The following letter was hand delivered to selected Legislators in Albany on February 14th. Seven members of Shelter of Peace made the trip to Albany to hand deliver this letter. Please feel free to copy it and let your congregants know the facts.
Dear Senator or Assemblymember,
New York State has provided funding to support shelter for homeless youth since 1978. In 2007, NYS provided $6.8 million to support 70 youth shelter programs across the state. By 2010, that amount of funding had been reduced to $4.7 million. In the budget passed last year, the amount was further reduced by 50% to $2.35 million, only $745,000 of which goes to shelters in New York City. This represents funding for 21 safe shelter beds. This level of funding is grossly inadequate and provides for one half of one percent of the homeless youth in New York City.
The LGBTQ community is especially concerned about these cuts because 40% of homeless youth identify as LGBTQ. Runaway and homeless LGBTQ young people face a disproportionate risk of violent abuse, family rejection, mental illness, HIV infection and suicide.
In 2008, The Empire State Coalition of Youth and Family Services released the results of a census of New York City’s homeless youth which found that every night 3,800 youth go without shelter. In 2009, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg established the New York City Commission on Runaway and Homeless LGBTQ Youth, whose report included recommendations on prevention strategies, family reconciliation and ways to improve New York City’s Infrastructure in order to meet LGBTQ youth needs. This report included the recommendation for a five year plan to increase dedicated shelter beds for LGBTQ youth by at least 200. Despite these findings, the city and state have chosen to maintain or cut funding for youth shelter beds, while shelters have reported a 40% increase in demand for them. A 40% increase in homeless youth brings the current number to 5,320 each and every night. The city and state together fund a total of 250 safe shelter beds for homeless youth.
While we fully recognize the need to balance the state budget and to cut unnecessary spending, we should not do so at the expense of our state’s most vulnerable citizens. By investing in the well-being and safety of runaway and homeless youth we can work to ensure that they become productive members of our great state and nation. This Year, we request that the state restore the level of funding for Runaway and Homeless Youth Services to the previous $4.7 million, with at least $2.25 million of that amount to be allocated to youth shelters in New York City where the need is the greatest. This level of funding would be $1.5 million more than the $745,000 the city received from the state in last year’s budget. Increasing funding by $1.5 million is a small price to pay when weighed against the probability that homeless kids, left to fend for themselves, will engage in risky, unhealthy and criminal activities in order to survive. As a result, they become even bigger burdens to taxpayers in the long run if they end up in prison or if they contract HIV.