NYS Assembly Chairs Hevesi, Rosenthal and Davila Call on DYCD to Reconsider Directives Aimed at Runaway and Homeless Youth

New York, NY – Three New York State Assemblymembers – Andrew Hevesi, Linda Rosenthal, and Maritza Davila – are calling on New York City Department of Youth and Community Development (DYCD) to reconsider an agency directive issued on January 8th, 2023, which instructed drop-in centers for runaway and homeless youth (RHY) to prohibit clients from sleeping overnight in facilities, and to immediately remove cots/furniture used for sleeping.

The legislators – who chair the Assembly Committees on Children & Families, Housing, and Social Services – sent a letter to DYCD on February 23rd, 2023, to shed light on the efforts the state legislature has made to advance priorities for runaway and homeless youth, and to raise alarm over the city directive, which would have significant adverse impacts on youth and providers alike.

In their letter, the Assembly Chairs noted, “young runaway and homeless New Yorkers, above all else, need support systems based on a foundation of respect, kindness and understanding,” and continued, “...maintaining this foundation becomes exponentially more difficult when providers are left unable to meet RHY with the assistance they require when they need it.”

The legislators collaborated previously to support measures on behalf of runaway and homeless youth, which this year included a budget request spearheaded by Assemblymember Rosenthal, calling for an additional $10.85 million in the state budget for programs. The legislators stressed that while these programs would be geared towards addressing long-term concerns on behalf of this population – including housing and employment support – that short term assistance remained just as essential.

“When runaway and homeless youth turn for help, we need to be there with services that both meet their immediate needs like safety, food, and shelter, as well as address their longer-term needs,” said Assemblyman Andrew Hevesi (D-Queens), Committee on Children & Families. “Kids entering drop-in centers experience trauma at much higher rates than those from more stable circumstances. Reversing this directive is essential to maintain the trust that providers have built with clients, and to keep kids safe, away from those who would exploit their circumstances.”

“The City’s directive demanding the removal of cots in runaway and homeless youth (RHY) drop-in centers is nothing short of cruel,” said Assemblymember Linda B. Rosenthal (D/WF-Manhattan), Chair of the Committee on Housing in the New York State Assembly “Penalizing and dehumanizing kids who have often escaped traumatic and abusive

situations discourages young people everywhere from fleeing dangerous situations. We, as a City and State, have a moral obligation to offer a supportive hand, as well as a pathway to stable, affordable housing, to these vulnerable New Yorkers. While my colleagues and I will continue fighting for additional funding in the budget for RHY providers, we desperately need the City to find ways for young people to escape homelessness that does not rely on adult congregate shelters, but homes where they feel safe."

“It’s morally imperative that we keep drop-in centers open for our runaway and homeless youth population – so that they may receive emergency services in the time of need. These spaces are made primarily to help our most vulnerable receive food, shelter, mental health services and housing stability – it would be monstrous to neglect them of basic human necessities,” said Assemblywoman Maritza Davila (D-Brooklyn), Chair of Committee on Social Services. “We would be contributing to the abuse they’ve probably experienced at home. We need to find a solution that is beneficial to our youth and that does not include taking away essential services, even if it’s to get some rest.”

“Since their inception, the 24-hour Drop-In Centers (DICs) have played a crucial role in the NYC RHY continuum, and providers have gone above and beyond to create safe, supportive spaces for some of the most vulnerable youth experiencing homelessness. They are a service that youth rely on nightly and the numbers of youth that they serve every year speaks to not only the success of the model, but how successfully each program has been serving young people,” said Jamie Powlovich, Executive Director of the Coalition for Homeless Youth. “The Department of Youth and Community Development’s (DYCD) directive disallowing youth from resting safely in the DICs demonstrates a clear disconnect between the true needs of homelessness young people and the city agency that is tasked with serving them.”