Homeless Youth Need Help and a Steady Job

A Letter to the Editor of The New York Times urging the City to help unaccompanied homeless youth, ages 16 to 20, appeared in the January 1 editions of the Times written by Judith Goldiner, the Attorney-in-Charge of the Society’s Civil Law Reform Unit.

The Society and Patterson, Belknap, Webb & Tyler have challenged the City’s lack of beds and care for these youth in a lawsuit urging right to shelter and services appropriate for the needs of these young people.

The New York Times
For the Homeless, Help and a Steady Job
Jan. 1, 2016

To the Editor:

Re “Finally, Urgency on New York’s Homeless ” (editorial, Dec. 23):

While we applaud Mayor Bill de Blasio’s recent attention to homeless adults and families in New York City, his plan ignores a highly vulnerable — and largely invisible — population: unaccompanied homeless youths ages 16 to 20. Instead of helping these needy youths, the mayor has been fighting them in court for years.

There are over 3,800 homeless youths in New York City, yet the city provides just 216 beds for youths. Waiting lists for youth shelters stretch into the hundreds.

The results are tragic. Homeless youths sleep on the subway or in public parks and abandoned buildings. Many trade sex with strangers for a place to stay. These survival tactics expose them to life-threatening dangers: malnutrition, sex trafficking, assault and H.I.V. One of every four homeless youth will attempt suicide.

Without shelter and services, homeless youths are far more likely to become homeless adults. It is time for the city to agree that homeless youths have a right to shelter and services appropriate for their needs.

New York
The writer is attorney-in-charge of the Civil Law Reform Unit of the Legal Aid Society.