Monday, April 27, 2009

Safe Haven for Youth

WE GOT ID's: Shelter Residents, & all current Drop-In clients.

The past 2 weeks MCCNY Homeless Youth Services has implemented an ID System for the safety of all the clients we serve at our full time Drop-In facility as well as our full time Shelter for LGBTQ Runaway and Homeless Youth of New York City.

As it was noted in the NYC Association of Homeless and Street-Involved Youth Organizations in last months meeting, as well as with firsthand accounts at Sylvia's Place and other agencies in the past few months, NYC has had a recent resurgence of gang-related activity at/near RHY programs around the city.

This is a clear attempt to access services via programs serving our vulnerable populations and further victimizing a RHY population already overwhelmed with issues hindering their ability to successfully develop. During the past 2 weeks we remained open to our youth and young adults but arranged an implementation of the IDs through phases 1 through 3. This entailed getting more clients to access services between the hours of 12 and 6pm during weekdays which will hopefully encourage more usage of our case management skills and all the work of our FT Social Worker, Tanino Minneci who has been with Sylvia's since day 1 of ongoing client services over 6 years ago. For the past 2 years he has been working during the day doing 1-on-1 case management and providing access to services such as obtaining legal documents for RHY clients, guiding clients through name and gender changes on legal documentation, developmental and life skills. These tools help a client achieve the goals necessary to transition from being a LGBTQ RHY to an independent living adult that each of our clients has the potential of in spite of being cast aside by family, friends, adults, and communities before being allowed a safe place to experience adolescent development and then move on to address their internal issues regarding their identity.

The Shelter remained staffed and functional for the same amount of hours previously operated, however to ensure a successful transition to a security system Drop-In was closed between the hours of 6 and 9pm for just over a week. MCCNY Homeless Youth Services saw a major increase of client participation and development during this time and a lot of happy clients who now feel even safer in an LGBTQ-Specific program than they did previously. Our agency has updated the thousands of client files, given IDs to all clients currently being served and is working on policy to continue through the final phases of the ID system without ever giving up on our pledge to be a first stop for this population, seeing that new comers have access to services while waiting on City Funded programs, most of which have waiting lists of over 100 clients long which results in an approximate waiting period of 1-5 months at minimum. We still take 1st time clients and always will. Of course this puts a large burden on our program to provide the many thousand homeless LGBTQ Youth of NYC a safe harbor until city funded agencies are able to fit a meager few of them into the next step which a Continuum of Care which MCCNY Homeless Youth Services remains excluded from in efforts to minimise the severity of this apparent epidemic that has plagued the most vulnerable, under served, under-represented, transient group of young people in the history of the United States of America.

That said... how many lives have been lost along the way by overlooking these kids for so long.

Be part of the solution and join the growing number of people seeing something and doing all in their power to see that these kids will not have to carry on through life with the INJUSTICES that continue each and every day.

Each morning the emerge to a society that does not "see them" or "the damage" being done to them by all who remain "ignorant", "ignoring them as people", or those "completely avoiding this crowd of surviving kids in need of help".

Now we will work on getting Staff and Volunteers them too if we can manage to keep up with the kids and the funding crisis.

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