The NYC Unity Works program and the Ali Forney Center will roll out a job and education program for homeless and runaway LGBTQ youth starting on October 18.
This program, led by the NYC Unity Project, a city-based LGBTQ youth workforce initiative, is intended to serve as an employment pipeline for queer and trans people experiencing or at risk of homelessness. The program is being lifted back up after it was paused due to budget cuts, and the city plans to provide 90 young adults from the ages of 16 to 24 with paid internships, job readiness training, and other critical services, in the hopes of building long-term career opportunities to end the homelessness crisis. As of March of this year, approximately 90 percent of LGBTQ youth served by the Ali Forney center had lost their jobs, while 65 percent lost the education structure that was installed pre-pandemic.
For up to three years, participants will have access to LGBTQ-affirming job developers, case navigators, and support to earn a High School Equivalency (HSE) diploma and develop connections for a college degree. The program will also support LGBTQ individuals in securing food, clothing, and updating their ID documents. This initiative is backed by Mayor Bill de Blasio’s Department of Youth and Community Development, NYC Center for Youth Employment, and the Mayor’s Fund to Advance New York City.
Phillip Thompson, deputy mayor for strategic policy initiatives, said he hopes the program can provide economic relief to homeless LGBTQ youth of color, who are hit hardest by the pandemic.
“Youth at the intersection of these experiences and identities have been particularly vulnerable to the social and economic impacts of COVID-19,” Thompson said in a written statement to Gay City News. “As the city’s recovery continues, we are committed to ensuring LGBTQI+ youth are well-positioned to take part in its success.”
The president and executive director of the Ali Forney Center, Alexander Roque, said the resources are needed to help keep LGBTQ youth off the streets.
“The launch of this vital program signals the constantly growing commitment by our city to ensure our youths have the support and services they need to exit homelessness,” Roque said in a written statement. “Above all, it demonstrates that in spite of what their homophobic and transphobic families believe, that New York City cares about them and believes that they are worthy of equal access to educational and career pathways.”
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