It is disturbing that Mayor Bloomberg's budget proposal would cut needed services to so many of our city's most disadvantaged youths. But truly shocking are the cuts he proposes to homeless youth services, which would force 160 destitute children out of their shelter beds and into the streets. Especially since what is currently provided is grossly inadequate; there are currently only 250 youth shelter beds for a population of 4,000 homeless kids.
This reckless proposal must be met with outrage from the LGBT community. For LGBT youths, homelessness is a terrible crisis. In New York City, 40% of the youths suffering homelessness are LGBT. So many parents are unwilling to accept their LGBT children that an LGBT teen is eight times more likely to become homeless than a straight teen. And while the experience of homelessness is horrific for any teen; LGBT youths face greatly escalated risks of violence, HIV infection, and suicide when on the streets. These risks are greatly exacerbated by the shameful lack of shelter beds.
With the passage of marriage equality in New York State, there is growing awareness that too many of our youths are not sharing in our progress. It is galling to see political leaders who strongly supported the rights of LGBT adults to marry simultaneously take actions to bring great harm to the most vulnerable of our community. With so many parents refusing to support their LGBT children, adults face a particular obligation to support and advocate for our abandoned youths.
My husband, Bill Shea, and I have become heavily invested in this struggle. We have made a substantial gift to the Ali Forney Center, which provides housing and support to homeless LGBT youths, and Bill has joined its board.
We have also reached out to engage our friends in supporting homeless LGBT youths, recently hosting a cultivation event that raised an additional $40K. I have joined the organizing group of the Campaign for Youth Shelter, a coalition of LGBT youth providers and advocates that is seeking to have New York City and State commit to a plan to provide safe shelter for every homeless youth in NYC.
We must make it clear to Mayor Bloomberg and other elected officials, that they cannot be friends to the LGBT community if they seek to resolve our budget challenges by throwing our homeless children out of their shelter beds and leaving them in peril on the streets. Instead we call on him and others to work with us to see that a basic safety net is put in place to ensure that our most vulnerable youths have a chance be safe and survive.
FRANK SELVAGGI is a CPA and founding partner at Altman, Greenfield & Selvaggi, LLP, the New York City and Los Angeles accounting firm he cofounded in 1986, which specializes in business management for the entertainment industry. He served for six years on the board of the Empire State Pride Agenda and currently serves as treasurer on the board of directors of the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund and is a member of the board of Freedom to Marry. Selvaggi is a resident of both New York City and North Salem, N.Y. He married his longtime partner, Bill Shea, in Northampton, Mass., in May 2004.