The day after Thanksgiving I received an e-mail from the City of New York, informing me that due to budget problems, they were slashing their support for homeless youth programs, greatly defunding street outreach efforts and drop-in centers. Our drop-in support is being cut in half.
I prefer to talk about our housing programs, and the remarkable resilience that so many of our residents show in rebuilding lives that have been shattered by homophobia and family rejection. The realities we deal with in our two drop-in centers are harder and more brutal.
In New York City, there are 3,800 youths who sleep on the streets every night. Over 1,000 of these youths admit to being LGBT. There are only about 250 shelter beds for homeless youth in NYC, so the great majority are left stranded on the streets. LGBT kids from all over the country flock to our drop-in centers for the food, showers, medical care, mental health treatment and other forms of support we provide.
Our case managers work valiantly to help find shelter for these kids, but the reality is there are so few safe options for LGBT youth that we are often forced to advise them on how to survive while sleeping in places like subway trains, parks, abandoned buildings and construction sites as they wait for one of our beds to open up. Yesterday one of our case managers described spending the afternoon trying to find shelter for a girl who had just come to us. When his efforts were exhausted and he had to tell her that she would be out on the street for the night, she sat in his office and cried.
I hate what I see our kids going through. So many thousands of vulnerable kids being cast out of their homes for being gay, deprived of all family support, and forced to fend for themselves without the resources to survive. I hate the way the suffer violence and degradation on the streets, the way they get gay bashed in mainstream shelters, the way so many have to survive through prostitution. I hate seeing youth be so deeply traumatized.
This phenomenon of thousands of LGBT youth being thrown out to the streets by parents who will not accept them is the most terrible face of homophobia in our time. Is there is a greater wrong being perpetrated against our community? I do not understand why protecting our terribly violated and abandoned youth is not the top priority of the LGBT movement. I do not understand why our advocacy organizations are not fighting to make certain that our tax dollars are allocated to supporting these abandoned kids. It is a nightmare that there are so few resources to protect these kids.
With these budget cuts, our ability to provide our drop-in centers is jeopardized, but I am not willing to reduce what little support these poor kids have. The drop-in centers are the safety net for the kids out on the street and I cannot imagine closing our doors. We desperately need an outpouring of support from the community to keep our drop-in centers open. Please be as generous as you can in this time of trial and, please, see if you can persuade friends to help.
Checks can be sent to:
Ali Forney Center
224 West 35th Street, Suite 1102
New York, NY 10001
Ali Forney Center