There are an estimated 3,000 homeless youth in New York City alone. In the current version of his budget, Governor Andrew Cuomo is proposing to cut all state funding for homeless youth shelters. That’s every last penny that goes to providing shelter for some of the most vulnerable people in the state.
Last weekend I heard absolutely heartbreaking stories about the realities of life for homeless LGBT youth from Carl Siciliano, the director of the Ali Forney Center, New York City’s only shelter for LGBT youth, and Ksen Pallegedara, a former Ali Forney Center client and current law student. 40% of homeless youth in NYC identify as LGBTQ, and many of them do not feel safe in shelters that are not designated for queer and trans folks. There are only 200 beds in the entire US designated for LGBT youth, and 57 of them are at the Ali Forney Center.
Youth homelessness is an issue that clearly needs more attention from everyone. As a trans woman I feel especially responsible to focus on homelessness since it has such a disparate impact on my community. Queer and trans youth experience incredibly high rates of family rejection – Ksen told the story of walking into the Ali Forney center for the first time with a big bald spot because his mother had ripped out a large chunk of hair. Carl Siciliano called homelessness, “the greatest cruelty and threat perpetrated against the LGBT community in our lifetime.” He’s calling for a paradigm shift in the LGBT movement – if we are saying “Come out come out wherever you are” we must ensure the resources and support is there when young people do come out. A big part of that is improving family acceptance, but we absolutely need to support queer and trans youth who are suffering now.
And of course this crisis is not confined to the LGBT community. While that may create a personal connection to the issue for myself and others, there are way too many young people who are homeless in this country, and they all need and deserve our support.
The end of New York’s budget process is fast approaching. Advocates have already blocked a cut to NYC homeless youth services. Please sign this petition to the governor at change.org (if you’re in New York you can contact your representatives as well) to let them know a cut to homeless youth shelters is completely unacceptable.