Alex Blaze

Homeless Youth to Lose Housing as Millionaires Whine about Taxes

Filed By Alex Blaze | March 21, 2011 2:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Politics
Tags: Ali Forney Center, income inequality, LGBT homeless youth, money, New York, wealth

The state of New York is considering serious budget cuts to homeless youth programs, institutions that are already serious underfunded will have to get by with even less.

aliforneycenter.jpgA resident at the Ali Forney Center for homeless LGBT youth in New York City, Castillo is one of many young people, gay and straight, who could be forced to the streets by a budget proposal from Gov. Andrew Cuomo that would eliminate $4.7 million in dedicated funds for homeless and runaway youth, gay and straight, statewide. The stark move is part of a measure that would consolidate 10 social service programs funded at $85 million into a $35 million competitive block grant.[...]

Still, cuts of any kind would severely hamper efforts at the city agency, which currently receives $1.4 million in state funding. The agency calculates that even a restoration by half would mean the loss of $750,000, or the equivalent of 19 shelter beds. That could prompt a petition to the strained city, which already kicks in nearly $11 million.

"The city is trying to do the best that it can, but we do need this to be a partnership," said Mullgrav, who testified against the governor's proposal in Albany last month. "We don't really receive federal funding."

Meanwhile, elsewhere in New York:

In the sort of coincidence that delights historians, conspiracy theorists, and book publishers, June 21 also happened to be the day Peterson threw a party--at Manhattan's Four Seasons restaurant, of course--to launch The Manny, the debut novel of his daughter, Holly, who lightly satirizes the lives and loves of financiers and their wives on the Upper East Side. The best seller fits neatly into the genre of modern "mommy lit"--USA Today advised readers to take it to the beach--but the author told me that she was inspired to write it in part by her belief that "people have no clue about how much money there is in this town."

Holly Peterson and I spoke several times about how the super-affluence of recent years has changed the meaning of wealth. "There's so much money on the Upper East Side right now," she said. "If you look at the original movie Wall Street, it was a phenomenon where there were men in their 30s and 40s making $2 and $3 million a year, and that was disgusting. But then you had the Internet age, and then globalization, and you had people in their 30s, through hedge funds and Goldman Sachs partner jobs, who were making $20, $30, $40 million a year. And there were a lot of them doing it. I think people making $5 million to $10 million definitely don't think they are making enough money."

As an example, she described a conversation with a couple at a Manhattan dinner party: "They started saying, 'If you're going to buy all this stuff, life starts getting really expensive. If you're going to do the NetJet thing'"--this is a service offering "fractional aircraft ownership" for those who do not wish to buy outright--"'and if you're going to have four houses, and you're going to run the four houses, it's like you start spending some money.'"

The clincher, Peterson says, came from the wife: "She turns to me and she goes, 'You know, the thing about 20'"--by this, she meant $20 million a year--"'is 20 is only 10 after taxes.' And everyone at the table is nodding."

America is not broke and there is enough money to provide homeless queer youth in New York City with a place to stay, what they need to survive, and a chance to get an education. And not just the queer youth in New York City, but all of the homeless.

The problem is that the people who think that $10 million a year isn't enough to get by have much more influence in our government and our economic system than the people who are forced to get by on several dollars or less a week. And their childish complaints have enough money behind them to influence the way our government works, while the real complaints of people who really do need help won't even be heard.

Even if someone could get the homeless to vote in greater numbers, politicians would just say, "Who are they going to vote for, a Republican?" and write them off in the same way anyone else with an income with fewer than six figures gets written off. Even if they ended up voting, they still wouldn't match the political contributions that the $10-million-a-year crowd, who never gets told that they have no alternative but to vote Republican, can make.

So the Democratic general assembly and governor are debating how many homeless people should be left to fend for themselves, and that includes the queer youth who just plain don't have the same advantages as the straight youth do.

The system is rigged against them in a dozen different ways, with safeguards set up to ensure that they don't get the help they need. Change.org has a petition that already has 13,000 signatures, and maybe just speaking to the individual actors' consciences will wake them up.

img: Ali Forney Center


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John R. Selig | March 21, 2011 6:06 PM

Please sign the petition at the very bottom of Alex's column on change.org to try and get the State of New York to stop this dreadful budget cut to services for homeless youth. The Ali Forney Center for homeless gay youth is doing incredibly important work. They need all of our help to knock some sense into the nuckleheads in Albany!

I'd encourage everyone to sign the petition too. I wish the link was much further up the post so more folks would see it.