Borough President Adams kicked off his partnership with Benefit Kitchen, a Brooklyn-based technology platform that won the NYC BigApps contest in 2015, to help identify millions of dollars in financial benefits for New Yorkers in need. This financial literacy tool, which can be downloaded onto Android or iOS systems, uses state-of-the-art algorithms to determine the eligibility and estimated dollar amounts for more than a dozen federal, state, and local benefits. The app’s creators are married couple Dan Beeby and Melanie Lavelle. Borough President Adams allocated an initial $5,000 grant to Benefit Kitchen from his Fiscal Year 2017 (FY17) budget that supports trainings across the borough, as well as additional outreach that will educate Brooklynites and New Yorkers on how they can take advantage of this platform.
Benefit Kitchen is a project of Self-Sufficiency Solutions, which has been building caseworker-facing benefit screening tools for 15 years. The app allows users to learn about their benefit eligibility, which to date has identified an average of $13,000 per household in annual benefits, without asking any personally identifiable information such as one’s name or Social Security number. Benefits that it screens for include:
Tens of billions of dollars are unclaimed every year in federal, state, and local benefits, all while 10.5 million families live in poverty nationwide. In New York and California, only half of eligible families receive SNAP and a mere seven percent of eligible families receive all of the top three benefits (SNAP, child care, and health care). This initiative will bring screenings to sites such as the Constituent Assistance Center (CAC), community board offices, child care centers, schools, senior centers, and social service agencies.
Visit benefitkitchen.com to learn more about the app.
Runaway Homeless Youth
Borough President Adams worked with State Senator Savino and Assembly Member Weinstein on the passage of a New York State Fiscal Year 2018 (FY18) budget proposal to expand the application of the New York State Runaway and Homeless Youth (RHY) Act to include individuals under the age of 25 who need services and are without a place of shelter where supervision and care are available, an increase from the current upper limit of 21. The provision addressed longstanding concerns that have been reported by many homeless New Yorkers between the ages of 21 and 25 regarding accessing adult homeless shelters, including fears of bullying, harassment, sexual assault, and violence; as a result of these issues, a significant number of young people have chosen to risk sleeping in the streets and subways, deepening the damaging financial and psychological costs of chronic homelessness.
In February 2018, Borough President Adams delivered testimony at the New York City Council in support of local legislation that would expand the RHY definition to include young people between the ages of 21-24 in City-operated shelters.
Borough President Adams officially proclaimed the month of June as Brooklyn’s Homelessness Awareness Month, as part of his comprehensive campaign to build a boroughwide coalition that raises awareness of the plight of homeless individuals and families across Brooklyn.
This community-driven approach is led by clergy leaders who preach from the pulpit on caring for homeless people. The initiative is hands-on in organizing “Adopt-a-Shelter” groups, recruiting block associations and businesses to provide resources and community engagement with local homeless populations as well as coordinating with educational institutions to develop plans that best support their homeless students and families. Borough President Adams continues to mediate and moderate community conversations on homelessness while engaging partners in legal and social service communities to ensure the delivery of a comprehensive support network for the borough’s homeless population.
The Coalition for the Homeless estimated that there were nearly 16,000 homeless families in New York City, comprising more than three-quarters of the homeless shelter population. There are a record 23,000 children across the city, nearly half of whom are under the age of six, now living in the city’s shelter system, according to a recent report from the Center for New York City Affairs at the New School. Per the Institute for Children, Poverty, and Homelessness, Bedford-Stuyvesant and Brownsville lead Brooklyn in the greatest percentage of homeless students, both at a rate of 15.2 percent. Shelter entry in Brooklyn is highest in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brownsville, and East New York, representing some of the highest entry rates in the five boroughs.