Karen Ocamb

New York Gov. Cuomo May Slash Funding for LGBT Homeless Youth

Filed By Karen Ocamb | March 28, 2011 1:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Marriage Equality, Politics
Tags: Ali Forney Center, Carl Siciliano, Gov Cuomo, Ksen Pallegedara, LGBT Homeless, LGBT homeless in New York City, Paul Schindler

At the beginning of February, the New York Times looked at the budget cuts proposed by Democratic New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo in his $132.9 billion budget, compared to the budget priorities of his famous father, former Gov. Mario Cuomo:

When his father, Mario M. Cuomo, inherited a nearly $2 billion deficit on taking office as governor in 1983, he emphasized that fiscal prudence should not stop state government from providing "shelter for the homeless, work for the idle, care for the elderly and infirm and hope for the destitute" -- even as he prepared to ask for 14,000 state layoffs.

The younger Mr. Cuomo's message has been different. He argued on Tuesday that government spending was simply out of control.

"This is a death spiral," Mr. Cuomo said. "I believe if we continue doing what we're doing, the state goes down the road to ruin."

The Times noted that the budget proposes sharp cuts – $16 million – to New York City homeless shelters and $35 million more for a program that helps subsidize homeless people who get jobs. Arnold S. Cohen, the president of the Partnership for the Homeless, told The Times: "When you make deep cuts into services, especially for the most vulnerable, they have long-term social consequences...They might look good in the short term, but in the long term it's going to become more costly for us."

On Sunday, the New York Times reported that Cuomo had reached an agreement with the State Legislature on a tentative plan – the budget is due on Friday.

The Gay City News has been on top of the story. “In Governor Andrew Cuomo's budget proposal, the $4.7 million in state money that funds emergency homeless youth beds in the current fiscal year -- $1.4 of which went to New York City -- would be zeroed out as a dedicated revenue stream," wrote editor Paul Schindler.

Change.org has taken up the cause - citing in particular the impact on LGBT homeless youth at the Al Forney Center. See and sign their petition to Gov. Cuomo here.

On Sunday, March 27, Carl Siciliano, director of the Ali Forney Center, published an open letter to Gov. Cuomo in the Gay City News, which reads in part:

"It is inexplicable how you -- a longtime ally to the gay community and champion of civil rights for LGBT adults, who has repeatedly made a commitment to marriage equality in New York -- can have so little concern for the safety and welfare of these young people."

Not to go too far out on a limb here - but when you see how so many Republican governors have jumped on the union-busting bandwagon of Wisconsin Gov. Scott Perry ostensibly to help balance their budgets - I can't help but wonder if other Democratic governors might not follow Cuomo's lead in cutting social services. Angelinos should be concerned about this since, like New York City, Los Angeles is the dream-haven for so many of the nation's youth seeking a new life of acceptance. Please read Siciliano's entire letter inside.

An Open Letter to Governor Andrew Cuomo

A call to reverse the state budget proposal to eliminate funds for homeless youth

Ksen Pallegedara (l) and Carl Siciliano of the Ali Forney Center explain the dire situation for LGBT homeless in NYC to LGBT reporters and bloggers at a March 12 Haas Jr. Fund convening in San Francisco

BY CARL SICILIANO

Published: Sunday, March 27, 2011 1:07 PM CDT

Dear Governor Cuomo,

Last fall, I was honored to receive a call from your campaign staff inviting me to bring homeless lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) youths from the Ali Forney Center to a campaign event for you in Brooklyn with President Clinton. The youths were excited to see you and President Clinton, and we felt the invitation demonstrated a real concern from you about their lives and their plight.

Now, six months later, we are stunned and horrified by your proposal to put an end to any New York State support for homeless youth shelters. In New York City, there are 3,800 youth who go without shelter every night, over 1,000 of whom are LGBT. Fewer than 300 shelter beds currently exist for these kids, and every night, thousands are forced to fend for themselves on the streets.

Mr. Governor, I invite you to stop into one of our youth shelters. Maybe you can explain to our kids why they should be turned out of their beds and put in the street so you can give tax breaks to millionaires, to paraphrase your own father in his address at the 1984 Democratic Convention.

Maybe you could explain how they are supposed to survive alone on the streets at night. I don't have an answer for them, and their pain and confusion are palpable.

Most of our clients are the most vulnerable LGBT youth in the community, rejected and abused by parents who cannot accept having gay children, discarded and thrown out of their homes simply for being LGBT.

It is inexplicable how you -- a longtime ally to the gay community and champion of civil rights for LGBT adults, who has repeatedly made a commitment to marriage equality in New York -- can have so little concern for the safety and welfare of these young people.

How you can do this when the larger LGBT community and our allies are in a state of anguish over the plight of so many of our kids committing suicide, to which the national media finally paid extensive attention in the past six months, and which has prompted action from local and state governments across the country as well as the White House and the federal government?

The facts are shocking: studies show that 62 percent of homeless LGBT youth consider or attempt suicide, and 20 percent of homeless LGBT youth in New York City become infected with HIV.

Our community demands an explanation as to why, in a budget proposal that reduces spending by 2.7 percent, you are reducing programs for vulnerable youth by 50 percent and are eliminating all dedicated support for homeless youth. Why should destitute youth and other vulnerable populations across the state pay such a disproportionate price, especially when there are so many other areas of the budget where you could obtain the same fiscal results without the pain these cuts will cause?

Mr. Governor, I have no idea how to explain to our kids why they should be thrown out of their shelter beds. They want to know why such an LGBT-supportive politician who wanted their support has now put them in harm's way. They demand an answer and would like to hear from you directly.

Or, you could skip the visit and simply restore all the funding for homeless youth to the budget. The young people have an amazing capacity to forgive, even with all they have been through. Do away with your plan to eliminate funds and the plan of the State Legislature to cut those funds in half.

Our youths have no option but to look to you for wisdom and leadership, to see that their lives matter to you and have value, to see that they too are counted as citizens of our great state.

On their behalf, I implore you to protect homeless LGBT youth, and all homeless youth, not leave them out in the cold. Your words and actions will have a direct impact on these young New Yorkers.

They at least deserve an explanation.

Carl Siciliano

Executive Director

Ali Forney Center

New York City

The Ali Forney Center provides supportive housing and social, health, and mental health services for homeless LGBT youth in New York City.

img courtesy Gay City News, crossposted at LGBT POV


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I'll admit that I'm a little leery of crying foul only over the Ali Forney Center and their loss of cash, when it's not just an LGBT issue. As a community, we should be raising royal hell over cutting services to all kids and not just our own.