“For the first time, three religious charity umbrella groups in New York are joining forces to study government policies and programs designed to help people living in poverty in the hopes of finding better solutions to the problem and helping really change lives,” reports Theresa Agovino in Crain’s New York yesterday May 15, 2014.
Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of New York, the Federation of Protestant Welfare Agencies, and the UJA Federation of New York have worked on jointly providing services over the years, but their latest endeavor is taking a new turn. Two months ago, the trio tapped the Urban Institute, a Washington, D.C.-based social and economic and policy research group, to review various government poverty programs, with an emphasis on city programs, to learn more about what is effective. They paid $125,000 for the study and hope to have results in two months. The executive said that it was still too soon to say how they would use the results of the study because they aren’t sure what it will uncover.
Together the groups have a network of more than 400 nonprofits that offer a wide range of services including providing food, housing and job training to a total of nearly six million people. Many of those nonprofits receive city funding and work with government agencies on various programs.
‘We may have different theologies, but we each share the tradition of feeding the hungry, clothing the naked and housing the homeless,’ said John Ruskay, executive vice president and chief executive officer of the UJA.
Despite all of the good works these groups and others provide, poverty in the city remains stubbornly high. The poverty rate in New York City was essentially unchanged at 21% from 2010 to 2012, but that’s up from 19% in 2008, according to the New York City’s Center for Economic Opportunity, which works to fight poverty.
‘We want to see how we can change the outcomes,’ said Monsignor Kevin Sullivan, executive director of Catholic Charities. ‘Maybe certain programs need to be scaled up or offered together. How can we do better?’
Jennifer Jones Austin, chief executive officer and executive director of the Federation of Protestant Welfare Agencies, said she heard about a similar study being conducted in Wisconsin and thought it would be a good idea to create one for the city to help inform public policy. She opted to reach out to her counterparts to amplify her voice.
‘We are all distinguished and respected in our own rights,’ said Ms. Jones Austin, who served as co-chair of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s transition team along with Carl Weisbrod. ‘I believe that with the three of us people will be really listening at city hall.’
It is unacceptable in our wealthy city and nation that one out of five New Yorkers now lives below the poverty line, scrambling to feed and house their hungry children.
“Poverty and its effects afflicts too many of our neighbors in New York,” Msgr. Sullivan said as he discussed this interfaith initiative.
“I look forward to reporting back to you on the Urban Institute’s findings. This study will hopefully serve to enhance our work and our impact on those most in need.”
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