by Councilman Lew Fidler
It is a statistical fact that tonight 3,800 children WITHOUT their families will be homeless on the streets of NYC tonight. Over the past 9 years that I have chaired the Council’s Youth Services Committee, I have conducted over 18 hearings on the issues relating to Runaway and Homeless Youth. We have managed to increase the numbers of shelter beds and street outreach programs to find these youth—the most vulnerable of the vulnerable—to a point where the budget for RHY has reached $12 million. Yet HUNDREDS of these children remain on the street without shelter. For example, at the Ali Forney Center, over 100 kids are on the list for shelter without a bed available. Tonight. In the cold. Worse yet, of these 3,800 kids, a statistical study/survey that was recently conducted with the assistance of Columbia University will show that 185 of them will admit to having spent the prior night involved with some sort of sex work. That does not include those who will stay alive thru survival sex. We are talking about children as young as 13 or 14.
The Bloomberg Administration has included a PEG (“Program to Eliminate the Gap”) of $2 million in their November Plan directly against this program, decimating the programs, jeopardizing their existence and virtually wiping out street outreach.
Last fall, right before the General Election, Mayor Bloomberg announced the creation of a commission on LGBTQ Runaway and Homeless Youth. (Approximately one third of all RHY identify as LGBTQ.) This past summer DYCD issued the Commission’s report, one recommendation of which was the expansion of the capacity of the RHY shelter bed system. Another was a series of boro wide community forums discussing the issues. Ironically, in the middle of these forums—the last one in Manhattan was held last night—the $2 million PEG was announced.
The following is a link to my comments at the Brooklyn forum which was recently held. At the time, I had been led to believe that the cut was only $569k, not the cut of $2 million. I urge you to watch the clip. (It starts a bit slowly, but the rest will speak for itself.)
In this holiday season, I am urging your paper to cover the issue. Remember, we are talking about children who have been denied a loving environment and the protection of a safe bed and home in the one place where every child ought to have one—in their home. They are often on the street as a result of physical, sexual or emotional abuse at home from someone who ought to have been a loved one. Go home, Hug your child….and think about this story.
I am available at any time or at any place to discuss the plight of these children. My City Hall office is 212-788-7286. My district office is 718-241-9330.