NYC Unity Project for LGBTQ youth announced by Chirlane McCray

The city is launching a new effort, the NYC Unity Project, to protect and serve LGBTQ youth, one of the most vulnerable populations in the city.

First lady Chirlane McCray said the NYC Unity Project, which pulls together resources from 16 city agencies, will “make sure our young people are safe, supported and healthy, no matter their sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expressions.” The city is initially going to spend $4.8 million on the program.

McCray announced Tuesday the city is creating a new 24-hour drop-in center in Jamaica specifically for LGBTQ youth. In addition, 500 physicians will be specially trained to provide health services to young LGBTQ people.

Speaking at the LGBT Community Center in Greenwich Village, McCray pointed out that nearly one-quarter of LGBTQ youth report being bullied on school property and are more than three times more likely to attempt suicide.

“We have a long way to go and it’s never been more urgent to get there,” McCray said. “With dangerous and hateful policies coming out of the White House and its allies, LGBTQ New Yorkers are on constant alert.”

McCray, who is married and has two children with Mayor Bill de Blasio, said she found acceptance and support in the city’s LGBTQ community when she arrived in 1977 as a “black, feminist, lesbian writer/poet.”

The drop-in centers, she said, are vital for young people to find refuge, support, counseling and referrals to services since many live away from home.

The success of the 24-hour center in Harlem convinced city officials to open one in Queens, she said.

The city also committed to having a single occupancy bathroom in every city school by January 2018.

Lavender, an LGBTQ young leader from the Hetrick-Martin Institute, said finding the nonprofit’s support and programming was life changing.

“It was amazing to see people who spoke my language and where I didn’t feel like I had to shrink to be something that I wasn’t,” Lavender said.

The initiative also calls for more training of staff in city schools and expanding mental health and suicide prevention resources across the city.

McCray said training doctors is important since LGBTQ young people have a difficult time finding health providers that understand their specific needs.

She said the first-ever training involves 500 physicians from the city’s Health and Hospitals Corporation facilities who will be certified in LGBTQ competent health service.