For Services to Achieve the Desired Effect,
Facilities Must be Tended
The facilities in which New Yorkers receive life-sustaining human services are the subjects of heavy wear – and too many suffer from deterioration.
These spaces are senior centers, early childhood education classrooms, youth centers, health venues, mental health offices, and supportive housing – and, frequently, they accommodate multiple functions – and are utilized constantly by all, providing myriad benefits to New Yorkers at all stages of life.
The majority of funds supporting the services provided in these locations are sourced from government, yet contracts between government and human services organizations to operate programs rarely include funds allowing for the improvement of facilities.
Providing the services that support communities responsibly requires careful planning and adequate financial resources. In the past, State legislators recognized the importance of properly maintaining these facilities and allocated funds in sizable amounts for this purpose ensuring that these programs and the communities that benefit from them were set up for success. However, this practice was discontinued nearly a decade ago – and, as a result, conditions at the facilities of many vital programs have increasingly worsened.
Budgeting is a matter of asserting values and making choices. Aged and energy-inefficient systems cause discomfort and disruption and tarnished settings diminish the morale of participants and staff – conveying to them the discouraging message that they are unvalued. When these facilities are in disrepair and unappealing, the quality of programs is threatened.
To remedy the situation, HSC and our partners advocated strenuously for State capital funding for human services to be re-instated, and two years ago Governor Cuomo accommodated the request and designated $50 million for a NYS Nonprofit Infrastructure Capital Investment Program, and last year the State legislature renewed the program. And, recently, following a competitive solicitation combining the funds allocated over both years, the funds were allocated to dozens of human services organizations, including 29 HSC members.
At Sunnyside Community Services, an outdated space dedicated to a variety of programs for seniors – including home care, case management, Social Adult Day Care – will be renovated to allow for optimal safety, repair of leaks, private meetings regarding sensitive matters, upgraded aesthetics, and a more efficient use of space.
At Forestdale, a Queens-based family services organization, three outmoded 75 year-old buildings will be converted into state-of-the-art centers focused on early childhood education, adult education, career and family support, greatly adding to the organization’s efforts to help young people exiting the foster care system, new parents balancing competing demands, and families healing from past distresses.
These and many other upgrades supported by the Nonprofit Infrastructure Capital Investment Program will undoubtedly translate to stronger outcomes for participants in programs, but a great many worthy proposals to the State program were declined, and the funds allocated only begin to address unmet capital needs for many organizations receiving the grants.
As policymakers develop the New York State FY18 public budget, slated to be adopted by April 1, HSC has been advocating in coalition with our partners to double funding for the Nonprofit Infrastructure Capital Investment Program. But, in a move that has confounded human services leaders, the Governor did not include funds for the program in his budgetary proposal, and neither the Senate nor Assembly has added the funds.
A failure to invest in the facilities that house these services is ironic and short-sighted. Inadequate facilities will undermine the efforts of human services organizations to help New Yorkers surmount barriers, thereby making it more difficult to achieve the progress we all desire, and likely leading to additional expenses.
It is imperative that human services leaders continue to loudly assert the necessity of renewing and increasing funds for capital projects.
Please take part in this critical advocacy effort. (Click for instructions)
–Danny Rosenthal, Consultant to Nonprofits & Writer