In 2014, we started our first community organizing project in response to the lack of participant voices and perspectives in the ongoing dialogue regarding citywide public assistance policies.
Our work is shaped and guided by the Safety Net Activists, volunteer community leaders committed to fighting poverty and injustice in NYC.
In 2014, we started our first community organizing project in response to the lack of participant voices and perspectives in the ongoing dialogue regarding citywide public assistance (also known as welfare or cash assistance) policies. These policies, many draconian in nature, affect more than half a million low-income New Yorkers each year. Using hundreds of client surveys and focus groups with public assistance recipients all over the city, we released a comprehensive report, Culture of Deterrence, documenting many of the customer service problems with the public assistance system run by the Human Resources Administration (HRA). Our report showed that the current Public Assistance system all too often strips New Yorkers of their rights and dignity while denying them the benefits that they need to support themselves.
Based on the tremendous response we received from public assistance recipients in the process of developing the report, we decided to add community organizing as a central component of our efforts to create systemic change. SNP’s community organizing work is led by the Safety Net Activists, a volunteer group of community members with personal experience with poverty, homelessness, and the public benefits system, many of whom are former or current SNP clients. Since 2014, the Safety Net Activists have represented SNP at bi-monthly meetings with officials from HRA, community events, and public hearings. The SNAs are currently the only member-led group that has a standing meeting with HRA and DHS.