Categories: New York City
I have been a Case Manager at Urban Pathways since July and have worked in the human services sector for the past 4 years.
Urban Pathways provides homeless services and supportive housing, and our programs have never closed throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Besides dealing with COVID itself, the pandemic has created other huge challenges for my clients experiencing homelessness. They face restrictions making appointments, having to wait for months at a time to be seen, and challenges getting paperwork updated that is needed to apply for housing. This has resulted in my colleagues and I doing double the work to ensure our clients get what they need for housing.
While we’re working twice as hard every day to assist our clients, the pandemic has wreaked havoc on our personal financial situations. Every month I am faced with difficult choices on how to spend my paycheck. Do I pay my electric bill, or do I buy groceries? Come January, my student loan payments will come due again. How will I afford my loan payments when I’m already struggling to make ends meet? This leaves me with constant stress and worry when I go home, after leaving a job that is stressful and worrying about my clients’ wellbeing. Many of my colleagues also have children, parents, and grandparents that depend on them financially. How are they supposed to support them with our poverty-level wages?
Receiving a cost-of-living adjustment would help with some of the increases in my budget. A consistent and guaranteed annual COLA is necessary for me to plan ahead and create a financial plan. Ironically, I am always encouraging my clients to save and learn how to budget their income. How do I teach them financial management when I’m unable to take my own advice? I’m in the same boat and facing the same money challenges they are.
I love the work that I do and have always had a passion for helping others. There is nothing more rewarding than helping those who have gotten off track get back to the life they want to lead. I know this work is important and that drives me to keep going.
But I want to know why the City did not believe we deserved a COLA in the FY22 budget? What reason did they give to leave it out so carelessly when it has been human services workers who have kept the city going for the past 21 months with our services? We are considered essential workers yet, our basic needs have gone ignored. I’m struggling to understand why I have to be asking for a basic COLA to be included in the November budget modification when it could have been included in July.
I hope the Council will do the right things by including the $48 million needed to just pay the human services COLA, and that they’ll keep it going in the budgets ahead.