First Lady Chirlane McCray Launches NYC Unity Project, First Ever Citywide Commitment to Support LGBTQ Youth
September 19, 2017
City will initially invest $4.8 million in a multi-agency effort to expand holistic services for LGBTQ youth, including a new drop in shelter, inclusive education, employment training and transgender healthcare
NEW YORK—In the face of dangerous, divisive rhetoric and policies coming from the Trump administration targeting the LGBTQ community, First Lady Chirlane McCray today launched the NYC Unity Project – the City’s first-ever, multi-agency strategy to deliver unique services to LGBTQ youth, including a new 24-hour drop-in center in Jamaica, Queens that will open in October 2017.
This bold commitment unites 16 city agencies to offer new and enhanced programs and supports, including trainings and certification for more than 500 Health + Hospitals physicians, as well as a public awareness campaign centered on LGBTQ youth and their families. It also includes funding for seven new Community Coalitions aimed at reducing alcohol and substance misuse. These programs will not just benefit LGBTQ youth, but will be available to all youth. This first phase of the NYC Unity Project will provide the foundation upon which future investments and programming can be built by bringing together stakeholders to address the root causes of persistent inequities.
“For so many young people, including myself, New York City was the first place they could unapologetically be themselves and feel truly at home,” said First Lady of NYC Chirlane McCray, who leads the City’s mental health and substance misuse efforts. “As our communities are under attack from leadership in Washington, DC, there is no question we need to come together to do more and do better to make sure no LGBTQ young person falls through the cracks. As we make NYC an affirming place for our most vulnerable youth, we make it an affirming place for all youth. Together, we’ll make sure all New Yorkers know that New York City is a city for everyone.”
“NYC has long been a leader in the fight for LGBTQ equality. This plan will advance the progress we have made even further to ensure total support for our youngest, LGBTQ New Yorkers. I applaud the First Lady for spearheading this necessary conversation on how we as a City can do better to serve our most vulnerable kids,” said NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio.
“We are committed to ensuring that every New York City child can fully enjoy their youth and have a healthy transition into adulthood. But we know that some children are hindered along this journey. LGBTQ youth can face unique challenges of isolation, rejection and lack of access to essential services and resources,” said Richard Buery, Deputy Mayor for Strategic Policy Initiatives and Co-Chair of the NYC Children’s Cabinet. “By tackling some of the root causes of inequity together as a City, we can give LGBTQ youth the opportunities they deserve to excel in their home lives, at school, in their neighborhoods, and ultimately in their future.”
“The NYC Unity Project is another powerful example of how New York City is leading the charge in creating affirming, safe spaces for all,” said Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services Dr. Herminia Palacio. “This comprehensive, collaborative plan will benefit our most vulnerable LGBTQ youth across the spectrum of health, health care and social services to ensure they receive needed resources in a consistently welcome environment.”
“The NYC Unity Project takes another crucial step towards affirming and supporting our LGBTQ community, and builds on the Council’s commitment to protecting the rights and lives of LGBTQ New Yorkers,” said Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito. “I thank the First Lady for taking the lead on this very important initiative to help the LGBTQ community and ensure that New York City remains inclusive of all.”
“The First Lady’s NYC Unity Project is a comprehensive approach that will help support our LGBTQ youth with care and services specially tailored to them,” said Health Commissioner Dr. Mary T. Bassett. “Data details the mental health challenges faced by LGBTQ youth, including stress, bullying and depression, and attempted suicide. Working together with LGBTQ youth, parents, faith leaders, community-based organizations and others, we can address the root causes of inequity by ending homophobia, transphobia, racism and other structural barriers.”
“We applaud First Lady McCray for launching the NYC Unity Project to provide much-needed resources to better serve LGBTQ New Yorkers and create spaces, city-wide, where our community can access quality care and support,” said Glennda Testone, Executive Director of The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Community Center. “As the long-time home for NYC’s LGBTQ community, The Center knows just how crucial affirming, supportive spaces are to helping LGBTQ New Yorkers lead the happy, healthy lives we deserve.”
“Safety, access to resources for success, and inclusiveness – the hallmarks of the First Lady McCray’s new policy – are the rights of every young person and the tenets which HMI advocates for throughout our work. We are thrilled to see such brave steps being taken by this administration to proactively support our city’s most vulnerable and underserved, LGBTQ youth,” said Thomas Krever, CEO of the Hetrick-Martin Institute.
“The Trevor Project thanks the City of New York and First Lady Chirlane McCray for standing up for LGBTQ young people,” said Amit Paley, CEO & Executive Director of The Trevor Project, the nation’s leading suicide prevention and crisis intervention organization for LGBTQ youth. “We celebrate the NYC Unity Project’s commitment to improving mental health care and suicide prevention services for our community. Trevor Project research shows that providing crisis support for LGBTQ youth save lives. We applaud the City for ensuring New York is safe for all young people, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.”
While New York City is home to a vibrant LGBTQ community, too many vulnerable young people are still falling through the cracks. Evidence demonstrates that while NYC’s LGBTQ youth fare better than others in the nation, they are still far more likely to experience an array of social, physical and mental health challenges. NYC’s LGBTQ youth are 20 percent more likely to experience dating violence and attempt suicide.
Among the many commitments outlined in the report across the participating city agencies, the NYC Unity Project is:
Expanding mental health and suicide prevention resources across city agencies to address the specific needs of LGBTQ young people through enhanced training for Mental Health School Consultants, counselors at NYC Well, and the city’s Mental Health Service Corps.
Ensuring every city school has single occupancy restrooms available by January 2018.
Improving workshops that promote healthy relationships and making sex education more inclusive.
Providing more support for Gender Sexuality Alliances in schools. This includes hosting a GSA summit in spring 2018 and ensuring every guidance counselor in NYC has the resources to help students create their own GSA.
Engaging with faith leaders to convene a summit of more than 100 faith leaders this winter.
Unlocking employment opportunities with tailored career services and job training, including the Human Resource Administration’s Youth Pathways, which reaches up to 14,500 youth each year.
NYC Unity Project includes participation from the Administration for Children’s Services, NYC Children’s Cabinet, Commission on Gender Equity, Commission on Human Rights, Department of Education, Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, Department of Homeless Services, Department of Youth and Community Development, Human Resources Administration, Mayor’s Center for Faith and Community Partnerships, Mayor’s Fund to Advance New York City, Mayor’s Community Affairs Unit, Mayor’s Office of Operations, Mayor’s Office to Combat Domestic Violence, New York Police Department, and NYC Health + Hospitals.
New York City is already at work developing the next phase of this effort, creating additional opportunities for partnerships in public schools, health clinics, shelters, and hospitals. The City intends to work closely with community-based organizations and LGBTQ youth to identify additional challenges and design ways to address them.
The City continues to lead the nation in protecting LGBTQ rights. In June, the de Blasio administration published New York City’s first-ever LGBTQ Healthcare Bill of Rights. In June 2016, New York City became the first municipality to launch a citywide campaign specifically affirming the right of transgender individuals to use the bathroom consistent with their gender identity or expression. In March 2016, Mayor de Blasio issued an executive order requiring City agencies to ensure that employees and members of the public are given equal access to City single-sex facilities without being required to show identification, medical documentation or any other form of proof or verification of gender. In December 2015, the NYC Commission on Human Rights issued legal enforcement guidance defining specific gender identity protections under the City Human Rights Law, including equal bathroom access.
The administration has also enhanced services to address LGBTQ homelessness, including opening a 24-hour drop-in center in Harlem specializing in the LGBTQ community, and the first-ever City-funded transitional independent living homes with specialized services for transgender youth. Earlier this year, the de Blasio Administration opened Marsha’s House—named after famed LGBTQ activist Marsha P. Johnson—in the Bronx, the first-ever shelter for LGBTQ young persons in the New York City adult shelter system, offering nearly 90 homeless individuals, 30 years and under, the opportunity to be sheltered in a welcoming and supportive space providing targeted resources. The administration has also funded 500 additional beds for runaway and homeless youth, all of which are available to LGBTQ youth. During FY18, the total number of beds brought online will expand to 653, with a total of 753 by end of FY19.
“NYC Health + Hospitals has a long history of being our city’s health care provider of choice for vulnerable populations, and we are once again at the ready, caring about and caring for LGBTQ youth,” said Stanley Brezenoff, Interim President and CEO of NYC Health + Hospitals. “New York’s LGBTQ youth should stand proud, and we are proud to stand with them in providing the health care services they deserve.”
“I commend First Lady Chirlane McCray on creating and leading the implementation of the NYC Unity Project to ensure the city continues to address the challenges many LGBTQ youth experience,” said ACS Commissioner David A. Hansell. “Within the child welfare system, we have gone farther than ever before to align our policies and practices to the best modern standards of care, including requiring our provider agencies to respect and affirm gender identity, and ensure young people in our care get the gender affirming health care they need. We look forward to working with our partners in government to build on this vital work.”
“As a member of the NYC Children’s Cabinet, the Department of Youth and Community Development works collaboratively with other agencies to develop and implement effective programs and policies to address the needs of our young people and their families,” said DYCD Commissioner Bill Chong. “The NYC Unity Project is an exciting initiative that focuses on the LGBTQ community and which further demonstrates the administration’s commitment to generating innovative solutions and moving beyond a one-size-fits-all approach. I thank First Lady Chirlane McCray for her leadership and for standing up on behalf of our vulnerable youth.”
“Providing every student – regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity/expression – with a safe, supportive and inclusive learning environment remains our highest priority, and we look forward to working with the First Lady to implement the important initiatives outlined in the NYC Unity Project,” said Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña. “As part of our ongoing work to increase support for LGBT students, we updated our transgender and gender nonconforming guidelines and are adding single-stall bathrooms to all schools, and this plan will provide additional resources for students, families and school communities.”
“Giving all young people an opportunity to succeed is our top priority in New York City—and for LGBTQ youth facing homelessness, that means providing access to dedicated shelter spaces, policies, and programming that will help these young people stabilize their lives,” said Department of Social Services Commissioner Steven Banks. “That’s why earlier this year, we opened Marsha’s House in the Bronx, the first-ever shelter for LGBTQ young people in the New York City adult shelter system. Named after famed LGBTQ activist Marsha P. Johnson, this facility gives nearly 90 homeless individuals up to and including age 30 the opportunity to be sheltered in a welcoming and supportive space providing targeted resources—and demonstrates this Administration’s dedication to ensuring LGBTQ homeless youth have the tools, resources and opportunities to lead healthy, inclusive and successful lives. As we transform a shelter system that has built up in a haphazard way over many decades, we continue to improve and increase collaboration with partner agencies across the City to ensure we effectively address the unique needs of young LGBTQ New Yorkers with the dignity and the services they deserve.”
“I am pleased to support and promote the strategies and investments articulated by the NYC Unity Project,” said Benita Miller, Executive Director of the NYC Children’s Cabinet. “These enhanced efforts help to reduce stigma, promote safety and inclusion of our young LGBTQ New Yorkers. The NYC Children’s Cabinet places great emphasis on early education, highlighting how important it is for parents to allow children to grow into their own – free from their family’s expectations, and societal pressures to conform to a specific gender identity.”
“It is critical for LGBTQ youth to feel loved, accepted, and supported in their own communities in order to lead happy, healthy, and productive lives, including in their homes and places of worship,” said Carmelyn P. Malalis, Chair and Commissioner of the NYC Human Rights Commission, “Which is why the Commission will be partnering with community organizations and city agencies to educate parents about how to have supportive conversations around sexual orientation and gender identity and expression with their children. The Commission will also continue to engage faith leaders across the city to ensure houses of worship serve as safe and affirming spaces for LGBTQ youth and their families. I commend First Lady Chirlane McCray and her team for bringing us together to reaffirm New York City’s commitment to effectively creating and preserving supportive communities for young New Yorkers.”
“New York City would not be the dynamic and vibrant city we know without the contributions of our LGBTQ youth, yet they continue to face enormous obstacles,” said Gabrielle Fialkoff, Senior Advisor to the Mayor and Director of the Office of Strategic Partnerships. “With the NYC Unity Project, First Lady McCray is making it clear that we recognize how important this community is to our City. I’m honored to use my post to build partnerships with the private sector to ensure these young people have all the support and tools they need to thrive in all aspects of their lives.”
“The Mayor’s Fund is thrilled to support the LGBTQ community through the First Lady’s NYC Unity Project. Over the past year the Center for Youth Employment (CYE), an initiative of the Mayor’s Fund, has advanced this work through the planning of a best practices manual that will guide NYC’s youth workforce community and employers across the city in creating LGBTQ-friendly and affirming practices,” said Darren Bloch, Executive Director of the Mayor’s Fund to Advance NYC. In the coming months CYE will continue to work with our City agency partners to advance this work. We applaud the First Lady’s leadership in making New York City a welcoming place of opportunity for all New York residents.”
“Although tremendous progress has been made in recent years for LGBTQ equality, young people making the courageous journeys of discovering and expressing their sexual and gender identities continue to encounter significant challenges such as family and peer rejection,” said Matthew McMorrow, Senior Advisor for LGBTQ Community Affairs, Mayor’s Community Affairs Unit. “By launching NYC Unity Project, First Lady Chirlane McCray is boldly confronting these challenges head on and sending the message to our LGBTQ youth that they are supported, valued and celebrated in our nation’s largest and most diverse city. It is a humble honor to work with the First Lady, City agencies, and community partners to help develop and launch this comprehensive strategy that will save lives, enrich our city, and allow young people to unlock their full potentials.”
“Our youth represent the future of our City and we have a responsibility to provide them with the tools, resources and services they need to thrive, regardless of their sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression,” said State Senator Gustavo Rivera. “This initiative takes us one step closer towards addressing the challenges faced by our LGBTQ youth. I commend Mayor de Blasio and his administration for implementing a comprehensive plan of services to ensure our LGBTQ youth receive the support they need whether they are at school, at the doctor, or at home.”
“Making sure LGBTQ youth have every resource available to them, regardless of where they live or what community they come from, must be an absolute priority for New York,” said State Senator Brad Hoylman. “Getting to the root of the many issues these young people can face will help set them up for a brighter, fuller future. I’m grateful to Mayor de Blasio for this initiative and for his commitment to LGBTQ people of all ages.”
“New York City has made great strides in making young LGBTQ New Yorkers feel safe, supported, and healthy,” said Assembly Health Committee Chair Richard N. Gottfried. “But more needs to be done to eliminate barriers to services that can help LGBTQ youth in crisis, and to ensure that LGBT youth know about the resources available to them. I applaud the work of the de Blasio administration for conducting more outreach to LGBTQ youth and coordinating City agencies’ efforts to address the unique challenges confronting LGBTQ youth.”
“I am very pleased that the City is bringing together so many agencies to initiate an intersectional approach to assessing needs, identifying service gaps, and strengthening the safety net for LGBTQ youth. From making sex education more inclusive, to creating more safe spaces in schools, to training health care providers on clinical care, this much-needed initiative shows that New York City firmly supports our LGBTQ youth,” said Assembly Member Jo Anne Simon.
Council Member Rosie Mendez, Chair of the LGBT Caucus said, “I applaud the efforts in working towards a more inclusive system for our LGBTQ Youth, one of the most vulnerable communities within our City. The NYC Unity Project is a multi-agency initiative that is needed to ensure that all residents are treated equally and can access any and all services provided by NYC while respecting the identity and rights of the LGBTQ community. The LGBT Caucus is actively working to pass legislation that would complement this initiative. Together, we can establish a model for other cities to replicate that will protect and serve every member of our society equally. New York City is prepared to provide the appropriate services and funding needed that will demonstrate that we respect everyone’s individuality.”
“All New Yorkers should feel that the city government works for them. But for LGBTQ youth, navigating through city agencies to find help is often difficult and confusing,” said Majority Leader Jimmy Van Bramer. “The NYC Unity Project launched by First Lady McCray will make a real difference in the lives of LGBTQ youth in every neighborhood by coordinating the efforts of city agencies to make essential services more accessible. I thank First Lady McCray and the de Blasio administration for protecting the rights of LGBTQ New Yorkers and for their steadfast commitment to making our city a place where all feel welcome.”
“Protecting and serving our most vulnerable populations is one of the most important parts of public service,” said Council Member Corey Johnson, Chair of the Health Committee. “I know firsthand the struggles that LGBT youth face and the need for specific strategies and services to address them. Thanks to First Lady Chirlane McCray for using her platform to highlight the causes of those in greatest need.”
“Protecting LGBTQ students in our public schools has been a lifelong goal of mine and I stand proudly with First Lady Chirlane McCray to ensure the success of the NYC Unity Project,” said NYC Council Education Committee Chairperson Daniel Dromm, who prior to being elected to the Council was an out gay NYC public school teacher for 25 years. “Ensuring students have access to Gay Straight Alliances or Gender Sexuality Alliances and other safe spaces is extremely important. A coordinated effort between 16 agencies sends a clear message that NYC values its LGBTQ youth just as they are. Most importantly, service providers, especially teachers, now know that the de Blasio administration has their back and encourages their support and guidance. LGBTQ teachers serve as great role models for our LGBTQ youth and will welcome the NYC Unity Project with open arms.”
“The NYC Unity Project will strengthen New York City’s embrace of one of its most vulnerable populations,” said Council Member Ritchie Torres. It is heartening that a wide coalition of city agencies have signaled their commitment to expanding services for LGBTQ youth, who are more likely to feel alone in this massive city. I look forward to joining the First Lady in further institutionalizing LGBTQ services in every corner of the five boroughs.”
New York City has always been at the forefront in history of the gay rights movement and the way we are addressing mental health issues amongst the youth of the LGTBQ community is no exception. The NYC Unity Project is a much needed collaborative effort to address this at risk population – LGTBQ youth are twice as likely to attempt suicide than their non-LGTBQ counterparts. I commend the Administration for their work towards addressing this issue,” said Council Member Andrew Cohen, Chair of the Committee on Mental Health, Developmental Disabilities, Alcoholism, Substance Abuse, and Disability Services.
“LGBTQ youth have always been one of the most vulnerable populations and with today’s national political climate, that has never rung more true,” said Council Member James Vacca. “While New York City already offers a wealth of resources and services to all residents, the needs of LGBTQ youth are specific. We must go above and beyond in addressing these needs, and I’m incredibly happy to see First Lady Chirlane McCray spearhead the launch of the NYC Unity Project to accomplish just this goal.”
“The Caribbean Equality Project salutes the First Lady Chirlane McCray on paving the way to guarantee NYC’s diverse and multi-cultural LGBTQ youth population is protected and empowered with the tools and resources to thrive and succeed in safe educational, faith-based, and medical institutions city-wide. New York City represents the single largest population of Caribbean people outside of the Caribbean Islands and countries. As an immigrant-led, social justice and human rights organization, we pledge to work with city agencies to ensure Caribbean communities throughout NYC welcomes, affirms, and supports the identities and experiences of every LGBTQ individual,” said Mohamed Q. Amin, Founder and Executive Director of the Carribean Equality Project.
“Parental and societal acceptance for LGBTQ children plays a critical role in a child’s risk for mental and physical health and has been shown to dramatically decrease their risk for depression, HIV infection and substance abuse,” said Joanne M. Oplustil, President and CEO of CAMBA/CAMBA Housing Ventures. “CAMBA fully supports First Lady Chirlane McCray’s NYC Unity Project and we look forward to furthering this important work here in Brooklyn.”
“Chirlane McCray’s Unity Project is a much needed step in addressing the needs of LGBTQ youth in our city. We salute NYC’s First Lady and her team for recognizing this pressing need and assembling a coalition of agencies and leaders to prioritize the needs of an extremely vulnerable population. We look forward to working with McCray and the administration on the Unity Project,” said Jean Malpas, Director of the Gender & Family Project of the Ackerman Institute for the Family.
“Linking arms across generations is essential to the wellbeing of our diverse, LGBTQ community,” says Michael Adams, CEO of SAGE, the nation’s largest and oldest organization dedicated to improving the lives of LGBT elders. “We at SAGE celebrate our community’s young people and stand with them in opposing injustices that harm us all. Our elders have a lifetime of experience to harness, while young people energize the fight for a world where people of all ages are valued and can reach their full potential.”
“At a time when federal protections for marginalized people are being eroded, local support for the most vulnerable in our communities is particularly crucial. As we observe at Callen-Lorde Community Health Center every day, LGBTQ youth experience continued high levels of homelessness, preventable health problems, and suicide. We are grateful for the First Lady’s leadership in bringing these issues to the forefront, her determined commitment to a coordinated approach to serving LGBTQ youth and the initial investment of critical resources,” said Wendy Stark, Executive Director of the Callen-Lorde Community Health Center.
“We are excited that the animating idea behind the NYC Unity Project is that for LGBTQ youth to be affirmed as they grow and to thrive, they need to find safety, acceptance and support in every aspect of their lives. The holistic approach of working to make families, schools, and every other community organization that touches upon LGBTQ youth better equipped to embrace and support them is critical. We salute the City for bringing together programs and services across a range of agencies under one comprehensive strategy and look forward to working with our City partners to help reach families and youth throughout New York City,” said Drew Tagliabue, Executive Director of PFLAG NYC.
“As the entire LGBT community is coming under increasing attack by the Trump Administration, I’m proud that Mayor de Blasio and First Lady McCray are standing up for LGBT youth here in New York,” said Rose Christ, President of the Stonewall Democratic Club of NYC. “LGBT youth are some of the most vulnerable among us, and often the least able to navigate the web of city services. The NYC Unity Project will help ensure that LGBT youth across the city receive the resources they need, as well as cohesive services and support.”
“The NYC Unity Project demonstrates our city’s commitment to meeting the needs of LGBTQ youth,” said Michael Mallon, president of the Lesbian and Gay Democratic Club of Queens. “This coordinated effort is a great step toward ensuring that LGBTQ young people are kept safe and receive quality city services across the board. As LGBTQ activists who have worked tirelessly over the years to make NYC more LGBTQ-inclusive, we applaud the First Lady for leading this important effort. We look forward to working with her on this and other projects that empower NYC’s traditionally marginalized communities.”
“This new interagency plan no longer allows our city to remain stubborn or ignorant to the issues that affect our LGBTQ youth. It is forcing all of us to deal with the inequality that has caused pain and some of our beliefs to so that we can begin to deal with pain,” said Yehoshua Talbert, Development and Finance Director of the Kiki Coalition.
“Around the world, LGBTQI youth look to New York City as a place of hope and possibility. With the NYC Unity Project, the city has affirmed its commitment to those youth and is setting an example for cities across the country. Our world is far better for LGBTQI youth than it once was but there is tremendous work to be done to ensure that these young people are cared for and given the opportunities to thrive that they deserve. The NYC Unity Project is a groundbreaking and much needed effort that we believe will have a relationship impact on the needs of our youth. We’re grateful to First Lady McCray for her commitment, creativity, and perseverance,” said Gabriel Blau, Co-Chair of Equality NY.
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Sheri A. Lunn, Trevor Project Vice President of Marketing & Strategic Engagement