Friday, April 24, 2009

Lew Fidler

Dear friend of Runaway and Homeless Youth,

The recent RFP results have stirred some unhappiness among those of us who care deeply about Runaway and Homeless Youth. As with all RFP's, there are winners and losers. However, I am writing to you to address the two overriding concerns that I have as Chairperson of the Youth Services Committee, which as you know has held no fewer than 12 hearings on various aspects of the RHY problem under my leadership.

First, there is a real concern that there is a gap in the provision of services for LGBTQ youth.

Second, there is a concern about the reduced number of shelter beds.

As you also know, before the LGBTQ issue was addressed by my Committee and the Council, there were NO City funded shelter beds for LGBTQ youth despite the fact that as much as 1/3 of the RHY population is LGBTQ. This is and was totally unacceptable. We have made great strides in this, and I have to add, with the support and assistance of DYCD Commissioner Jeannie Mulgrav. Nonetheless, the results of this RFP may have had the inadvertent consequence of leaving large service gaps for LGBTQ youth.

There has been NO reduction in funding for shelter beds. The reduction in beds is a result of an increase in the funding allocation for cost per bed. I am sure our providers welcome the added funding per bed, but none of us welcome a reduction in the gross number of beds. I have fought mind, body and soul for shelter bed money and greatly appreciate my Council colleagues support for adding over $5 million annually for RHY shelter beds in the past several budgets.

As you can well imagine, I will not sit by idly under these circumstances which represent a step backward towards my goal of seeing to it that every child, and I do mean EVERY child, that needs a shelter bed is afforded that opportunity. Those who know me know that I mean that with all my heart.

Therefore, please be advised that the following steps have been and are being taken:

I have directed my finance analyst to get all funding data for the RHY program and track the changes that will take place as a result of the RFP results.

I have met with Speaker Quinn whose support in our RHY work has been constant and critical. She is fully aware of the problem and has assigned her staff to work closely with me on seeking solutions.

I have spoken to Commissioner Mullgrav to let her know that we need to work togther to find ways to close gaps in LGBTQ beds and drop in centers. She was, of course, willing to work with us on solutions. I have also spoken to her about finding a way to replenish the lost beds even in this difficult budget year.

The Speaker's staff and I will be meeting with DYCD in the very near future to begin the actual process of crafting a solution to both of these problems.

I want to assure the "winners" of the RFP that I do not presently view the withdrawal of the RFP as a solution. In addition to the legal difficulties with such---meaning that it may not even be an available option---I would prefer that we find the needed funds to fill the gaps affirmatively. I seriously doubt that anyone receiving this email would argue that the need not only exists, but is greater today in these tough economic times than it was before.

I would also ask that you correct some "bad information" that has circulated and is reflected in some mails, flyers and emails that I have seen.

There was no funidng cut for shelter beds or for that matter for LGBTQ shelter beds. The Council played no role whatoever in the decision making process for the RFP as this would be a violation of City law. I do not believe it is the intention of the DYCD Commissioner Jeannie Mullgrav to cause a diminuition of services for RHY youth or LGBTQ RHY youth. Please help get that word out. Misinformation is truly our enemy. When we have good and right on our side, false assertions hurt our cause more than anything.

Finally, you should know that my commitment to providing shelter beds for all, including LGBTQ youth, remains unwavering. I will keep you advised of our efforts and know that I will always be able to count on you for support in this noble fight.


Chairperson Youth Services Committee

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