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Who Wants to Help Homeless NY Teens?

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May 26, 2011

NEW YORK - Youth homelessness around the state, and especially on Long Island, is a problem being worsened by the recession and funding cutbacks. Those who help to shelter and counsel runaways estimate that 3,000 to 4,000 teens a year are in non-permanent living situations, ranging from couch-surfing to living on the streets of Long Island.

Bill Best, who steers homeless teens to the only shelter in Nassau County, says the situation is dire. He welcomes fundraising efforts, like a new CD by emerging young musicians, that raise money - and concern - for the cause.

"This effort is great for awareness. Most people think most runaways go to New York City, but it's not true. We have them everywhere."

Singer-songwriter Rachel Sage says homeless teens are something most touring musicians can't avoid seeing, and their number seems to be growing. She is donating proceeds from a compilation CD called "New Arrivals, Volume Four" to the National Network for Youth.

Sage, who grew up in Westchester County, identifies herself as bisexual. She says she's fortunate her parents were understanding.

LGBT teens, says Teresa Buhse of the Long Island Crisis Center, make up a large percentage of runaways.

"They identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and their parents can't accept that. They either ask them to leave or make life at home so unbearable by their reactions that the kids just feel like they need to get out of there because it's not a good place for them to be."

Best says the runaway shelter he directs in Nassau County has not had a boost in support since 1985 and lost half its funding in the state's newest budget.

"It's upsetting and it's upsetting for the staff here. We're the last ones left in Nassau county - and essentially, Long Island. We're it. From Montauk to Manhattan, we're the only emergency shelter and independent living program for those age groups we serve."

Sage produced her fundraising CD on her own record label. She says she chose to give the proceeds to the National Network for Youth because of her experiences on the road.

"As a touring artist, unfortunately, I've really seen a lot of homeless youth - and seemingly an increase - in all of the places where I've been touring, all over the United States. The peers on my label have talked about the same things they've witnessed, as well."

The CD, "New Arrivals, Volume Four," will be available June 7 through online music sites.

Mark Scheerer, Public News Service - NY