Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Bloomberg announces appointees to LGBT homeless youth commission

In what arguably was a campaign speech designed to court LGBT voters ahead of this year's general mayoral election, Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced last night at the annual Ali Forney Center fundraiser at the Chelsea Art Museum he had appointed 25 activists and others to the city's Commission for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Questioning Runaway and Homeless Youth.

These appointees include Ali Forney executive director Carl Siciliano, Ana Oliveira, president of the New York Women's Association and former executive director of the Gay Men's Health Crisis, incoming LGBT Community Center executive director Glennda Testone, Rabbi Sharon Kleinbaum of Congregation Beth Simchat Torah, Hetrick-Martin Institute executive director Thomas Krevor and Rickke Mananzala, executive director of FIERCE.

“New York City may be one of the most tolerant places on earth, but LGBTQ youth still face daily discrimination that forces many of them to leave home and sometimes make risky decisions,” Bloomberg said in a prepared statement released before he spoke at the fundraiser. “Today we are opening up a new front focused on serving lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning young people. The Commission’s recommendations will address the root causes of homelessness among this population and provide a blueprint for innovative and evidence-based solutions.”

City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, comedian Sandra Bernhard and singer Rufus Wainwright were among those in attendance, but this announcement comes nearly a year after the city threatened to slash federal Housing Opportunities for People with AIDS (HOPWA) funds that the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene had awarded to Ali Forney to operate its Chelsea drop-in facility. The City Council unanimously voted in December to restore the organization's HOPWA funds.

In spite of these cuts, Quinn praised the committee appointees.

“LGBTQ runaway and homeless youth face a unique set of challenges – from greater exposure to HIV/AIDS – to being ostracized by their families and communities,” Quinn said. “The group of experts serving on the New York City LGBTQ Runaway and Homeless Youth Commission give me great hope that we will be able to develop innovative solutions to confront these challenges.”

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