As someone who works at a visitor center who has seen an increase in patrons since the implementation of the subway safety plan, I was pleased to see that Mayor Adams’ budget included funding for additional refuge and stabilization beds. But I was deeply disturbed to learn that it did not include a cost of living adjustment (COLA) for workers like me, who put in long hours for very little pay to provide much-needed services. in programs that serve the newly homeless. Yorkers.
I work for Urban Pathways, a non-profit organization that provides homeless services and supportive housing. We have remained open for the past two years during the COVID-19 pandemic, which has made our already difficult jobs much more difficult. Due to the pandemic, our clients are facing more hurdles than ever – from having to wait months to make an appointment to obtain the necessary documents while facing ongoing social stigma.
Therefore, in addition to ongoing labor shortages, my colleagues and I are doing double the work we used to do to ensure our clients get what they need to secure housing.
The pandemic has also taken a toll on our personal finances and inflation is getting progressively worse. Every month I am faced with difficult choices. Do I pay my ever-increasing electric bill or do I buy groceries? I was recently forced out of my apartment and out of my neighborhood due to an astronomical rent increase of $1,000 per month.
I am constantly stressed and worried when I return home from a stressful job where I worry about my clients. Many of my colleagues are in similar situations, in addition they have children, parents and grandparents who depend on them financially. How can they support their families on our stagnant low wages?
It’s no surprise that approximately 24% of our organization’s jobs are open – considerably higher than the estimated average vacancy rate of 11% among human services nonprofits in March 2021 – which puts even more pressure on those of us who remain.
I love the work I do and have always had a passion to give others a lifeline. There is nothing more rewarding than reaching out to help those who have lost their way find the life they want to lead. I know that this work is more important than ever and that pushes me to continue. But without a pay rise to help offset the rising cost of living, even those who love the job won’t be able to afford to keep doing it.
Personal service jobs are the second lowest-paying of all industries in New York City, ranking just slightly higher than restaurants in pay. Yet there are significant disparities within our ranks. For example, I earn about $20,000 less a year than public sector workers. Broadly, social service workers earn about 71% of what government employees in commensurate roles are paid and 82% of what workers in the private sector earn.
Our work promotes equity, but the system perpetuates inequality. The majority of social service workers are women (66%) and people of color (68%). It’s not just a matter of fairness; it’s about gender equity and racial equity.
The daily news flash
Days of the week
Find the five best stories of the day every afternoon of the week.
My economic insecurity is the direct result of government budget decisions. It is not possible for Urban Pathways to bridge the gap with the low contract rates they receive.
We deserve better. We need better wages, salaries and benefits comparable to our government counterparts, and annual cost-of-living adjustments that we can count on. We are considered essential workers, but our own essential needs are ignored. Receiving a higher salary would help me and my colleagues meet our financial challenges and demonstrate that the city truly values our work beyond calling us “essential” in difficult times.
State lawmakers recently passed a budget giving workers who do the exact same job as me a 5.4% COLA. The city needs to at least match that, or co-workers who work for the same organization doing the same job will bring home different paychecks.
This disparity will make it harder to fill vacancies and hire additional workers to staff the mayor’s proposed $171 million in new programs. This includes 1,400 beds in smaller facilities that serve as alternatives to conventional homeless shelters, as well as three drop-in centers where individuals can have a hot meal, shower, wash their clothes and meet with managers. case managers and counselors if they wish. .
These are worthwhile investments, but who will work in the new reception centers and shelters when the municipal contracts do not pay enough to hire employees for the programs they already have?
I really hope that Adams and the city council will stand with us and start making sure that social service workers only pay fair, so that we can continue to do the work we love and help our clients to get the accommodation they need.
Henry is a Housing Specialist with Urban Pathways, which provides homeless services, supportive housing and other programs to New Yorkers in need.