New York, NY—Amidst tragic rates of homelessness among youth, especially those who are LGBTQ+, the New York City Department of Youth and Community Development (NYCDYCD) has enforced with warnings an existing mandate that prevents youth from sleeping in 24-hour drop-in centers—even while there continues to be a shortage of permanent housing and safe and accessible youth beds in homeless shelters. Access to cots for resting is just one of the many vital service these drop-in centers provide, including food, access to laundry facilities, mental health counseling—and more.
Presently, there are not enough beds for youth, who often do not feel safe in shelters with adults. When youth are sleeping on subway trains, in parks, and other dangerous places, they are at higher risk of contracting HIV and are less likely to be connected to health care and to become virally suppressed.
“Partnerships with New York City service agencies and community-based organizations are essential to the health and well-being of youth who are homeless, live in unstable housing, and are experiencing multiple challenges that place them a high risk for new or untreated HIV infection,” said Kishani Moreno, GMHC’s Interim Chief Executive Officer and Chief Operating Officer. “Deeper systemic changes are needed to comprehensively address the needs of homeless LGBTQ+ youth, including support for Housing First programs, mental health and substance use treatment, and protection from violence. Preventing youth from sleeping in 24-hour drop-in shelters is not a sound public health solution.”
Instead of NYC picking on homeless LGBTQ+ youth and the organizations that help them, we need solutions that actually work. GMHC advocates for the following to improve the support needed for homeless youth and young adults ages 16 to 24:
- Fund Housing First programs that provide immediate, safe, and supportive housing where youth feel safe and can connect to additional care services;
- Support collocation of community-based organizations with complimentary missions, which structurally facilitates more opportunities for partnerships and decreases barriers to care;
- Increase relationships with corporate funders and other industries that could donate in support of permanent housing and supportive residential programs.
With growing violence throughout the country and in NYC, and all the unjust laws being passed against LGBTQ+ youth, we will see more homeless youth seeking assistance. Yet, when we invest in our youth and the programs that support them to thrive, they are able to continue their education, transition to the workforce—and even help other youth.