by Robert Moore
As my first winter living in New York City rolls on, I cannot help but think about all the homeless youth even more. The Midwest and the East Coast have experienced several snow storms this season. In January, New York had the most snowfall the city has ever had in a single month, and it looks like the 2010-2011 winter season will be the snowiest in history for the state. Although I am loving the cold weather and the snow (I think it is the Utah blood in me), I worry for all who do not have a warm safe place to go to. There are thousands of youth and young adults who, because of others’ insecurity, misinformation, or outdated thinking, are forced to fend for themselves years before they should ever have to worry about such things.
I am thankful that there are in New York a handful of shelters for youth to go to. But it is sad to see youth being overlooked and thrown out the window by our state and city governments. In between snow storms, on January 1st, New York mayor Michael Bloomberg announced he will be cutting funding for outreach to homeless youth in half, cut most drop-in centers for homeless youth by a third, and cut support for the two LGBT homeless youth drop-in programs in half. Two days later, Mayor Bloomberg released an “It Gets Better” video. In his video he says “Right now there may be some of you out there who feel that there’s no hope, or that you’re not wanted. Well, I have a message for you. New York City wants you. New York has always been the place where anyone can go and be who they’re supposed to be, regardless of ethnicity, religion, gender, or sexual identity. We need you.” As you can see, his actions are far from what his video promises.
After immediate rallies, protests, and petitions, on January 6 the New York City Council announced that they had reached an agreement to restore the funding for these life-saving services. The same fight is happening in cities across the country. Many of these attacks on homeless youth go unnoticed by the general public, and services end up losing their funding. We must hold our officials accountable for their words and actions. We must also make sure that the people we voted into office to speak for us are not causing harm to us or our loved ones. While I have focused my time and energy on many things from marriage equality to ending Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, the past couple of years I have stepped back and will be focusing all my time and energy on our youth. Once our youth are safe to attend school without being bullied to death and have a safe, accepting and loving place to call home, only then will it truly get better.