Members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community of Queens have few non-HIV/AIDS-specific services available to them, and out of a $70 billion city budget, only a miniscule fraction goes to support LGBT programs and services in Queens — and not a single dollar goes to support Queens Pride House, the only LGBT community center in the borough as well as the only full-service, year-round staffed LGBT-specific social service provider in Queens.
We provide approximately 4,800 individual client services a year, including referrals to LGBT-supportive healthcare and social service providers, as well as a safe space for members and clients — many of whom are immigrants. We offer free supportive counseling and support groups for transgendered people, men, women and youth.
But we receive no discretionary funding from any City Council member nor funding through the Council’s LGBT Caucus. In fact, the speaker and the two openly gay members of the Queens delegation even funded the Bronx Community Pride Center (which never recovered from its executive director’s embezzlement of $339,000), while blocking funding for Queens Pride House through the LGBT Caucus when we requested it.
Our ability to serve the diverse but marginalized LGBT community of Queens depends on funding, and the reality is that Queens Pride House is underfunded and understaffed.
For over a decade, we have relied on competitively won funding from the State of New York through the governor’s LGBT health initiative, now potentially in jeopardy because Gov. Cuomo put that funding in the general pool of funds in the budget plan he announced on Jan. 22. For the first time in over a decade, the executive budget lumps funding for LGBT and non-LGBT-specific service providers together and cuts the disease prevention budget by 10 percent.
If funding for the initiative is eliminated, many of the 54 member organizations of the New York State LGBT Health & Human Services Network would have to close their doors, including Queens Pride House, which relies for more than half of its budget on the grant that it received five years ago from the Department of Health, now up for renewal.
Even if the LGBT health initiative is saved, a 10 percent across-the-board cut could be devastating for LGBT providers.
The DOH was to announce the award of grants in January, but the uncertainty surrounding funding for the LGBT health initiative in the state budget has already delayed the announcement for two months, and further delay could seriously diminish the ability of network member organizations to continue to serve the LGBT community. So the governor and the state Legislature must act to restore the budget line for LGBT-specific health and human services. And the City Council must act to effectively fund LGBT programs and services in Queens, including those provided by Queens Pride House, the borough’s only LGBT community center.
Pauline Park is president of the board of directors and acting executive director of Queens Pride House, which she co-founded.