The UNH Blog

Democracy: Is it in Danger?

Monday, August 13, 2018


A Message from UNH Executive Director, Susan Stamler 

Recently, I traveled with a delegation of about a dozen of my New York City settlement house colleagues to the International Federation of Settlements and Neighborhood Centers conference in Helsinki, Finland. The theme of this conference was 
Democracy: Is it in Danger?, and it has inspired my thinking even more than usual about the role UNH and settlement houses play in promoting social change and democracy. Also, about how important it is for us to dedicate even more of our energy towards building an open and democratic society that guarantees, teaches, and encourages active participation, provides access to information, protects a free press, and strengthens communities. Democracy needs exercise to grow. UNH and our members have the stamina, brains, and heart to make that possible. Keep reading to learn more about how UNH is empowering New Yorkers to take part in decisions that affect their communities. 


2018 Settlement House Day Recap  
On April 17, 250 settlement house staff attended UNH’s Settlement House Day! This full day of professional development workshops and panel discussions – offered exclusively for settlement house staff – has become a highly anticipated annual event. Session topics were suggested and led by settlement house staff and included tips for how to use social media to promote programming, building cultural competency for diverse programs, and ways to incorporate civic engagement into everyday activities. The event was so successful – the evaluation showed that 95% of participants think attending Settlement House Day will help them in their work – that we are looking into a bigger space for next year.


UNH is Expanding 

Welcoming New UNH Members
UNH recently welcomed three new settlement house members: Red Hook Initiative in Brooklyn, and the first members from outside New York City in UNH’s 99-year history, Trinity Alliance of the Capital Region in Albany and Syracuse Northeast Community Center. Membership in UNH is considered for organizations that demonstrate commitment to the settlement house model, which means they are embedded in their community, serve multiple generations, offer a variety of programs, and focus on community building and reciprocity.  These new members are committed to actively participating in, benefiting from, and contributing to UNH's advocacy efforts, customized professional development and peer learning opportunities, and technical assistance support.  This increased membership allows us to expand our reach -- UNH members now touch the lives of more than 765,000 New Yorkers of all ages.  We are thrilled to have these three vital and important community-based organizations join the UNH family, which is enriched by their staff and communities. 

New Work Around Neighborhood Affordability 
UNH has hired a new Policy Analyst to expand our efforts to promote and preserve neighborhood affordability. The cost of living in New York City has grown out of reach for too many people. Increasing gentrification and a yawning income gap threatening the fabric of our communities, and our members have seen their neighborhoods changing swiftly. We have hired a new Policy Analyst who will focus on educating our network about the processes that lead to gentrification and skyrocketing rents, and developing a platform that ties together economic and workforce development and affordable housing. From emphasizing the importance of settlement houses partnering with NYCHA to exploring ways land use can benefit low-income New Yorkers, our holistic approach will take aim at some of the root causes of displacement. Check out the first education tool developed as part of this new portfolio of work, which details the New York City Rezoning process and identifies opportunities for engaging and affecting that process to help our members ensure their constituents are represented in the City’s plans. Advocacy in Action

Advocacy Wins in Settlement House and New York City Families
In Albany and at City Hall, UNH advocates for programs that help individuals, children, families, and older adults, and that make our neighborhoods better places to live. We mobilize settlement houses and their communities to speak out for these programs on the steps of City Hall, in marches at all five Borough Halls, and in meetings with legislators in their districts and in Albany. This year’s effort resulted in 22,800 middle school youth being able to attend summer camp, paid summer jobs for 75,000 teens, $12 million in funding restored for adult literacy, and increased funding for critical services in Naturally Occurring Retirement Community programs. We also succeeded in securing long overdue wage increases in state contracts for staff in vital human services organizations. For more information on the results of this year’s City and State budget negotiations, click here for our Budget Snapshots. 

Taking Action: Census 2020
The Census is a Constitutionally-mandated count of the population in the United States, regardless of citizenship or immigration status. A proposal is under consideration by the federal government to add a citizenship question to the 2020 U.S. Census that will likely strike fear in our country’s immigrant communities causing them not to respond to it and to be grossly underrepresented in the new Census count. The ramifications can lead to billions of dollars in lost federal funding and the potential loss of a Congressional seat, diminishing New York’s voice in Congress. UNH strongly opposes the inclusion of this question and as part of the New York Counts 2020 coalition, works to educate communities about the importance of full participation in the census, and to fight for the removal of this question.

For opportunities to take action, please contact UNH Civic Engagement Associate Lena Cohen.


2018 Settlement House Day

Wednesday, August 08, 2018

2018 Settlement House Day

On April 17, 250 settlement house staff attended UNH’s Settlement House Day! This full day of professional development workshops and panel discussions – offered exclusively for settlement house staff – has become a highly anticipated annual event. Session topics were suggested and led by settlement house staff and included tips for how staff can use social media to promote their programs, building staff cultural competency for diverse programs, and ways to incorporate civic engagement into everyday activities. The event was so successful – the evaluation showed that 95% of participants think attending Settlement House Day will help them in their work – that we are looking into a bigger space for next year’s Settlement House Day.

UNH is Expanding

Tuesday, August 07, 2018

New Work Around Neighborhood Affordability

UNH has hired a new Policy Analyst to expand our efforts to promote and preserve neighborhood affordability. The cost of living in New York City has grown out of reach for too many people. Increasing gentrification and a yawning income gap threatening the fabric of our communities, and our members have seen their neighborhoods changing swiftly. We have hired a new Policy Analyst who will focus on educating our network about the processes that lead to gentrification and skyrocketing rents, and developing a platform that ties together economic and workforce development and affordable housing. From emphasizing the importance of settlement houses partnering with NYCHA to exploring ways land use can benefit low-income New Yorkers, our holistic approach will take aim at some of the root causes of displacement. Check out the first education tool developed as part of this new portfolio of work, which details the New York City Rezoning process and identifies opportunities for engaging and affecting that process to help our members ensure their constituents are represented in the City’s plans.

Welcoming New UNH Members

Membership in UNH is considered for organizations that demonstrate commitment to the settlement house model, which means they are embedded in their community, serve multiple generations, offer a variety of programs, and focus on community building and reciprocity. These new members are committed to actively participating in, benefiting from, and contributing to UNH’s advocacy efforts, customized professional development and peer learning opportunities, and technical assistance support. This increased membership allows us to expand our reach – UNH members now touch the lives of more than 765,000 New Yorkers of all ages. We are thrilled to have these three vital and important community-based organizations join the UNH family, which is enriched by their staff and communities.

UNH Intern Reflects on SYEP Experience

Monday, February 05, 2018
by Vincent Li, UNH Intern

My experience with SYEP was so much more than just a first job and a paycheck. It was a way for me to understand the importance of responsibility and self-confidence while making connections with lifelong mentors and companions along the way.

When I was 16 years old, I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to work as a camp counselor for Chinese-American Planning Council, a UNH member organization, over the summer break. I still remember receiving the news that I was selected for the SYEP program to work. I recall being so excited that I called every single one of my family members to tell them that I was treating them all to lunch with the money that I earned from my first job. At the same time, I was disappointed because I heard that my peers did not get selected for SYEP by the lottery system. It is definitely unfortunate that nearly half of the applicants for SYEP are denied summer jobs and the opportunity to develop new skills because of the shortage in slots due to limited funding.

As a communications intern for United Neighborhood Houses, I had the opportunity go back to CPC to meet with several young adults during their preparation for Youth Action Day. During the training sessions, we all spoke and exchanged our stories and experiences about SYEP. Most of the participants shared their experiences about how they have been applying for SYEP for years but have never gotten selected by the program once. The participants that had a summer job shared that their experience with SYEP was meaningful and important for their personal development and growth. I truly believe in the efforts for advocating for the Summer Youth Employment Program to reach a broader availability for the city’s youth and young adults.

On January 30
, there was a great gathering of young adults from all over the City at Youth Action Day in Albany to support and campaign for summer employment. More than 300 young adults spoke to their state representatives about the necessity and benefits of SYEP. I hope that the lawmakers heard their message, because SYEP helped me discover my career path and it can help others, too.

 

 

UNH Executive Director Susan Stamler Responds to Mayor’s Proposed Budget

Friday, February 02, 2018

UNH Executive Director Susan Stamler Responds to Mayor’s Proposed Budget

Expansion of 3K admirable, but cutting services for students, immigrants, and seniors sends the City in the wrong direction

As Mayor de Blasio remarked in his announcement of the $88.6 billion preliminary budget, New York City represents opportunity and diversity. While we are encouraged by the expansion of the 3-K for All program, it was startling to hear the Mayor talk about the advantages of living in a fair city that benefits from a diverse population while cutting funding for those very same people.

During the budget announcement, the Mayor showed that the population of immigrants in New York City is at its highest level in more than a century, and demonstrated that immigrants “underpin our economic success.” It is therefore astonishing that the proposed budget fails to restore $12m in funding from adult literacy programs. These classes are vital to the long-term economic and social stability of immigrants in our City, many of whom are directed to learn English but will no longer have the possibility to do so. This funding must be restored for New York City to be a place of opportunity for all.

We appreciate the Mayor’s expansion of 3K and the recognition that early education should be a right for all. As the Mayor said, is important for New York to give “more kids the start only some can afford.” But while early education is the start of a child’s learning, the path to success must include summer camp and after-school programs, and the preliminary budget eliminates the chance for 34,000 middle school students to attend summer camp. Research shows children who don’t have access to summer programs experience educational and nutritional setbacks which widen the achievement gap. This isn’t the way to provide a fair start for all New York City’s children, and this funding must be restored in the enacted budget.

Mayor de Blasio showed in his budget announcement that New York City’s population is on the rise and is now at more than 8.5 million people. 31% of those people are over the age of 50. We look forward to working to ensure $8.72m is restored in the adopted budget for older adult services. This funding is vital for our older family members and neighbors so they can age in their homes, avoid hospitals and nursing homes, and continue to live fulfilling lives.

Finally, the Mayor spoke at length about making New York City the “Fairest Big City in America.” As long as early childhood educators at community-based organizations make less money than their similarly-qualified counterparts in public schools, we cannot consider our city “fair.” Even as these teachers and staff members care for and educate our children, they are often relying upon government assistance to take care of their own families. This inequity is inexcusable, and must be addressed.

We can truly make New York City fair, create the opportunities new residents are looking for, and support all our neighbors. To do so, it is imperative the City dedicates the funding to essential services for all populations.

Looking ahead to Youth Action Day

Monday, January 29, 2018

by Caitlin Praimnath, UNH intern

When I was 14 years old, I had my first job. I was a babysitter for a family friend who was in need of someone to look after her two children while she went to work for the summer. Being my first job, I was excited to have something to do during the summer and to finally have some money of my own. That experience allowed me to be referred to other parents in my community who were in need of a babysitter. In that single summer, I learned problem solving, creativity and patience, all skills that probably would have taken me much longer to learn than 3 months. Those opportunities allowed me to have job experiences that taught me valuable skills that I could take with me to future jobs and memories that would last a lifetime. From my first job as a babysitter, I quickly saw the importance of having a summer job. It gave me the opportunity to make money of my own, contribute to my community and carve out my future.

Recently, I had the amazing opportunity to attend a Youth Action Day training at Queens Community House. I was accompanied by Gregory Brender and Latoya Leslie who both led the training. As someone who has never attended Youth Action Day in Albany or had any prior experience with the Summer Youth Employment Program, which gives NYC teens the opportunities I had at 14, I was very interested to learn more about the purpose of Youth Action Day, the potential opportunities for young people my age and what takes place at a training event.

When I arrived, I could not help but notice the amount of teens there were. I was impressed to see there was approximately 25 students sitting around a table on a school night in the late afternoon dedicated to learning what to expect on Youth Action Day and how they could contribute. To start off the training, each student had the chance to share if they ever had a summer job and why they felt having a summer job was important. I noticed many students had great reasons to share why they felt summer jobs were crucial and presented many opportunities yet not many of them ever had one. Similar to my experience, one student mentioned that having a summer job allowed them to put experience on their resume while another mentioned the responsibility they would have by making their own money. As the training continued, the clearer it became that this was the aim of Youth Action Day. An amazing goal to get more summer jobs available for people like me so that those who have not had a job, have the opportunity to do so and gain valuable skills.

As the training continued, Gregory and Latoya explained what advocacy is and how the students could effectively do this in Albany. These students were passionate not only about obtaining additional jobs for SYEP but also the ways in which they could contribute and advocate for this cause in Albany. It was a great experience to see students excited about going to Albany to advocate for a cause that they were passionate about. The training did an excellent job at explaining why Youth Action Day is an important event to be a part of and how young people just like me could help make an impact and benefit from it. Overall, the training was a great way for these teens to learn how they too could advocate for summer jobs, what they could expect while there and get them excited to head to Albany for Youth Action Day and see change happen.

If interested in this amazing opportunity, Youth Action Day is on Tuesday, January 30, 2018 with several bus departure locations throughout NYC. 

UNH Responds to Cuomo's Executive Budget

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Over the last year much has been made of Governor Cuomo’s forceful rhetoric in support of New Yorkers in the wake of destructive federal budgetary and policy decisions. And while the Governor deserves credit for articulating the values of diversity and inclusivity that New York stands for, we are disappointed that his FY2019 Executive Budget does not go far enough in equipping the nonprofit human services sector to support the very New Yorkers at risk under this federal administration. 

To be sure, there are a number of positive developments in the Governor’s budget proposal, including a funding restoration in child care, a net expansion in after school, and support for youth employment. Yet in all of these areas demand far outpaces the Governor’s spending plan and additional resources are needed to support New York’s working families. Further, these investments are tempered by cuts in a number of areas and inaction in others, including:

Adult Literacy Education — For the second year in a row, the Governor’s budget proposes cutting $1 million in State funding out of a budget of just over $7 million for English language classes. At a time when immigrants are being subjected to intense scrutiny, abuse, and deportation, it is not enough to offer legal support and words of support. Without English proficiency, immigrants can become linguistically isolated and subject to misinformation and exploitation. Further, a lack of English proficiency also keeps immigrants locked into low-wage jobs, hurting not only their families, but also depressing the competiveness of the State labor force. Basic literacy and numeracy skills are an absolute prerequisite to success in our society, and it makes no sense to rob immigrant communities of this lifeline to self-empowerment. UNH calls on the Governor to correct this injustice in his amended budget, and in fact increase the state’s investment to $15.3m to offset federal rules that are slated to make it more difficult for undocumented New Yorkers to access federally funded English classes.

Naturally Occurring Retirement Communities – Following a year in which the legislature worked with the Governor to update and strengthen the Naturally Occurring Retirement Community (NORC) model to better serve the State’s older adults, we are very disappointed that the Governor has now proposed slashing funding by a third from $6 million to $4 million. As New Yorkers continue to live longer, it is essential that the State invest in the NORC model not only to allow these individuals to age with dignity in their homes, but also to contain costs in the health care system, where many older adults will wind up with acute issues that could have been prevented through proactive services. UNH calls on the Governor to restore this funding in his budget amendments and work the State Office for the Aging to create a plan for NORC support and expansion into the future.

Nonprofit Stability – The nonprofit human services sector is an essential partner to the State in delivering high-quality programs to millions of children, youth, immigrants, older adults, and New Yorkers of all backgrounds every year. Yet the Governor’s budget proposal once again fails to adequately account for the cost of the services it wants delivered. Too often the nonprofit sector is expected to do more with less, and the employees of these nonprofits — most often women of color — bear the brunt of this burden in the form of low wages. As part of the Strong Nonprofits for a Better New York coalition, UNH called on the Governor to fully fund contract costs associated with the increasing minimum wage, invest in the decaying infrastructure of child care centers, senior centers, and other community spaces, and implement long-forgone cost of living adjustments needed to support increased payroll, space, utility and other costs. We are deeply disappointed that the Governor has chosen to not address any of these concerns and call on him to make these investments in his amended budget.

It is clear that the year ahead will be a challenging one for New York. Yet it is essential that the Governor not lose sight that at the end of the day, the children, youth, immigrants, older adults and all other New Yorkers supported by the human services sector need him to back his rhetoric with real investments that safeguard their health, safety, and opportunity.

 

Responding to Cuomo's State of the State

Friday, January 05, 2018

Statement of Susan Stamler, Executive Director of United Neighborhood Houses, on Governor Cuomo’s 2018 State of the State Address

Settlement houses have been instrumental in implementing programs that foster positive change and promote the economic and social well-being of the communities they serve. United Neighborhood Houses, New York’s federation of settlement houses, applauds Governor Cuomo for his goal of making New York State the “nation’s vanguard for social progress.” UNH and its members look forward to working with State policymakers to ensure that New York State’s FY 2018-2019 budget includes investments and policies that achieve that goal. The FY 2018-2019 Executive Budget, which the Governor will release in several weeks, must include investments in the nonprofit workforce and infrastructure to ensure that the services New Yorkers depend upon are strong and stable.

Those investments must include adjustments to state contracts with nonprofit organizations to reflect the minimum wage increases that went to effect at the start of this month.  They also must include additional capital dollars to ensure the viability of nonprofit organizations to allow them to uphold their mission and to sustain the communities they serve.

UNH is also encouraged by the Governor’s support of a Child Care Availability Task Force to examine the need for child care in New York State. However, the tens of thousands of New York families who are on waiting lists for affordable child care need the State to invest in child care programs now. Last year’s State budget cut child care subsidies by approximately $7 million. In his Executive Budget proposal, Governor Cuomo must restore this cut and increase funding by at least $31 million to address the shortage in child care throughout the State. 

Similarly, UNH appreciates Governor Cuomo’s proposal to launch a Long Term Care Planning Council, to explore the long term care needs of older adults in New York State. Settlement houses are at the forefront of serving older adults in their communities through a range of services and supports that enable New Yorkers to plan their futures and to age in place. New York has the fourth largest population of older adults in the United States, and the number of older adults in the State continues to grow. The Long Term Care Planning Council must be partnered with investments in the community-based supportive service system in the FY2019 budget.

UNH is also pleased to see Governor Cuomo make the following proposals in his 2018 State of the State Address:

  • Passage of the DREAM Act, which would help college-bound youth access critical financial aid dollars regardless of their immigration status. While many undocumented youth face significant questions about their future in the United States, passing New York State’s DREAM Act will offer much needed financial relief for these young people.

  • An investment of $10 million to expand the Empire State After-school Program.

Nonprofits are the backbone of New York’s social services system and we look forward to working with State leaders to strengthen New York’s communities through our unparalleled network.

Spring 2018 EMM Winners

Wednesday, December 20, 2017
Congratulations to the 40 settlement house staff members who have been awarded the UNH Emily Menlo Marks Scholarship! These staff members work hard to support their communities and further their educations, and we are proud to support them. This scholarship is named for UNH's former Executive Director in honor of the contributions she made to social justice and community building. Learn more about the EMM scholarship here. To support the scholarship so we can continue to offer this opportunity, please click here!

Follow us on Facebook for more information about the winners! 

Spring 2018 Winners:

Susan Martinez

Bronx House

Anca Dragomirescu

BronxWorks

Chenel Luten

CAMBA

Jeremy Li

Chinese-American Planning Council

Michelle Santos

Cypress Hills LDC

Maria Rodriguez

Cypress Hills LDC

Eric Washington

Cypress Hills LDC

Chaira Lopez

East Side House Settlement

Melissa Perez

East Side House Settlement

Blasina Tavarez

Goddard Riverside Community Center

Anna Baker

Goddard Riverside Community Center

Muriel Abeledo

Grand Street Settlement

Zhiming Liang

Henry Street Settlement

LaGene Wright

Henry Street Settlement

Billy Rivera

Hudson Guild

Cara Aloisio

Hudson Guild

Valencia Petion

Jacob A. Riis Neighborhood Settlement

Andre Conquest

Jacob A. Riis Neighborhood Settlement

Arely Hernandez

Jacob A. Riis Neighborhood Settlement

Alyssa Lenihan

Kingsbridge Heights Community Center

Sonia Castro

Kingsbridge Heights Community Center

Jessica Leylavergne

Lenox Hill Neighborhood House

Diane Lynn Skerbec

Lenox Hill Neighborhood House

Noemie Lemasson

Lenox Hill Neighborhood House

Magdelinne Pimentel

New Settlement Apartments

Tasheema Lucas

New Settlement Apartments

Sal Abuhamda

Project Hospitality

Ebenezer Ayiku

Project Hospitality

Joel Ponder

Queens Community House

Sean James Reyes

Queens Community House

Frederick Gonzalez

Queens Community House

Alison Rattray

Riverdale Neighborhood House

Lauren Rattray

Riverdale Neighborhood House

Arielle Richards

St. Nick’s Alliance

Nicole Highbaugh

SEBNC

Adriana Jadan

Sunnyside Community Services

Monika Fabian

Sunnyside Community Services

Laneska Rosario

University Settlement/The Door

Maria Monica Andia Escalante

University Settlement/The Door

Latoya Wilson

University Settlement/The Door

Settlement Houses Combat Food Insecurity

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

It's the peak of the holiday season, and while most people are concerned about grabbing the greatest deals, there are thousands of others that are concerned about grabbing their next meal. While the United States just celebrated during a holiday for giving thanks (and gluttony), according to the most recent Food Bank NYC study, over 16% of New York City residents are categorized as food insecure. The statistics for food insecurity among children is even worse, with 22.3% of children uncertain of when they will find their next meal. 

Settlement houses have entrenched themselves in the business of addressing food insecurity in New York City for several years and have some success in providing healthy food options to their communities. The following paragraphs will outline the multiple, innovative ways in which settlement houses are currently combating food insecurity issues.

Grow Your Own

What do you do when your community is unable to access healthy fruits and vegetables? You grow your own of course! That’s what Anita, Frances, and Delia did through our Healthy Communities Through Healthy Food initiative at BronxWorks. After discovering the dire need to reduce the meal gap in their neighborhood, these three ladies created a community garden through which they are able to provide organically grown vegetables to residents for an affordable price. Many of our settlement houses have intentionally recruited older adults to help address the lack of healthy food options through our long-standing alliance with Community Experience Partnership. Other note-worthy exemplars of settlement house run community gardens includes Kingsbridge Heights Community Center’s Garden and Union Settlement’s El Sitio Feliz.


Exercising the Settlement House Spirit

When discussing food insecurities, we must be sure not to exclude one of the most overlooked populations of all- seniors. Hartley House, in collaboration with Rescuing Leftover Cuisine, collects between 50 to 100 pounds of fresh food from DigInn to redistribute to seniors and families throughout the week. They currently serve 75+ seniors, many who don’t have consistent access to, fresh meals on a weekly basis. The Assistant Executive Director had this to say about the effects of their project,  “A lot of our seniors don’t have weekend homecare (or don’t enjoy meals on wheels or their weekend aid’s cooking) so we know for certain that they have plenty of food and are eating over the weekend now.” Hartley House has taken the initiative to address one of the fundamental problems that cause food insecurity by providing their participants access to healthy, nutritious food free of charge.


Healthy Food Access with a Purpose

Located in the Lower East Side, the GrandLo Café is Grand Street’s latest endeavor in conquering food equity, community development, and workforce development. Although created to be a social enterprise, the GrandLo Café is a wonderful illustration of how increasing access to healthy foods can help empower the community to make better health-related decisions. In addition to providing youth with viable hard skills training, including licensing for food handling, the café also provides the neighborhood’s residents with nutritious foods from their diverse menu. The Lower East Side is one of the many areas within NYC that does not have access to affordable produce and groceries. GrandLo Café is actively trying to change that.


Food insecurity is a prevailing problem in New York City. Although the rates are slowly decreasing, access to nutritious meals is still significantly lower throughout New York in comparison to the rest of the country. While there are multiple ways to address this issue, settlement houses have created dynamic and engaging models that continue to inspire other organizations in their attempts to yield food equity for all.