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.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Care for the Homeless Takes Part in Community Forum on Creating Livable Communities for All

Jeff Foreman, Director of Policy
Care for the Homeless was delighted to be included last week in a half-day roundtable discussion sponsored by Governing Magazine about “Creating Livable Communities” with about 30 of New York City’s leading policymakers, advocates, business people, union officials, academics and  elected officials. New York City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito began the forum with a review of city concerns and programs. Other participants included the Partnership for New York City, AARP, the New York Housing Conference, the New York Public Library, and business, educational, transportation, healthcare, technology and public safety representatives.

Other elected policy makers present included City Council Members Margaret Chin and Paul Vallone, representatives of several Borough Presidents and various state and city government offices including the city Department of Homeless Services.

Governing Magazine has sponsored more than a dozen of these discussions “from Portland, Maine to Portland, Oregon” in an effort to start a meaningful dialogue on vital issues in communities across the country.

New York City is a leader in city planning and addressing important community issues, but certainly there’s much more to be done and the conversation must continue. At Care for the Homeless we’re pleased to be in that discussion.

We both recognize and celebrate the outstanding efforts the city administration and the current City Council are making to provide services to underserved communities and the programs now being launched to provide stable housing to people experiencing homelessness in New York City, as well as more aggressive efforts to create more affordable housing generally.

We also know more must be done. Providing accessible and appropriate healthcare and human services to all homeless people is the right thing to do, produces far better outcomes and actually saves public resources. The same is true of transitioning people from shelters to permanent housing including supportive housing for those who need it. As we address these issues we must be mindful of scaling these new programs at significant enough size to actually solve the problem, opening subsidies and housing to all those who so desperately need it, combining programs with robust aftercare and supports designed to allow participants to be successful and creating procedures and program administration that are efficient and effective. That’s part of our contribution to this ongoing discussion.

Our thanks to Governing Magazine, AARP, Speaker Mark-Viverito and all involved for this wonderful opportunity to participate in a valuable and needed process focused on creating livable communities for everyone.     

Friday, October 17, 2014

Debra Messing teams up with Care for the Homeless to help homeless families


Care for the Homeless teamed up with actress Debra Messing, Curél®  skincare and Direct Relief to provide 500 personal care packs filled with basic hygiene supplies and skincare products to help homeless families in need at our health fair Tuesday in East Harlem.

Award-winning actress Debra Messing delivers care packages to homeless 
families at a Care for the Homeless Health Fair in Harlem.
Debra Messing visits distributes care packages to homeless families.
Curél® skincare sponsored the initiative to offer comfort to some of the most vulnerable women and children of New York City. Direct Relief, a generous supporter of Care for the Homeless since the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, helped launch our new Mobile Health Clinic, which allows us to deliver medical care to homeless people in need on a regular basis and also boosts our capacity to respond to future emergencies. 

The assistance comes at a critical time. "Homelessness is going down nationwide, but it's going up 40 percent in New York City," said Debra Messing.

The Care for the Homeless Health Fair featured fun activities,
like face painting.
“The homelessness crisis has hit NYC families especially hard. The numbers are staggering, with over 23,000 children sleeping in city shelters every night,” said Bobby Watts, Executive Director at Care for the Homeless. “Children experiencing homelessness are sick four times more often than other children. This donation comes at a critical time, helping us reach families most in need.”

Care for the Homeless is especially thankful for Ms. Messing's support and the generous sponsorship of Direct Relief and Curél® skincare. Since 2013, Direct Relief has invested over $100,000 in cash grants and donations of medicines and medical supplies to Care for the Homeless to advance our mission in NYC. 

Dozens of volunteers helped with the day's event. We especially want to thank Chubb Insurance and the Insurance Industry Charitable Foundation and the NYU School of Nursing. More photos from the day appear below.


Watch Debra discuss the event on Fox News at the clip below (from 3:22 to 4:35).




More Photos from the Day:

Volunteers from Chubb Insurance assembling care packages.

Volunteers painting faces with families at the Health Fair.

Moms visit with Care for the Homeless Health Educators.

Volunteers from NYU Nursing School - a huge help during the event.