Alex Blaze

$700B for Wall Street, but $600K is too much for homeless queers

Filed By Alex Blaze | October 29, 2008 11:30 AM | comments

Filed in: Politics
Tags: Alan Greenspan, Ali Forney Center, HOPWA, LGBT homeless, LGBT youth, New York, New York City, shelter

Proving yet again (as if we needed to see it again) that butter and guns trade-off, a queer homeless shelter that caters to youth in NYC might get shut down:

A leading provider of services for New York City's homeless queer youth may have to close its Chelsea drop-in location. The city health department told the agency that the $600,000 contract that funds the location will be ended in June of 2009.

"For the homeless LGBT youth of our city, the Ali Forney Center has been the difference between acceptance and rejection, frankly, between life and death," said Carl Siciliano, executive director of the Ali Forney Center (AFC), at an October 14 press conference. "I do not believe that the city would consciously disrespect the LGBT community by turning its back on our most vulnerable kids."

The drop-in location, which opened in 2005, is funded under the federal Housing Opportunities for People With AIDS program (HOPWA). The funds are administered by the health department and, after increasing the dollars from $300,000 to $600,000 in 2007, that agency told AFC six weeks ago that the dollars would be eliminated entirely. The $600,00 is the entire budget for the drop-in center.

In 2007, the drop-in location had more than 500 clients, placed 200 in emergency housing, served 10,000 meals, performed 250 HIV tests, and placed 50 HIV-positive clients into care and housing, Siciliano said.

That's something to remember while rich people petulantly demand federal money. These programs are the first to be cut because they're at the intersection of several communities that doesn't have much power and aren't liked all too much: queers, homeless people, HIV positive people, and youth.

"Those of us in Washington who have fought very hard, every year we have fought very hard, to maintain and increase HOPWA funding are not pleased that the city, without any direction from Washington, suddenly takes it upon itself to eliminate an entire category of funding within the HOPWA program, leaving so many vulnerable young people exposed," Nadler said. "It is intolerable that these funding cuts can eliminate a center like the Ali Forney Center."

The city told AFC that it was one of five programs doing "outreach" with HOPWA dollars that were being cut and that the dollars would be used to build housing.

"The use is not a bad use, you want more housing," Nadler said. "This kind of thing is critical, so you shouldn't be diverting this money for that."

And it'll be harder to get the money back later.

This is ridiculous. These sorts of programs are one of the few things that the government is doing correctly right now, and that's because they're targeted to certain populations that need help desperately. There already aren't enough beds to go around for the homeless, and LGBT youth face other problems in "straight" shelters. You throw in the fact that they're testing for HIV there, and cutting funding for them is going to cause a world of harm.

And there's no reason for this, other than some other people's greed. And there are so many reasons that having more LGBT homeless people with no options is just a really, really bad idea.

h/t jmg


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The demand for the services this program provides will only be increasing if the economic downturn expected arrives. And the people this program serves will be the ones most likely to be let go from jobs, have no family supports & end up homeless.

Doing this reinforces the perception of us as disposable people and will effect how people are treated if they seek help from other programs that maintained their funding.

Disposable people, indeed.

Who gives a damn about a bunch of queers starving and freezing to death? Less AIDS-riddled faggots to deal with, right?

It is vitally important that the LGBT-specific or LGBT-friendly shelters, the very few that we do now have, remain open ... many homeless shelters are run by fundamentalist religious organizations that do not tolerate gay-identified residents --- even if they agree to be celebate while in the shelter. To enter and stay, you will be required to "renounce homosexuality". You not only have to refrain from gay sex, you have to agree that being attracted is wrong, that being accepting of your feelings is wrong, that talking about it is wrong, that a sexless but loving friendship is wrong, etc., etc. ... all the bullshit that fundamentalists say about us.

This, in turn, creates a psychologically unhealthy situation: Do I lie about being queer and try to pass for straight, or do I stay on the street?

In a way, it's another flavor of DADT all over again.

(And Alex is right: $600K is a bargain when compared to the problems the city will have with all those needy people on the street.)

Anthony in Nashville | October 29, 2008 1:34 PM

You're right about the blatant discrepancy in priorities.

Money is always available when it comes to the military or multi-billion corporations, but when it comes to social services, that is something we can't afford.

All those needy people on the street? This is a drop-in center so most of their clients are still on the street in one form or fashion.

I'm sure the staff at the Ali Forney Center are good people. Their work is probably appreciated by the people they serve. The problem is that judging by the stats provided they're not helping that many people for the dollars they are spending.

500 clients = less than 2 per day
10,000 meals = less than 30 per day
250 HIV tests = less than 1 per day
50 HIV+ housing referrals = 0.13 referrals per day

All of this for $600,000.00? That is a pretty ineffective use of federal housing dollars. It is even worse when you consider that housing dollars for persons with AIDS netted services for only 50 people in a whole year. I'm surprised that the PWA community isn't up in arms over misappropriation of federal AIDS dollars.

If the plight of homeless glbt youth in NYC is as dire and the Forney Center's response is as dramatic as everyone is claiming the director of AFC needs to find a better metric to tell his story. He also needs to find a more sustainable funding stream for his program.

Of course newspaper and blog editors shouldn't be letting government contractors get away with such shallow statistical reporting.

What's that quip about the military having to hold a bake sale? Bah.

Social services of all kinds are going to be slashed as part of the draconian austerity measures ‘necessary’ to pay off the debt of the corporate rich. No economy in the world could sustain that level of debt and ours in spiraling down towards a long, deep recession and probably a depression.

As that happens ‘benign neglect’ will become the malign neglect we see here, in the tent cities – Obamavilles - springing up everywhere and that we saw during Katrina.

ENDA was important because it provided real remedies, unlike earlier civil rights legislation. That’s why it was gutted. Now, with unemployment soaring and wages being cut African Americans, immigrants, Latinos, working women and GLBT folks will learn what the old adage 'Last Hired, Frist Fired' really means. The consequences of Barney Frank’s treachery are bedcoming clearer.

Whatever level of economic collapse is in store for us is entirely due to the trillions of dollars squandered on the corporate rich covering their speculative losses. The national debt will nearly double this year and it's all on our tab. That’s solely the fault of Bush, McCain and Obama and everyone else in government who supported the trillions spent on welfare for the rich and malign neglect for the rest of us.

Bush is a Hoover clone with Paulson playing Scrooge.

McCain is a Bush clone and comes with a built in Scrooge.

Obama is a Clinton clone (DOMA, DADT, NAFTA, deregulation and bailouts) with Bankruptcy Biden playing Scrooge.

Cathy Renna Cathy Renna | October 30, 2008 9:48 AM

if you are so inclined, write to Mayor Bloomberg - the youth of the AFC sent a letter themselves that as very powerful

there is more info at www.aliforneycenter.org

we work with Carl and staff there - they are amazing and the young people who we have met are an inspiration