The Hetrick-Martin Institute, the nation’s oldest and largest LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Questioning) youth service provider believes that all young people, regardless of sexual orientation and identity, deserve a safe and supportive environment in which to achieve their full potential.¹ They design a combination of after-school programs and supportive services (mental health, pantry and hot meals) which provide an opportunity to young people to develop various skills and build confidence.
For many LGBTQ youth between the ages of 12 and 24, this is their only safe haven. Nearly 30 percent of LGBTQ youth are thrown out of their homes when they “come out.” Consequently, many of the Hetrick-Martin Institute’s “members,” as they call their young clients, are homeless or inadequately housed. In many cases, the Hetrick-Martin Institute provides a member’s only hot meal of the day. Teens have come from all over the world to take advantage of the Hetrick-Martin Institute’s warm sense of community.
There are fewer opportunities available to members today, however. Due to statewide budget cuts, the Hetrick-Martin Institute has lost all of its Out of School Time (OST) funding from the New York City Department of Youth & Community Development (DYCD) as well as all public funding supporting its Arts and Cultural programming – an area key to youth development. After-school programs are designed to fill the gap, giving families a cost-effective way to keep children safe, and to provide learning opportunities beyond the classroom.
Without this funding, the Hetrick-Martin Institute has been forced to discontinue its job preparedness and readiness programming. This includes its paid-internship and experiential programs, which offered a much-needed stipend and interview-appropriate clothing to low-income members, and provided participating members with marketable skills. The loss of this funding has likewise forced the Hetrick-Martin Institute to eliminate staff. In a country where less than 5% of all adults feel “safe” enough to be “out” in the workplace, this programming in particular is critical.
Cuts to OST funding are really a loss to society long-term. Studies have shown that $1 invested in after-school programs can save participants and taxpayers an average of $3, not including the reduction in crime.² After-school programs keep young people supervised and actively engaged in productive activities when they would otherwise resort to violence or risk-taking behaviors.
The cuts to the Hetrick-Martin Institute affect those most in need, financially and otherwise. LGBTQ services are already an under-funded and under-represented component of human services. Members of the LGBTQ community face limited access to health information, mental health services, academic planning services, and the list goes on. Lillian Rivera, Director of After-School Services, commented, “The Hetrick-Martin Institute is the largest and oldest LGBTQ program in New York City. If these are the cuts we face, I can only imagine what other programs must be going through.”
It may not stop here, unfortunately. Funds from legislative parties that support academic enrichment resources such as college visits and books for their GED program are not guaranteed. The Harvey Milk High School, a NYC Department of Education small transfer public high school that provides a safe and supportive environment to students who may not have met success in other venues, is subject to whatever cuts the Department of Education faces. As Rivera says, “Everything’s in jeopardy now.”
Contributed by Zan Margolis
of the Human Services Council of NYC
1See more of their mission statement at http://www.hmi.org/Page.aspx?pid=310