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Homeless Youth Face New Directive Against Drop-In Centers

With the population of homeless youth growing by the day in New York City, a directive announced last month has limited the already scarce list of comforts provided at nonprofits around the five boroughs. Issued on January 13, 2023, the city-wide ban prohibits sleeping at overnight drop-in centers designed for unhoused youth.


It is important to note that these drop-in centers are not shelters but rather 24-hour, multi-purpose safe spaces for people aged 14 to 24 in the New York City area. The centers offer a number of important services, including food, laundry, and, previously, beds.


Passed by the Department of Youth and Community Development, the goal of the new directive is to prevent drop-in centers from becoming backup shelters, as the purpose of the centers is to transition youth to new long-term facilities if need be. Unfortunately, appropriate shelter placement is a struggle for many youths, and the drop-in centers allow for immediate assistance.


Unsurprisingly, the directive has been met with much resistance from noncompliant staff looking to protect the right of their clients to rest. In a statement shared with the New York Times, director of the Ali Forney centre Alex Roque argued, "If the city threatens us and takes away our funding, I will continue to let our clients sleep, because that’s what’s at stake—their mental health is at stake."


As many homeless youths are queer, victims of mental health struggles, and experiencing a number of other challenges, a crucial aspect of the transitional centers is to assist clients in their efforts to support themselves. As such, these centers offer career assistance to foster financial independence, yet productivity is limited when physical health, mental health, and morale are not fostered with equal care.


Although there has been a great deal of pushback from youth and youth centers alike, the ban remains in effect as a means of ensuring the centers do not take on more responsibilities than they are designed to accommodate. Furthermore, the Department of Youth and Community Development has specified that short-term "rest" is allowed.


It is hard to say how strongly this new directive will be enforced and the effects it will have on mitigating services among shelters and youth centers, but what is certain at the moment is that new restrictions are deterring children and young adults in need from seeking support from the state.

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Tags: #homelessyouth #dropinshelters #unhousedyouth #newyorkcity


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