February 13, 2012
Re: Runaway and Homeless Youth Funding
To New York State Senators and State Assembly-members:
We, the undersigned, call upon the New York State Legislature to restore the level of funding for Runaway and Homeless Youth services to $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 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. The proposal by Governor Cuomo to maintain the current, inadequate funding levels is unacceptable and will have dire consequences for the nearly 4,000 homeless youth in New York City.Â We urge you to provide adequate funding to ensure the survival and well-being of those young people who are all too often left without a voice in the budget process.
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.ÃÂ This level of funding is grossly inadequate.
The LGBTQ community is especially concerned about these cuts because 40% of homeless youth identify as LGBTQ.Â 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.Â This report included the recommendation for a five year plan to increase dedicated shelter beds for LGBTQ youth by at least 200.Â 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.
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 stateâs 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. Restoring total RHY funding from $2.35 million to $4.7 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 will become even bigger burdens to taxpayers in the long run if they end up in prison or if they contract HIV.
We call upon your leadership to restore funding for Runway Homeless Youth services to its 2010 level of $4.7 million, and we look forward to working with you in the future to ensure that New York's children are no longer left out in the cold.
Lambda Independent Democrats of Brooklyn
Gay and Lesbian Independent Democrats
Independent Neighborhood Democrats
Jim Owles Liberal Democratic Club
Lesbian and Gay Democratic Club of Queens
New Kings Democrats
Stonewall Democrats of New York City
Bay Ridge Democrats
Brooklyn Young Democrats
Central Brooklyn Independent Democrats
Bronx Rainbow Independent Democratic Association
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For additional comment, please contact the co-presidents of Lambda Independent Democrats of Brooklyn, Matthew McMorrow (917-696-1781) or Erin Drinkwater (646-643-8132).