Tuesday, December 9, 2014

The Still Unmet Promise of Universal Basic Human Rights

Jeff Foreman, Director of Policy

Tomorrow, December 10th, is Human Rights Day. It marks the 66th anniversary of the adoption of the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Care for the Homeless joins in recognizing the fundamental human rights proclaimed in that document in 1948 including the right to housing.
When the UN General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights it was a vow by the community of nations still standing in the shadow of the horrors of World War II. It was drafted initially by an 18 member international “Drafting” Committee chaired by Eleanor Roosevelt, and eventually by a committee composed of delegations from 50 nations. When it was overwhelmingly adopted by the UN General Assembly on December 10, 1948, eight nations abstained but not a single country voted in opposition.

The Declaration is based on the inherent dignity and equality of all people and the “inalienable rights of all members of the human family”. Among those fundamental human rights enumerated, the Declaration recognizes: “Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.”

Today that fundamental human right to food, clothing, housing, medical care, social services and security are still a daily struggle for nearly 59,000 New Yorkers who will sleep in city homeless shelters tonight, and more than 3,000 who sleep rough on the streets on any given day. More than 4 out of ten of our neighbors experiencing homelessness in shelters or on the streets are children.
Even as we celebrate the commitment and positive actions taken by the Mayor and City Council to prevent and fight homelessness, CFH will pause tomorrow to recognize how much more we need to do. We believe modern day homelessness in the U.S. and New York City was created by public policy choices and that better policies can end it. Please join with us in advocating for those policies we know can work to prevent, fight and end homelessness as we know it.

And as we fight for those fundamental values officially adopted out in the UN Declaration of Human Rights, Care for the Homeless will continue providing critical medical and social services to many thousands of New Yorkers experiencing homelessness.       

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Care for the Homeless Observes World AIDS Day

Yesterday, December 1st, client leaders of Care for the Homeless (CFH) observed World AIDS Day at the CFH offices at 30 E. 33rd Street in Manhattan. Members of the CFH Consumer Advisory Boards led presentations and discussions about services for people living with AIDS/HIV, current medical programs and advances and the New York State strategy to end the AIDS epidemic in the state by 2020.

Clients, CFH staff and others in attendance heard presentations for consumer leaders including
Calvin Alston, Gayle Dorsky and George Phipps. They lauded efforts announced by Governor Cuomo to end the AIDS epidemic – which he has defined as reducing new cases to the point where there is no net increase in AIDS cases in the state annually – by 2020.

“That’s a lot of ground to cover in the next five or six years,” according to Alston, “but the Governor and the AIDS Task Force have developed a workable three part plan to do just that.”

“As part of the Governor’s plan, advocates and activists like those of us who are client leaders are responsible for raising awareness and educating people about what needs to be done,” Ms. Dorsky said. “And along with promoting AIDS health education we need to work at reducing the stigma for people living with AIDS.”

The two CFH consumer boards are made up of leaders who are CFH patients receiving medical or social services at CFH locations across four of the five city boroughs. The boards provide feed-back and consumer input about CFH operations, organize and run various activities throughout the year including events like the World AIDS Day observance and voter registration drives, and advocate for public policies to prevent, fight and end homelessness.   

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Join Us. Remember. Advocate.

Care of the Homeless Remembers Lost Neighbors


“I couldn’t believe it, when I first heard” CFH Client Leader Raymond West, said of the death of Miguel Durcio, the Bronx man who was attacked while sleeping on the steps of a church, simply because he was homeless. “He was only sleeping on the church steps because he thought he would be safe there.” Mr. Durio is gone but not forgotten- Care for the Homeless will remember his life and honor his memory on December 18th, at 5:30 p.m., on Homeless Persons’ Memorial Day, a national day of memorial for people who tragically passed away while unstably housed. Held with the NYC Rescue Mission at their 90 Lafayette Street location, our Homeless Persons’ Memorial Day program will feature a candle light memorial, a meal for those who are hungry, and a chance for attendees to remember friends on our Memorial Wall.

People experiencing homelessness have terrible health outcomes compared to the housed population, with an age adjusted life expectancy of 30 to 40 years less than the general population. At Care for the Homeless we know people who are homeless not only suffer from a disproportionate number of violent attacks, but that all health problems are made much, much worse while a person doesn’t have a stable place to stay.

“Homelessness is a public health crisis just as much as tuberculosis, polio, and so many other historic epidemics that America has challenged and largely defeated.” CFH Executive Director Bobby Watts has said, “And just as appropriate responses tamed those maladies, we could, if we addressed homelessness and brought adequate responses to bear against it, solve this tragic health epidemic and social failure, too.”

On Homeless Persons’ Memorial Day, we remember New Yorkers who might otherwise not be remembered and advocate for better policy to help prevent and end homelessness. We know we can end modern day homelessness and look forward to the day when there won’t be a need for Homeless Persons’ Memorial Day. Please join us on December 18th to help remember and advocate. The event is free and open to all. If you would like to offer names to be remembered during the program or rsvp to the event, please contact CFH Policy Director, Jeff Foreman, at 212.366.4459 or by email at jforeman@cfhnyc.org.



Homeless Persons' Memorial Day
Thursday, December 18, 2014
5:30 p.m. - 6:30 p.m.

NYC Rescue Mission
90 Lafayette Street (at White Street)
New York, NY 10013
SUBWAY: 4, 6, J, N, R, Z (Canal St)

Click here to rsvp.




Program to feature music, memorial and a meal. 
We invite you to pay tribute to our lost friends 
who experienced homelessness on our "Wall of Memorial." 
Free and open to the public. 

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

From Shelter to Affordable Housing: A GREAT FIRST STEP!

Jeff Foreman, Director of Policy

NYC’s New Rental Programs to Transition Families Experiencing Homelessness

Last year Bill de Blasio famously campaigned successfully to become Mayor of New York City on the “Tale of Two Cities.” He spoke about the tragedy of low income people unable to get by or even find barely affordable housing in the U.S.’s biggest city. He promised, and along with City Council is now delivering, programs created to provide affordable housing and to address the expanding crisis of homelessness in our city.

In addition to more and better programs to prevent evictions and homelessness (the best solution to homelessness is always prevention), the City has launched programs including priority targeting of a small number of NYCHA public housing units to families in the city homeless shelter system and three rental programs to provide partial subsidies to a modest number of homeless families in city homeless or domestic violence shelters if they can find a low rent apartment to accept the subsidy. Of course we wish each of the programs could be larger and open to more people, but we are grateful and celebrate these great first steps.

One concern we do have, and no doubt city policymakers share, is the difficulty many of the eligible and chosen families now in shelter will have in finding an appropriate and affordable housing unit even with the city’s subsidy “certificate.” The way it work is those who get the certificate letter have 90 days to use it to find housing.

But there still won’t be enough units to go around. Too many families experiencing homelessness and in shelter will find even with their certificate they may still be unable to obtain housing. A recent Community Services Society study found a need (demand) for well over a million units affordable to people with incomes below 200% of poverty, but a supply of only 609,700 units and falling.

We see and live this problem every day because Care for the Homeless serves dozens of people experiencing homelessness every day who are desperately seeking housing and cannot find it. That’s one reason the average length of stay at city homeless shelters is now over 14 months.

It’s also a reason Care for the Homeless continues to advocate for programs to adequately serve homeless people, tools to help people move from shelter to permanent housing and a greater supply of housing affordable to extremely low income families and individuals so those tools can work effectively.  

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

HUD Reports 1 in 10 People Experiencing Homelessness in U.S. Is Living in NYC

Jeff Foreman, Director of Policy
The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) recently released its “2014 Annual Homeless Assessment Report to Congress” estimating 578,424 people were experiencing homelessness either on the streets or in shelters on a given night in January, 2014. The information wasn’t surprising or really new, but it underscores the need to prevent, fight and end homelessness in New York City.

New HUD Secretary Julian Castro pointed out the report indicates a reduction in homelessness across the U.S. of 10% since January of 2010. Unfortunately New York City hasn’t fared as well.

The HUD report estimates 80,590 people experiencing homelessness in the Empire State on that January evening – about 13% of the entire national estimate – representing a 4.1% year-over-year increase and a 28.7% increase over the last seven years.  HUD reported 67,810 people experiencing homelessness just in New York City, meaning more than 1 in every 10 person experiencing homelessness on HUD’s census night was in our city. That’s a 6% increase in New York City from HUD’s 2013 estimate.

One encouraging thing for New York City was HUD’s finding that we had among the lowest rates of “unsheltered homeless people” at 5%, so that 19 of every 20 homeless people in New York City aren’t living unsheltered on the streets or in other public places.

CFH believes poor policies created modern day homelessness and better policy choices can help end it. Though homelessness continues to grow in New York City (up about 9% so far in 2014), we celebrate programs launched by the city administration and City Council to fight that trend. We won’t see much statistical improvement until these programs have the opportunity to get up and running, but here are five great first steps the city has launched:
  1. The Mayor and City Council increased city anti-eviction and homelessness prevention programs (the best way to fight homelessness is to prevent it) by 50%.
  2. The city reinstated NYCHA’s historic priority of a small number of newly available public housing units targeted to people in homeless shelter.
  3. The city launched three separate “Living in the Communities” (LINC) programs estimated to eventually provide rental subsidy “certificate letters” to about 3,000 households. The programs are targeted to 1. ) homeless families with children in family shelter with a working adult; 2.) homeless families in shelter the longest with either earned or unearned income; and, 3.) households in either Domestic Violence or homeless shelters affected by domestic violence.

There’s a need to do more - that’s clear from the HUD report and our record DHS Shelter Census – but this is a real start. 

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Today, November 4th, Is Election Day. Please Vote!

Jeff Foreman, Director of Policy

Care for the Homeless client leaders, including members of our Consumer Advisory Board, recently completed a nonpartisan Voter Registration Drive that signed up 254 new voters, all eligible to vote tomorrow. That’s a CFH Voter Registration record. It breaks last year’s record setting drive success.
Our client leaders have the satisfaction of having helped people to register and some great memories from the effort. They registered people with past criminal records who didn’t know they had the right to vote. In New York anyone not currently incarcerated for a felony or on active parole (people on probation have the right to vote) has the right to vote.

They also registered people who were homeless and thought not having a regular permanent fixed address meant they couldn’t register. But being poor or homeless certainly doesn’t mean you lose your right to vote.

At Care for the Homeless we believe poor policy choices helped create the evil that is modern day homelessness and better policies can help to end it. Today – Election Day – each of us who is registered to vote has the opportunity to help determine who gets to set public policy going forward.

Journalists and commentators are predicting very low turnout for this year’s election.  That’s a shame because we’ll be voting for the state legislators, members of Congress and statewide officials who very much affect our lives and those of our families and clients.

Please take the opportunity to cast your vote and participate in democracy today. Regardless of who you vote for, everyone should cherish and exercise their right to vote their own values and have a say in our government and policies.

And if you aren’t registered but would be eligible to register to vote, contact our Policy Office at policy@cfhnyc.org anytime for assistance in getting registered.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Wise Investment to Protect Human Services

Bobby Watts, Executive Director 

Gov. Andrew Cuomo recently announced that his agencies would hold spending at current levels despite a record budget surplus. But by refusing to spend on programs that both create jobs and help the most vulnerable amongst us, he misses an opportunity to grow the economy and help our communities.
My organization, which employs over 100 staff members, is emblematic of what the governor could do if he invested a small percentage of the surplus into groups like ours. We fight homelessness—and provide good jobs for New Yorkers.
Homelessness in New York City has reached a tipping point, and we’re on the front lines of a crisis. There are over 57,000 people sleeping in city shelters nightly, 24,700 of those being children, and shelters can no longer meet the demands. The average length of stay in a homeless shelter is now longer than a year. Unfortunately, because of state budget cuts, human services agencies that aid the city’s homeless population are forced to do more with fewer resources.
Care for the Homeless fights homelessness by delivering high-quality, client-centered health care and shelter to homeless individuals and families, and by advocating for policies to ameliorate, prevent and end homelessness. Our physicians, nurse practitioners, health educators, housing specialists, case managers and social workers are providing critical community-based services to more than 8,000 homeless men, women and children throughout New York City.
We are part of a sector of the economy that employs 15 percent of the state’s workforce, and workers are overwhelmingly women and people of color. Currently, 80 percent of the human services workforce is female and 80 percent of those are nonwhite. In New York City, four out of five health care and social service sector workers are Black, Latina or Asian.
Unfortunately, human services organizations like Care for the Homeless are operating in a reality that sees more people seeking services but are forced to make tough choices to provide them. Human service organizations are relying more on private funds and individual donations. While the generosity is tremendously appreciated, it is not sustainable because government funding has been cut.
But there is a solution. With a $4 billion budget surplus, the state has the monetary resources to put the human services sector on a path to financial stability and save an industry that employs thousands of people of color and provides programs that help African-American families throughout New York. Now is the right time for Cuomo to make a $354 million investment in the human services sector and include this in his executive budget.
For us, that would mean we can continue to provide over 30,000 health care visits to homeless men, women and children annually. For almost 30 years, Care for the Homeless has brought high quality health care services directly to homeless people on their own turf, and we want to continue to do this as long as our services are needed.
It is time that the governor faces the economic reality in this state and realizes that more people are hurting than he would like to believe.
Organizations cannot continue to operate in a flat-funded environment. We keep the fabric of the state strong and help catch those who stumble. Without this investment, who will catch the human services sector when it falls?
G. Robert Watts is the executive director of Care for the Homeless.

Originally published on October 30, 2014 by New York Amsterdam News. Read more.