Comedian and actress Sandra Bernhard and Lt. Dan Choi were among the hundreds that turned out for a rally in suppport of LGBT homeless youth yesterday in New York City's Union Square Park. Organized by the Ali Forney Center the event was staged to draw attention to cuts made to already underfunded programs that service this population. The problem is reaching epidemic scale, with an estimates being as high as 40% of homeless youths under 24 self-identifying as LGBTQ.
The City's modest contribution for places like the Ali Forney Center has been slashed and some at City Hall said it's wrong. "It's not a lot of money we're talking about and yet it could mean the difference between life and death," NYC Comptroller John Liu said. Liu is talking about the rise of anti-gay violence like the October attack on Jack Price in the College Point section of Queens that left the young man on the edge of death. Experts said the young, especially, need a safe place to stay.
According to WCBS, the City currently spends $12 million dollars on runaway and homeless youth services and the proposed budget would slash that in half, devastating the already over-taxed existing programs.
New York City Councilman Lewis Fidler began his speech by saying, "Organizers asked me to be gentle in my remarks…"
Which prompted, the not-so-gentle LGBT rights icon Choi to start booing playfully in dissent, a sentiment the crowd quickly echoed.
The crowd however, was not disappointed by the direction Fidler actually did go. The Bloomberg administration had released a press release that very day addressing a variety of strategies for combating the problem. Fidler noted, while it was great that Bloomberg administration was listening to Ali Forney Center and other advocates there was a missing element: Show us the money. They did not actually respond by recommending increased funding, or rethinking the proposed cuts. He pledged to vote against any budget that underfunded this vulnerable population and urged the crowd to call their own council members to do that same.