Last night while New Yorkers were home in their beds, over 3,800 young people were homeless in New York City — 1,600 spent the night outside, in an abandoned building or riding a subway train; 150 sold their bodies for food; and some turned to drugs to alleviate the pain of being homeless.
After struggling on their own, the luckier ones have managed to find a safe place like Green Chimneys. There, they are learning life skills, including how to cook a meal and clean their rooms; as well as being encouraged to attend school and dream of a future.
Like other teens, they enjoy expressing themselves in their own special way. Some have a flair for the latest fashions and makeup. Some are shy, but also imaginative, creative and hungry to experience success.
They are no different from other kids their age — except that a disproportionate number happen to be gay, lesbian, bi-sexual, transgender and questioning (LGBTQ).
The good news is that for the first time, New York City has a comprehensive look at its young homeless population and the results are startling:
In July of 2007 the City Council funded the Empire State Coalition of Youth and Family Services to survey over 1,000 youth who were either homeless or at-risk for homelessness. The research team found that there are some populations of youth that are grossly overrepresented in the homeless youth populations. These groups include: gay, lesbian and bisexual youth; youth who are transgender; minority youth; youth with some history of foster care; and youth who have been through either the juvenile justice or criminal justice systems.
“It is unimaginable that in the year 2007, the wealthiest city in the nation could allow thousands of its young people to sleep on the streets,” said Youth Services Committee Chair Lewis A. Fidler. “I’m ashamed as an elected official, I’m ashamed as a father, and I’m ashamed as a human being. This report supports the need for increased efforts to keep kids off of our streets. I am determined to have my colleagues on the Council restore Mayor Bloomberg’s proposed cuts to critical services for homeless youth. Such cuts are unacceptable from a societal point of view, but are also extremely penny-wise and pound foolish.”