Council Members, Youth, Providers and Advocates Rally for Runaway and Homeless Youth Services
City Budget Proposes to Cut Over Half the System’s Funding—Leaving Vulnerable Youth at Greater Risk!
New York, NY: New York City Council Youth Services Committee Chair Lewis Fidler joined youth, runaway and homeless youth providers and child advocates on the steps of City Hall to protest the proposed cuts to Runaway and Homeless Youth Services.
Once again, the Mayor’s budget proposes to cut over half of the funding for Runaway and Homeless Youth (RHY) services. Year after year, the City Council restores $7.2 million to ensure that existing shelters beds and services are not eliminated. Meanwhile, with this money, the City only funds 250 shelter beds for youth, despite estimates that there are 3,800 RHY in New York City. The budget cut would result in the loss of 160 of the 250 shelter beds.
Advocates and providers are urging the City Council and the Mayor to not only restore the $7.2 million, but baseline it so that it is permanently in the budget and add $1.5 million to begin to better meet the needs of youth.
"A budget is a statement about us as a City. So, I find it absolutely unconscionable that Mayor Bloomberg is once again attempting to cut funding for RHY,” said Council Member Lewis Fidler. “Remember, we are talking about children who have been denied a loving environment and the protection of a safe bed and home. They are often on the street as a result of physical, sexual or emotional abuse from someone who ought to have been a loved one. They are now counting on us, and our City must not abandon these children as well," added Fidler.
“Runaway and homeless youth programs not only keep extremely vulnerable, young New Yorkers safe, housed, and off the streets, but they also connect youth to caring adults, counseling, and other needed services,” stated Jennifer March-Joly, Executive Director of Citizens’ Committee for Children of New York. “Given that the services currently available are insufficient to meet the need, the City Budget most not only stop this cut by restoring RHY funding, but it must also baseline and increase RHY resources,” said March-Joly.
"It is shocking that each year some of the City's most vulnerable young people -- runaway and homeless youth -- and the programs which serve them have to fight to keep the limited funding they have. The 250 available shelter beds are grossly insufficient to serve the more than 3,800 youth who need them. Including the current funding in the City's annual budget is the first step in working to improve this crisis," said Kimberly Forte, Supervising Attorney of The Legal Aid Society's LGBT Law and Policy Initiative.
“All of the youth shelters in the City, including Covenant House, are at full capacity. We sadly have no choice but to turn away hundreds of young people a month,” stated Jayne Bigelsen, Director of External Affairs and Anti-Human Trafficking Initiatives at Covenant House New York.
“A recent study by Covenant House and Fordham University demonstrates how homeless young people are often forced to make a decision between having a place to sleep and selling their body for sex. If social service providers can’t provide enough beds, then the pimps will. If NYC is serious about ending the trafficking of NYC young people, it must start by providing more beds and service to those who need it,” added Bigelson.
“Safe shelter is the most critical need for youth vulnerable to trafficking and sexual exploitation in New York City. Providing resources to give homeless boys and girls access to a healthy and safe life needs to be a top priority for our elected officials! ECPAT USA urges the City Council and Mayor's office to restore baseline funding of $7.2 million and increase it with $1.5 million in FY 2014 for runaway and homeless youth to be given a chance to safe housing and support services,” said Camelia Tepelus, PhD, State Policy and Program Development Director at End Child Prostitution and Trafficking (ECPAT) USA.
“The single biggest challenge service providers like Good Shepherd Services face in effectively serving youth who have run away or are homeless is the instability and inadequacy of funding for housing and supportive services for this fragile population. These issues result in more than 3,000 young people in New York City on the streets with no home on any given night,” said Sr. Paulette LoMonaco, Executive Director, Good Shepherd Services.
James Bolas, Director of Education at the Empire State Coalition of Youth and Family Services, concurred. "By putting runaway and homeless youth services up for cuts each year, the City exacerbates a lower sense of worth in homeless youth. If the city doesn't feel that they are worth having a place to sleep, then why should they care about themselves?” asked Bolas.
Michael Polenberg, Vice President of Government Affairs at Safe Horizon said, “As the nation’s leading victim assistance organization, Safe Horizon proudly stands with our colleagues in government and advocacy to call for more adequate funding to help homeless youth find safety and stability. Due in large part to City Council support, our Streetwork Project helps thousands of homeless young people each and every day find shelter, mental health and medical treatment, and access to housing and employment. But thousands more are turned away because our beds are filled, as are those of our colleagues. Each young person turned away is vulnerable to violence, exploitation and disease. We call on the City to end the annual budget dance and create a more sustainable funding stream for programs serving homeless youth. We owe them no less.”
“FPWA strongly supports the restoration and baselining of $7.2 million for runaway and homeless youth services as well as an increase of this allocation by $1.5 million. This additional funding will provide more vital shelter beds for the over 3,800 youth sleeping on the streets each night,” stated Jennifer Jones Austin, Executive Director/CEO of the Federation of Protestant Welfare Agencies (FPWA). “Currently, New York City has only 250 shelter beds available for our youth and it is imperative that we expand this number of beds for our young people to provide a safe and secure environment for them,” said Jones Austin.
The Mayor’s Budget once again proposes to cut $7.2 million from Runaway and Homeless Youth Services—even though there currently are not enough beds or services to meet the growing need. Advocates are urging the City Council and the Mayor to adopt a budget, which restores and baselines the $7.2 million, and adds $1.5 million to better meet the demand.
The proposed cut of $7.2 million would eliminate over half of the funding to the system. While there are over 3,800 runaway and homeless youth, 160 of the City’s 250 beds are now at risk of being cut! Due to the shortage of beds and services, Runaway and Homeless Youth shelters have to turn away hundreds of vulnerable youth each month, leaving them at serious risk of harm to their physical and mental health, violence, and human trafficking.
Participating advocates and providers include: the Ali Forney Center; Cardinal McCloskey Community Services; Care for the Homeless; Citizens’ Committee for Children of New York; Empire State Coalition for Youth and Family Services; Covenant House New York; the Door; ECPAT USA; the Federation of Protestant Welfare Agencies (FPWA); Good Shepherd Services; Homeless Services United; Legal Aid; the New York City Youth Alliance; and Safe Horizon.