NEW YORK (November 20, 2015) Safe Horizon’s vice president of Government Affairs, Michael Polenberg made the following statement in response to the 2015 Homeless Assessment Report by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).
Safe Horizon is the largest provider of services for victims of crime and violence in New York City and in the country. Through our Streetwork Project, we provide emergency shelter and other critical services to thousands of homeless youth each year who have experienced, or are at great risk of, violence and abuse.
With just over 200 age-appropriate emergency shelter beds for upwards of 2,000 homeless youth each night in New York City, countless young people are left each night with very difficult choices – to sleep on the streets or subways, to spend one or two nights on a couch at a friend’s house, or to trade sex for shelter. For all of these young people, the fundamental grim reality is the same: they are homeless and have nowhere to turn.
The 2015 Annual Homeless Assessment Report (AHAR) to Congress provided by HUD today, however, draws artificial distinctions between homeless youth who sleep in shelters or on the streets, and those who make other, often exploitative, arrangements. Homeless people are vulnerable in every place where they have to survive, whether that’s on the street or in the home of an individual who exploits a desperate teenager for sex. Ultimately, it is far more difficult to address the magnitude of our nation’s homeless crisis and therefore dedicate needed resources if some homeless youth are counted while others are not.
We urge policymakers to more accurately acknowledge the difficult choices homeless youth are often forced to make to find a place to sleep, and in doing so help ensure that adequate resources – from shelter and outreach to housing and employment – are made available in every corner of our country.