New York City advocates spoke out after the City Council voted to retain funding for several key services, including the Runaway and Homeless Youth Services program, and funding for HIV/AIDS housing and care services. The announcement comes after the council and Mayor Michael Bloomberg negotiated a $68.5 billion budget, also saving child care services, firehouses, and library funding, and jobs for 650 educators.
Bloomberg's initial proposed budget, submitted in May, slashed funding for several services, including one that provides financial help to homeless youth. The budget for services including the Ali Forney Center for homeless LGBT youth was to be cut by $7 million and eliminate 160 out of the 250 existing youth shelter beds across the city. Currently 199 young people are on the center's waiting list for its 77 beds, while the city itself has an estimated homeless youth population of 3,800.
"I am grateful to the New York City Council for preventing the catastrophic cuts to youth shelter beds proposed by the Mayor," Ali Forney Center executive director Carl Siciliano said in a statement Tuesday. "But maintaining 250 beds for 3,800 homeless youths is not a victory, especially for the youth whose lives are endangered as they suffer in the streets without access to shelter. I will continue to work to leverage the voices of the LGBT community, and other impacted communities, to vigorously demand that New York City adopt a plan to provide shelter to every homeless youth."
Council speaker Christine Quinn recently said services for people with HIV and AIDS could only be cut "over my dead body," Gay City News reports. Quinn and City Council member Annabel Palma identified $5.1 million in discretionary funds to restore funding for housing and nutrition services for people with HIV/AIDS.
“Homelessness is deadly for people living with HIV/AIDS, but Bloomberg’s public health priorities don’t seem to extend beyond his big soda ban lately,” said Wayne Starks, a VOCAL-NY board member and formerly homeless person living in supportive housing. “This administration has repeatedly slashed funding for housing programs that keep people with HIV/AIDS healthy, while introducing policies like drug testing that are simply an excuse to deny medically appropriate shelter.”