Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Helping Homeless People Isn’t a Partisan Issue

Happy anniversary!

Twenty-six years ago, in July, 1987, the first federal legislation specifically addressing homelessness in America became law. They called it the McKinney Homeless Assistance Act. It’s changed over the years – it’s now called McKinney-Vento – but many advocates still consider it the only major piece of federal legislation on homelessness.

The law passed as modern day homelessness was exploding across America. There have always been people experiencing homelessness, but what was happening in the 1980s was different. The numbers were growing and it wasn’t limited to just a section of town, like New York’s Bowery. It wasn’t just big towns. And it was getting worse.  Quickly.

There wasn’t just one cause. Deinstitutionalization, the movement to “mainstream” people previously in institutions was part of it. So was slashing cuts to affordable housing programs. Changes in technology and employment trends added to it. Emotional or mental health problems and addiction, especially among Vietnam era veterans, was a factor. Whatever the causes, homelessness was noticeable and remarkable.

The original McKinney Act established programs for the “growing numbers of homeless persons,” – 20 distinct programs. Recognizing the myriad causes of homelessness it funded emergency food and shelter block grants, created a transitional and a permanent housing program and funded mental health care and substance abuse programs for homeless people.  McKinney established a primary health services program for people experiencing homelessness, set up education and job training programs and special programs for veterans.

From 1987 through 1994 more than $5.1 billion funded the 20 McKinney programs flowing through nine federal agencies.

Over time the McKinney Act was amended. Today McKinney-Vento, still a source of funding for programs for people experiencing homelessness, is primarily known as an education bill of rights for children suffering homelessness or unstably housed. Unfortunately, children are the fastest growing part of America’s homeless population, particularly in New York City. McKinney-Vento protects those kids, guarantees them continuing education at the school they were attending if they choose, or at a new school, and requires every school district in America serve homeless children with an appropriate plan and services.

One more thing about Stewart McKinney, the author of the law officially named “The Urgent Relief for Homeless Act.” This self-described fighter for federal housing programs, home rule for D.C. and programs to help Ameriasian children and homeless people was a Republican.

Helping poor people and housing homeless families isn’t a partisan issue.

Surely the urgent need for affordable housing is as great in 2013 as the urgent need to address homelessness in 1987. With 15% of Americans in poverty, and 21% below poverty in New York City, the ever widening gap between at best stagnant average wages for working class Americans and housing costs escalating at annual rates of 3-15% annually calls for “urgent relief.” It’s estimated that sequestration cuts alone will create another 150,000 homeless people if nothing is done.

Housing the homeless, feeding the hungry, providing healthcare to those in need and educating our kids aren’t partisan issues.

Happy anniversary to the McKinney Homeless Urgent Relief Act. And Stewart McKinney, here’s thinking of you.

Friday, July 26, 2013

CFH Volunteer Services off to a running start!

In April, Care for the Homeless introduced the new Volunteer Services, where New Yorkers who are housed are connected to those who are homeless in an incredible service learning experience. Within only three months, volunteer services has welcomed John Jay: College of Criminal Justice, The College of Mount Saint Vincent, New York University, United Talent Agency, Children of Promise NYC and several other New York City groups and organizations to serve at our sites and join our cause to end homelessness.  

Volunteers have been involved in almost every facet of our mission such as  walking with us in advocacy during the 2013 AIDS Walk, staffing our health fairs, hosting clothing and toiletry drives and assembly dates, staffing our wellness barbecues and leading our recreational events such as game day at Susan’s Place.

Volunteer individuals have joined the team for long term recurring volunteer positions.  Classic Re-runs, our boutique at Susan’s Place for residence is now permanently staffed and lead by two of our recurring volunteers, Rita Scott and Caryn Quinteros who are our very first long term volunteers and have made one month of regular service with us.

We have kicked off strong, and with the help of volunteers we have much more to come.  Because of our volunteers at Susan’s Place, our transitional residents for women, we are building a library, a restored gym, and an entire Job Readiness and Resident Activities program.  Our biggest anticipation is our large Mural Project where volunteers will cover the wall of Susan’s Place dining room with inspirational art!  There is much to come, if you wish to join the volunteer team or leadership, email us at volunteerservices@cfhnyc.org.

For more Volunteer info, click HERE. 

Thursday, July 25, 2013

It's time to empower a homeless child through education!

Special Thanks to West Side Foods:
Employees of West Side Foods, located in the Bronx, led the Back to School Drive in 2012 collecting and filling over 100 new book bags for homeless children. Owner Tom Ryan says: "I'm so proud of our team. As soon as we put the poster up in our employee break room, everyone stepped up. We organized our drive by asking for small donations of $5, which added up quickly to help us fill over 100 new book bags for the kids. Care for the Homeless is a great cause, and we're looking forward to this year's drive."
Join us and change a child's life!

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Feeding the Hungry is no SNAP.

Congress has been debating a farm bill in Washington to extend farm subsidies, price supports, federal funding for crop insurance and foreign food aid. But the bill that passed the Senate also includes draconian cuts to SNAP – the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program – usually called food stamps. The Senate version would cost $955 billion over 10 years, but cuts SNAP by $4.1 billion.

The House version is much worse: it doesn't reauthorize SNAP at all, leading to the very real prospect of no food stamps program.

SNAP currently serves more than 45 million Americans, many of them children, in nutritionally unstable families. One in five New York City residents, people living below the federal poverty level, is eligible for SNAP assistance, including about 30% of all kids under 18. SNAP puts food on the table for hungry families, providing a chance at a nutritional and balanced diet. Studies in New York City indicate every $1 in “food stamps” creates $1.80 in local economic activity, and creates jobs and profits for local grocery stores, bodegas and farmers’ markets.

City Council General Welfare Committee Chair Annabel Palma and Speaker Christine Quinn, along with 46 other New York City Council members, wrote Congress opposing any SNAP reduction. In fact, they requested an increase in SNAP. The Council members wrote SNAP cuts “will have a devastating impact on New York City residents, forcing them to rely on emergency food programs that are already stretched beyond the capacity.”

About 1.9 million New Yorkers receive SNAP benefits providing more than 10 million meals a month. SNAP benefits are based on $1.50 per meal or $31.50 a week. Cuts will take millions of meals out of the mouths of hungry New Yorkers, 80% of them women or children. These missing meals would be a health and well-being catastrophe.

City Council members signing the letter defending SNAP, in addition to Palma and Quinn, included Maria del Carmen Arroyo, Charles Barron, Gail Brewer, Fernando Cabrera, Margaret Chin, Leroy Comrie, Elizabeth Crowley, Inez Dickens, Daniel Dromm, Mathieu Eugene, Julissa Ferreras, Lewis Fidler, Helen Foster, Daniel Garodnick, James Gennaro, Vincent Gentile, Sara Gonzalez, David, Greenfield, Dan Halloran, Robert Jackson, Letitia James, Andy King, Peter Koo, Oliver Koppell, Karen Koslowitz, Brad Lander, Jessica Lappin, Stephen Levin, Melissa Mark-Viverito, Erik Martin-Dilan, Darlene Mealy, Rosie Mendez, Michael Nelson,  Dominic Recchia, Diana Reyna, Donovan Richards, Joel Rivera,  Ydanis Rodriguez, Deborah Rose, Eric Ulrich, James Vacca, Jimmy Van Bramer, Albert Vann, Mark Weprin, Jumaane Williams and Ruben Wills.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

"It's too hot!"

"It's too hot!" That's what many New Yorkers are saying this week as the summer heat has descended on our city and made for a less-than-comfortable commute and a rush to get inside their apartments or workplaces to have a reprieve from the warm weather. But imagine you don't have either of those places to go and you are stuck outside in this heat. That's what's facing homeless New Yorkers this summer.
We've compiled a short list of the items you may not think are needed but can make a huge difference in the day-to-day struggles of being homeless in the heat.

Wash cloths 
Most people don't realize just how important something like wash clothes can be for a person who is homeless. More than just for the shower, the ability to feel confident there isn't sweat dripping down your forehead is something we all want. If you are going in for a job interview, the last thing you want is to be worried about the heat causing you to sweat.

Light summer clothing may seem like a no-brainer, but in reality, what our homeless clients need most are clothes that are appropriate for job interviews. It's one thing to make someone feel comfortable in this summer heat, it's another thing to equip them to find employment and move into permanent housing. At Susan's Place, our shelter for mentally ill and medically frail homeless women in the Bronx, the women are in need of dresses, skirts, blouses and dress pants and in larger sizes. At Classic Re-Runs, we are able to do this for  At one of our clinic sites, Ward's Island, the men are in need of dress pants and button up shirts so they too can land a job and get back on their feet.

Foot Care
Speaking of feet, foot care is a major concern for people who are homeless but it's usually the last thing people think of. Because of the heat and lack of clean socks, athlete’s foot is a major concern for homeless men and women. In New York, we walk everywhere and new socks are such an inexpensive way to change someone's life. We know the importance of podiatry and have seen how foot care can help our clients.

We are always accepting donations of new and gently used clothing, new wash cloths and new socks to distribute to our homeless clients all over New York City. It's amazing what tossing an extra couple items in your Duane Reade basket can do to changing someone's life this summer.

For more information on giving as well as a full list of what we can give to our homeless clients, click HERE.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

CFH Health Educators prove they're the best around

In October 2012, the CDC finalized its recommendation that all people born between born 1945 through should get a one-time test for the Hepatitis C virus.  One in 30 baby-boomers has been infected with HCV, and most don't know it.  May was Hepatitis Awareness Month, and the New York State Department of Health used this timeframe to help promote awareness of and testing for Hepatitis C.  It offered any agency receiving free Hepatitis C rapid testing kits from the state to enter a contest to do the most tests. Prizes would be given by the test manufacturer, OraSure, for the most number of tests done and the most administered to baby-boomers.  Amazingly, of the approximately 35 agencies that participated, the small but mighty CFH Health Education team won both contests. 

While there is no cure, people with this disease can live a very full and long life with treatment. Testing is so important to connecting those who don’t know they are infected with necessary treatment. At Care for the Homeless, our health education services proactively screen patients for cancers, heart disease, HIV/AIDS and other infectious diseases, while educating patients to help them overcome the debilitating effects of homelessness. Every year, Care for the Homeless health education services reach over 3,000 individuals. To sign up to volunteer to help with an upcoming Health Fair, please click here or reach out to us on Facebook

Feeling like a family at Ward's Island

Volunteers team up with CFH Social Services staff
to hand out healthy BBQ choices such a turkey hot dogs,
turkey burgers and fresh fruit.
On Wednesday, July 10th, Care for the Homeless' Social Services, Health Education and Program Evaluation departments joined together with a group of CFH volunteers to have a summer BBQ and wellness event at the HELP Supportive Employment Center - Wards Island men's shelter. A total of 65 residents participated and most of the men did one or two health screenings as well as learned the value of healthy eating choices. 

Case Manager Training Specialist Anisha Perez-Miller organized the event and said, "I can tell that the men felt like they were part of the CFH family. Today, I got so much feedback from both the staff and clients stating what a wonderful event it was. They are requesting another one which proves that we all provided a great service to the clients."

This success is being found with our Social Service teams throughout the city. Senior Case Manager Benny Rodriguez started a group at Bushwick Family Residence for father’s whom are struggling with homelessness, and because of how well it was received, it has been implemented as an ongoing group that will be held twice a month. At the Ali Forney Center, Clinical Coordinator Heather Garber held weekly groups on Behavior Modification and Co-morbid disorders that totaled 38 participants.

Over the course of June, Social Services saw a total of 181 homeless clients and have even more events planned for July. For more info on mental health services at CFH, click HERE

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Join Our Virtual Rally to End Homelessness In New York City

Care for the Homeless is a sponsoring an advocacy effort everyone can join in. This Thursday, July 18th, all day long, CFH and 137 organization partners in the United to End Homelessness coalition (UEH) are holding a virtual rally! Instead of rallying in the heat, we’re meeting online to spread our message via Twitter that better public policy can end homelessness. When you tweet, use the hash tag #endhomelessnessNYC – and don’t forget to include @CFHNYC.

Instead of signs and handouts, we’ll say it all with tweets and postings. Tweet or post about the need to end homelessness, that policies to end homelessness aren't more expensive than what we’re doing now, that people can help end homelessness by registering and voting, or that CFH works every day to aid homeless people and end homelessness.We hope this rally will capture the attention of NYC’s mayoral candidates and encourage people to register to vote this fall.

Follow messages using the hash tag #endhomelessnyc and every time you use @CFHNYC, you’re letting other virtual ralliers know CFH actively supports the effort and you’re supporting our “Agenda to End Homelessness.”

This is @JeffForeman2 hoping to see you Thursday - online - at the virtual rally to end homelessness. Participate from the comfort of your office or home. It’ll be fun and you’ll help raise the profile for issues effecting people experiencing homelessness and those at risk of it. 

Follow us on Twitter HERE!

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

National HIV Testing Day at Success at CFH

Clients Linda, Darvena, Crystal, Jovita,
Genevieve & Dawn join volunteers, Health Educators
and HAC members in the Summer Extravaganza.
The Health Education Department celebrated National HIV Testing Day with a fun filled carnival. Complete with balloons, popcorn, raffles, giveaways and interactive booths, the carnival was designed to educate clients on the nature, transmission, prevention, and current knowledge and treatment of HIV and AIDS. To coordinate and execute the event, titled “A Summer Extravaganza”, the Health Education team was joined by members of CFH HIV Advisory Council and the Consumer Advisory Board, as well as the CFH Volunteer Core. 
The Extravaganza took place at Susan’s Place on June 27th and at Franklin earlier in the week. Free HIV testing was offered throughout the day and altogether, more than 100 women were in attendance and nearly 40 women tested.
For more info on HIV testing and care at CFH, click HERE

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

A Housing Recovery, but Not for All Americans

Last week Harvard Research Center released a Last week the Harvard Research Center released a study (www.jchs.harvard.edu/research/state_nations_housing ) on housing in America under the heading: A Housing Recovery, But Not for All Americans.  They report “even as the recovery gains momentum, millions of homeowners are still delinquent on their mortgages or owe more than their homes are worth, and severe housing cost burdens have set a new record.” 

Here’s some of what Harvard reported:
  • In 2011 there were 12.1 million extremely low-income renter households and 6.8 million housing units affordable to extremely low-income renters.
  • 42.3 million households, 37%, had housing costs over 30% of pre-tax income (high housing cost burden)
  • 20.6 million, 17.9%, had housing costs over 50% of pre-tax income(severe housing cost burden)
    • IN NY state 22% of all households were severely housing cost burdened
    • Severely housing cost burdened households spend 0ne-third less on food, 50% less on clothing and 80% less on health care than other families
  • About 7 of 10 households earning full-time minimum wage are severely housing cost burdened
  • Renter households increased by 1.1 million in 2012, with greater demand driving higher rents
    • The renter household increase equaled the entire net increase in households last year
  • April, 2013, was the 34th consecutive months of average increased rents
  • It was also the 15th consecutive month of rent increases “year-over-year” of 2.5% or more
  • Rental vacancies, a factor that tends to reduce rent prices, fell for third year in a row  

The need has never been greater but America’s sequestration and austerity policies are slashing federal rental assistance and other programs to aid poor and low-income renters. Predictions are those cuts could result in hundreds of thousands of newly created homeless people. 

Check out the Care for the Homeless “Agenda to End Homelessness here. This is a plan to prevent and end homelessness that won’t cost more than we’re spending now but promises much improved outcomes!

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

“Homelessness is a challenge, but a challenge that can be solved.”

Last week Philadelphia Michael Nutter gave his farewell speech as President of the U.S. Conference of Mayors, and chose to highlight homelessness as one of the themes. Here’s part of what he said:
“Another tragedy that confronts all of us…but one that has new hope of being solved is homelessness…the best way to keep families from experiencing repeated bouts of homelessness is to provide permanent housing as quickly as possible through short-term rental assistance. In other words, don’t keep them in homeless shelters any longer than absolutely necessary…I’ve said that I want Philadelphia to be the first large U.S. city to end homelessness, but I welcome competition from all of you. Homelessness is a challenge, but it’s a challenge that can be solved.”      
We couldn’t agree more! As proud New Yorkers, and caring people, we want to take up the challenge!
That’s why Care for the Homeless has adopted our “Agenda to End Homelessness” – because it doesn’t have to be like this. As Philadelphia reports a homelessness reduction, and following a national reduction the U.S. homeless population appear to be stable, New York City’s homeless population has exploded, especially among families with children.

The CFH Agenda to End Homelessness speaks to what should be done to produce far better outcomes at no greater cost. Things like providing appropriate health care, including primary and preventative care, to all people experiencing homelessness, creating mare affordable housing for very-low income New Yorkers, supportive housing for those who need it and a rental subsidy to move people from shelter to permanent housing.