|The corner of Christopher and Weehawken Streets.|
During my dozen years as a social worker in AIDS services in New York and San Francisco, we used to hear stories about homeless youth who put themselves at risk so they could quality for benefits, particularly housing. Many reported there was no other way to get housing. A tragic narrative yet, it is one that repeated today, all these years later. Several speakers echoed the point yesterday at City Hall. We were there to support Council Member CoreyJohnson's introduction of proposed city legislation to change HASA's medical eligibility to include asymptomatic HIV. Known as "HASA for All" this proposed legislation would expand HASA benefits to all low-income, HIV+ New York City residents. Everyone was there to demonstrate strong community support for this proposed expansion and stand against homelessness!
|Get youth out of the streets into housing.|
Carl Siciliano of the Ali Forney Center, noted that he was going to be quick because the youth with him spent too much time outside in the cold anyways. He specifically referred to the new study by the Urban Institute on survival sex among homeless LGBTQ youth.
Surviving the Streets of New York: Experiences of LGBTQ Youth, YMSM, and YWSW Engaged in Survival Sex
Meredith Dank, Jennifer Yahner, Kuniko Madden, Isela Banuelos, Lilly Yu, Andrea Ritchie, Mitchyll Mora, Brendan Conner
Read complete document: PDF
Document date: February 25, 2015
Released online: February 25, 2015
Based on interviews with 283 youth in New York City, this is the first study to focus on lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer or questioning (LGBTQ) youth; young men who have sex with men (YMSM); and young women who have sex with women (YWSW) who get involved in the commercial sex market in order to meet basic survival needs, such as food or shelter. The report documents these youth’s experiences and characteristics to gain a better understanding of why they engage in survival sex, describes how the support networks and systems in their lives have both helped them and let them down, and makes recommendations for better meeting the needs of this vulnerable population.
The study highlights the struggle of queer youth, often running away from abusive homes, hoping to find something better here, only to encounter more closed doors, limited services, and huge gaps in what is available for them. Many are told where to find the best couches to sleep on or where to sleep on the trains when they go looking for services. The number of beds available for homeless youth in New York rarely matches the needs.
And so people are organizing. At a zap of the human rights campaign fundraiser at the Waldorf Astoria last month, a few of us carried signs noting, “HRC 1% dines at the Waldorf while lgbt youth sleep in the streets.” Today, advocates are pushing for increased services for queer youth.
|Photo by Jamie Leo|
Gina Quattrochi and several other speakers talked about the risks youth are forced to handle as they cope on the streets, themselves becoming HIV positive, and still unable to quality for HASA. The gaps in housing services are startling.
Several speakers talked about being denied HASA, even though they were HIV positive.
We have to “get out of 1983, get out of 1985, get out of 1989, and join us in 2014,” noted Housing Works Senior VP Andrew Coamey at City Hall last fall.
Sadly, far too many still argue that AIDS is over, now that it mostly effects the poor, people of color. Yet, ACT UP reminds us, AIDS is not history.
HIV is spread by inequality, noted Council Member Corey Johnson, who introduced the HASA for all bill.
We have to move beyond the stigmas and follow the science. Housing is healthcare. Its the best way to end AIDS now. But people have to be able to get the housing. HASA for All moves the process.
Reginald Thomas Brown photos to the album:HASA Benefits To All Low-Income, HIV+ New York City at New York City Hall.