Handing Over Power
Our final afternoon took us to a combined presentation from Point Source Youth and the Ali Forney Center. Two highlights were learning about authentic leadership from Youth Advisory Boards and their cash transfer study/project.
This visit was a stark contrast to the Calvinism of this morning’s trip to Bergen County Housing (thou shalt not have a nice time in shelter, thou shalt not have possessions, thou shalt take whatever housing we offer you, thou shalt consent to drug sniffing dogs). The cash transfer program is rooted in believing that people can make good decisions for themselves (including youth, including youth experiencing homelessness, including youth experiencing homelessness who use substances) so simply provides them unrestricted cash.
When asked about decisions of who gets into the program and decisions about what happens when the funding ends, Larry from Point Source noted the cruelty and immorality of the limitations on services created by the system and how service prioritization is necessitated by a flawed lack of sufficient resources, “All waiting lists are immoral and holding our councillors, state, and federal politicians to that reality is crucial.”
Another question was about if youth with higher support needs were a part of the program but not asking assistance. Maddox from Ali Forney provided the best definition of assertive engagement I’ve ever encountered, “We tell our staff that services are optional for youth but not for staff. So staff will always keep checking in.” This allows people to have the dignity of power and choice to not engage in services, but that choice never leading to the loss of services.
I was left thinking that providers in the New York City region might learn a lot just from talking to each other.