By Sister Paulette LoMonaco, Executive Director, Good Shepherd Services
This blog post is adapted from Sister LoMonaco’s remarks during one of the member engagement sessions at Philanthropy New York’s 34th Annual Meeting.
I would like to focus on two perspectives: youth services and youth in communities of high need like Red Hook, Brooklyn, and the special needs of those providing child welfare, mental health and developmentally delayed programs for youth.
In communities like Red Hook, where 75 percent of the population lives in the Red Hook Houses and 47 percent live below the poverty level, there is already an enormous amount of vulnerability. Red Hook suffers from a lack of public transportation, with only two buses running in and out of a community that is surrounded on three sides by water and on the fourth by the Gowanus Expressway. It has very diminished services that most New Yorkers take for granted: limited access to doctors and health services, little access to fresh food, only one bank, no movie theater or dry cleaners and a library with limited hours.
Young people in Red Hook (as in other impoverished neighborhoods) are underemployed and often undereducated. They tend to live in public housing, which was unprepared for Hurricane Sandy and its aftermath despite all of their efforts; many of the people that were told to leave had no place to go and so remained on site. The programs that serve them in these neighborhoods are also without resources — every year, programs like the Beacons and afterschool and child care, designed to be the infrastructure that keep vulnerable youth and families safe and engaged, face budget cuts leading to staff layoffs and program uncertainty. Their staff are often part-time, and thus not eligible for medical benefits. One can rightfully say that youth services providers live in a state of perpetual crisis, a perpetual disaster aftermath, as they attempt to address the multi-faceted needs of those they serve with limited resources and very little in the way of extra funds for a rainy day, not to mention a giant superstorm.