According to a compelling report issued by the non-profit organization Win, every night in New York City over 23,000 children go to bed in a homeless shelter. It is estimated that one in 10 students in New York City public schools experienced homelessness during the 2016–2017 school year. Even more troubling, the number of homeless families and children is growing.
Founded in 1983 as Women In Need, Win started by serving four homeless women and their six children. Today, led by former New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, Win provides daily shelter to more than 2,400 families, including nearly 4,700 children. Win now operates 10 residential shelters, and provides 240 permanent supportive housing units, which are primarily financed by the government but require the resident to pay a small percentage of her income as rent. In response to the severe lack of affordable housing, Mayor DeBlasio launched “Housing New York 2.0,” which promises to create 15,000 supportive housing apartments in NYC over the next 15 years. Win is partnering with various large NYC developers to create these units, and as a Win board member and chair of the real estate committee, I am privileged to be part of these efforts.
Integral to Win’s mission is the provision of a variety of social services to its residents. In addition to assigning a case worker to each family to help them navigate the various social programs available to residents, such as food stamps, Win provides its own programs. For the children, Win has nine on-site daycare centers plus after-school educational and recreational programs and Camp Win, a 10-week specialized day camp, that serves close to 1,200 homeless children each summer and provides activities during school breaks – helping school-age children maintain their educational focus while allowing their moms to concentrate on rebuilding their lives. For mothers, Win provides many different programs to help residents gain fiscal responsibility, varying from learning to balance a checkbook to partnering with Gourmet Garage to provide jobs.
In the past year alone, Win has helped more than 800 families transition out of shelter into homes of their own.
In addition to its direct services, Win raises awareness and is an effective advocate for change. Through “The Forgotten Face of Homelessness” campaign, Win highlights the spiraling number of homeless children in New York City’s shelter system. The campaign calls on city and state officials to expand housing access, enhance social services for homeless children and forge new city agency partnerships.
The impact of homelessness on the safety and stability of families and children is profound. A New York Times article from earlier this year chronicled several homeless families in the shelter system and aptly concluded: “The desperation and embarrassment of having nowhere else to turn and the daily frustration of living with little privacy and curfews were immeasurable.” Through Win, however, there is hope. At every annual gala, a brave Win family member presents her experience and how she was able to find more stable housing and employment. The stories are always raw, powerful and moving. Being involved in a small way with an organization that helps change the trajectory of so many lives is greatly rewarding.