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.
As a Nurse
Practitioner, Sophie cares for homeless individuals in New York City in her own
special way. She started working at Care for the Homeless only two months after
graduating from Yale University with her Master’s Degree in Nursing as a Family
Nurse Practitioner. Sophie is originally from Portland, Oregon. She received
her bachelor’s from Occidental College in Los Angeles, California in 2013 and
moved to New York City in 2014 when she started her studies at Yale. Sophie
says her mentors at Yale referred her to Care for the Homeless (CFH), where she
now practices medicine at two CFH health centers, one in Queens and the other
in the Bronx. She enjoys working at CFH because she is always “learning from
[her] patients.” She says coming from Oregon to living in New York and working
at CFH, she learned a lot about the challenges the city brings and the
“incredible resilience” that is needed to live in NYC, especially as someone
experiencing homelessness. “I am always inspired by my …
Most college students spend their
spring break resting, catching up on assignments, or yes, even partying. This
year, a group of students from the University of Southern California (USC) in Los
Angeles chose to do an alternative spring break in New York where they
volunteered with Care for the Homeless (CFH). If you are not familiar with alternative
spring breaks, it is fairly self-explanatory: they are breaks schools offer to
students that have a service or charitable focus.What is particularly impressive about this group
is that this is the second year that students from USC have travelled across
the country to volunteer with CFH.Both
trips were organized by student coordinator, Mohamed El-Farra—his second year
organizing and participating in the trip—an undergraduate student who will
graduate this spring with both a Bachelor’s degree in Health Promotion and
Disease Prevention and a Master’s degree in Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative
Medicine. Mohamed learned of CFH several years
Care for the Homeless (CFH) is pleased to
announce the appointment of George Nashak as its Executive Director. Many know
Nashak as the current Executive Vice President of HELP USA and the former
Deputy Commissioner for Adult Services for the New York City Department of
Homeless Services (DHS).
Executive Vice President of HELP USA, Nashak oversees the operations of the
organization’s $100 million portfolio of housing and supportive services for
homeless people. Before joining HELP in 2012, he spent eight years at DHS,
first as Assistant Commissioner for Housing and Program Planning, working on
the New York/New York III Agreement and other permanent housing initiatives for
homeless clients. Then, as Deputy Commissioner for Adult Services, he was
responsible for the single adult shelter system, street homelessness services,
and the re-housing of homeless adults. Prior
to his stint at DHS, Nashak served as Vice President of the Postgraduate Center
for Mental Health and directed the Str…