Changing Public Policy and Public Perception

70% of homeless New Yorkers are families with children

The Forgotten Face of Homelessness

Every year Win releases its annual Forgotten Face of Homelessness report, a citywide public advocacy campaign that highlights the spiraling number of homeless women and their children in NYC. The campaign calls for a series of policy solutions to support homeless families with children. Learn more about the Forgotten Face of Homelessness here.

Advocacy Successes

Ensuring social workers in schools with high proportions of homeless students:

Homeless students face barriers that their housed peers do not. They’re at higher risk for not meeting academic standards and for not graduating from high school. Win has continued to advocate for funding for specialized social workers in schools with high proportions of students living in shelter. These “Bridging the Gap” social workers are trained to address the underlying stress and trauma that can hold homeless students back from thriving academically and socially, by providing counseling, connecting them to academic support and mental health services, and working with them to improve attendance. After annual campaigns and victories, Win and partners have succeeded in including Bridging the Gap social workers as a permanent program in the City budget.

Protecting access to shelter-based childcare:

For homeless families with young children, drop-in childcare at their shelters is a lifeline. It allows them to maintain or get employment, look for an apartment, and fulfill other appointments while they recover from losing their homes, routines, and nearby support networks. When the City proposed changes to childcare regulations, Win successfully worked with the various City agencies for a transition process to prevent shelter-based childcare closures, and to increase the hours families can access childcare to reflect need and actual usage.

Specialized shelter staff to conduct holistic assessments and services that include mental health needs

Homeless families are not only contending with a housing emergency, they are also grappling with trauma. Unaddressed trauma and mental health needs interfere with the ability to carry out many essential roles and day-to-day tasks. After Win raised awareness of the often unidentified and unmet socio-emotional needs of homeless families, and the need for specialized staff in shelters, the Department of Homeless Services (DHS) announced a program to bring licensed social workers to shelters.

Win collaborated with DHS to refine the program and the strategies for operationalizing it. This collaboration resulted in successfully integrating social workers in shelter and ensured that the program was effective.

Lifting the time limit on rental assistance for formerly homeless families

When New York City launched a much needed rental assistance voucher to help homeless families move out of shelter, rental assistance was limited to five years. Unless wages increased substantially or rents decreased significantly, this five-year time limit put families at risk for returning to shelter. Win partnered with the City Council and City agencies to provide recommended changes to the rules.

After Win’s advocacy, New York City streamlined all of its existing rental assistance programs. Under the City’s new program, called CityFHEPS, families who receive a rental assistance voucher to help them move out of shelter can renew their assistance as long as they continue to qualify. Families with continued need no longer face losing their home due to an administrative rule that imposed an arbitrary time limit.