Network member tenants and staff gathered for our annual Lobby Day to share real-life stories & dire funding needs with legislators.
One of the Network’s most beloved days of the year – Lobby Day – began at the crack of dawn on March 5th with staff and tenants from all over the state traveling to Albany for a day of impressing on state legislators the urgent need for increased, adequate funding for new and existing supportive housing. More than 100 tenants and staff from more than 30 organizations met with more than 60 legislators and their staff.
One of the most powerful aspects of our meetings was the presence of tenants who shared real-life stories of how supportive housing has transformed their lives in a holistic, sustainable way. As one tenant said with the conviction of a lived experience:
“Supportive housing is not only a place to be or a roof over the head, but a set of tools and services that empower a person to get back up… and stay up.”
In meetings throughout the Capitol and the Legislative Office Building, our team discussed the dire financial reality of New York’s existing supportive housing with legislators and staff. They included Assemblyman Steve Cymbrowitz and Senator Brian Kavanagh, Housing Committee Chairs; Assemblyman Andrew Hevesi and Senator Roxanne Persaud, Social Services Committee Chairs; Senator David Carlucci, Mental Health Committee Chair; Senator Michael Gianaris, Senate Deputy Majority Leader; Assemblyman Carl Heastie, Speaker of the Assembly; and Assemblywoman Crystal Peoples-Stokes, Assembly Majority Leader.
We equipped legislators and their staff with pages of background information on the evidence of supportive housing’s positive effects on homeless families and individuals as well as communities and the ways those effects were being negatively impacted by severe gaps in state funding. Meetings were also an opportunity for us to express a personal thank you to those legislators who signed on to a Chair Letter from Mental Health Committee Chair, Assemblywoman Aileen Gunther to fully fund existing housing for people living with mental illness. Our members played a crucial role in these meetings by putting names, faces and anecdotes of day-to-day work experiences demonstrating the need in terms of real-life impacts on staff and tenants.
The Network and supportive housing community discussed the specific needs for legislators to push for:
- Add $64 million to the Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance (OTDA) Homeless Housing Assistance Program.
- Double the capital funding for HHAP from $64 million proposed in the Executive Budget to $128 million to meet increasing demand.
- Add $10.8 million to the New York State Supportive Housing Program (NYSSHP).
- Support the Executive Budget’s $3 million increase to the OTDA appropriation that funds NYSSHP and add an additional $7.8 million to ensure the existing 8,000 formerly homeless individuals and families across NYS are receiving adequate housing-based services. This funding would also include a 2 percent COLA for all NYSSHP programs statewide.
- Add $32.3 million to the Office Mental Housing (OMH) Budget to Rescue Chronically Underfunded Housing for 36,000 Mentally Ill New Yorkers.
- Support the Executive Budget’s proposed $10 million add to the OMH Community Housing budget, and add another $32.3 million as part of a five-year plan to fund the entire $161.5 million needed for existing OMH housing. This will begin to address budget gaps created by up to 25 years of nearly flat funding that have left tenants, communities and the nonprofits that provide housing in dire straits.
We give a huge round of applause to our members and tenants who joined us and made this year’s Lobby Day one to remember: Breaking Ground, CAMBA, Catholic Charities USA, DePaul, The Fortune Society, Harlem United, HELP USA, Housing Visions, Hudson River Housing, Jctod Outreach, The Jewish Board, Joseph's House, Lantern Community Services, National Economic and Social Rights Initiative, Neighborhood Coalition for Shelter, Odyssey House, Opportunities for Broome, PathStone, Praxis Housing Initiatives, Schenectady Community Action Program, Services for the UnderServed, St. Catherine's Center for Children, Urban Pathways, Unique People Services, VoA Greater New York, WIN, West Side Federation for Senior and Supportive Housing, YWCA Rochester & Monroe and YWCA Syracuse & Onandaga.
We also applaud those legislators who are effectively responding to the state’s need for adequate funding and are continuing conversations with us to ensure that all New Yorkers who need it will benefit from quality supportive housing. We are hopeful that residents across New York will wake up on April 1 to a budget in which these needs for supportive housing are better met.
To see our live tweeting from meetings on the day of, please visit our Twitter profile for March 5 here.
For a full collection of photos, please visit our Facebook photo album here.