart, it may seem inconceivable that a parent would exile a young child to the streets because of religion, that is nonetheless the cause in case after case. 

Many lgbt homeless youth were at the rally. Photo courtesy of Renna Communications.

Many lgbt homeless youth were at the rally. Photo courtesy of Renna Communications.

“Lord Jesus don’t want me to have no faggot in my God-fearing house,” are the very words many of these young people have heard from the mouths of the people who were supposed to love, cherish and protect them above all: their parents. Other kids have fled abuse: mental, physical and sexual. Some are the fallout of a depressed economy, forced to leave homes destroyed by poverty, unemployment and foreclosure.

The city administration has long treated these thousands of street kids as an annoyance to be ignored – if possible. Less than 300 safe shelter beds for LGBT youth exist in New York. No serious effort has ever been made by the city of New York to confront the problem. Volunteer efforts by grass-roots organizations such as Ali Forney Center, Sylvia’s Place, New Alternatives, Green Chimneys and others have been overwhelmed and underfunded from the moment they opened their doors. The day after Thanksgiving, the Bloomberg administration announced it was reducing its support for “street outreach” by 50 percent and eliminating it by July 2011. Support for homeless youth drop-in centers will also be cut by 50 percent, say activists. This means the inadequate funding previously available will now be reduced to a token trickle.

Meeting on City Hall’s steps on Dec. 21, social activists and politicians held a press conference denouncing the Bloomberg cuts. 

“The proposed cuts for our city’s homeless youth programs put our most vulnerable New Yorkers at risk, especially our LGBTQ youth, who often have nowhere else to go,” Manhattan Borough President Scott M. Stringer said. “Slashing the funding for these programs in half,” he continued, “may seem like a quick financial fix now, but the long-term negative effects of this decision will resound.” 

Further protests, reportedly including civil disobedience, are planned.

lgbt homeless youth Lambda Legal photoNew York, a city that symbolizes wealth and power the world over and is home to Wall Street wizards who regularly bank incomes of legendary proportions, is also home to thousands of street kids, a disproportionate number of whom are gay. Drawn by the allure of the Big Apple, destitute children from all over the country somehow find their way to New York, only to discover that its cold streets and bright lights do not offer solutions to their problems.