Every night, thousands of lesbian, gay bisexual and transgender youth and young adults are homeless in New York City. Whether they have been kicked out by homophobic families, forced to flee conservative communities, aged out of foster care, or come from families torn apart by poverty, AIDS, drug abuse or eviction, these youth sleep in the City’s parks, on the subway, and in public facilities such as Port Authority and Penn Station. A fortunate minority find a safe haven in one of NYC’s handful of housing programs and shelters designed for this population, facilities so underfunded that youth wait months to get in or sleep on concrete floors and countertops. Another portion of the homeless youth population finds not-so-safe shelter in large, City-funded institutions or the men’s shelter on Ward’s Island, where they are subject to homophobic harassment- and even violence -at the hands of both staff and peers. The least fortunate of all find themselves practicing “survival sex” – trading their bodies for money or a place to stay.
Homeless LGBT youth face a variety of challenges including police harassment and arrest; rape; HIV infection; violence; substance abuse; and mental health issues including PTSD, depression, and suicide. With such steep obstacles, homeless LGBT youth need all the resources they can get, but this fiscal year, the NYC Dept. of Youth and Community Development has decided to turn their backs on this incredibly vulnerable population by systematically defunding LGBT-specific youth programs. With these recent budget cuts, New Alternatives for LGBT Homeless Youth is now the only organization serving this population that is open on Sundays, offering these youth a desperately needed safe space, a hot meal, and a weekly Life Skills Workshop.