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The city vs. one of its homeless service providers

New York City and the bureaucrats entrenched in City Hall have a clear problem with the service providers hired to carry out the vital work that the city either doesn’t want to do or, more likely, can’t do. Nowhere is this more evident than how city officials deal with the nonprofits they hire to provide critical services to New York’s growing homeless population.

Homelessness in New York City has reached its highest level since the Great Depression — with more than 48,000 people sleeping in shelters every night and thousands more bunkering down on the streets. Despite this, the city’s Department of Homeless Services (DHS) — until recently — appeared less concerned about addressing its homelessness crisis than it was avoiding timely payments to the very nonprofits the city hired to care for its most vulnerable residents.

DHS is capable of dodging its bills largely because of its “buy now, pay later” system, where nonprofits front the money for the services they provide on behalf of the city and then are reimbursed for their work. Under this system, nonprofits often receive payments late and sometimes not at all. While Mayor Adams and city Comptroller Brad Lander in May formed a task force to address a $5 billion backlog of late payments and recently announced significant progress to clear it, nearly $1 billion of the total backlog remains unpaid to nonprofits.

Frankly, I was appalled when this was brought to my attention by multiple individuals and providers. When I investigated the matter, it only took only a couple of days to confirm what I feared — a longstanding, institutionalized “buy now, pay later” system under which DHS often avoids its bills.

One of the most blatant and unscrupulous examples is the case of CORE Services Group — one of the largest and most recognized nonprofits operating homeless shelters in New York, which filled a major gap for years in helping feed, house and care for down-and-out New Yorkers.

DHS racked up approximately $40 million in unpaid bills to CORE. Instead of addressing these outstanding bills, it appears powerful officials at DHS waged a smear campaign through a series of anonymous leaks to the media to paint CORE — and its CEO Jack Brown — as enriching themselves by awarding contracts to several for-profit companies it had established, including a security firm, a maintenance company and a food services business.

I was particularly offended by the references to Brown’s compensation in resulting media coverage. It leads one to believe that he is a very wealthy individual enriched by fraud when, in fact, his earnings are consistent with other similarly sized organizations performing comparable services, according to an analysis of Compensation Resources’ 2019 Compensation Survey for Not-for-Profits, which was conducted during the previous mayoral administration.

It also appears the city never had an issue with the way CORE operated its business until the organization started pressing for the millions of dollars it’s owed for services rendered.

The leaks and allegations leveled against CORE are highly suspicious and reek of the old style of corruption and political heavy-handedness that has plagued New York City for decades. Now with the matter finally making its way to court, the city won’t be able to hide behind the veil of anonymous leaks to the media and the truth can finally be revealed.

Whatever the outcome of the CORE case, it’s promising that there is recognition among some city officials that the treatment of nonprofits is a pressing issue. The bad news, as was brought to my attention, is that the root of the problem is not yet solved. For instance, 75% of the city’s contracts in 2022 were not even submitted for registration until work was well underway by vendors.

The city’s delinquency when it comes to paying nonprofit service providers not only puts additional strain on these organizations — forcing them to take out high-interest loans to meet payroll and continue doing business — but also strains their operations and hinders their ability to provide the services to New York’s homeless population that the city itself cannot provide.

Of the alleged $40 million owed to CORE by DHS, for example, $27 million (roughly 67%) goes to vendors, while just $13 million goes to CORE, according to its analysis of the outstanding payments. The bulk of the funds are owed to job or technical skills training providers, substance abuse treatment programs and other vendors, which strains their businesses and their ability to provide services to New York residents experiencing homelessness.

This is not just a problem for city nonprofits and the New Yorkers they serve. This is also a problem for every New York City taxpayer. Every person should expect more from their government. It’s time to root out this systemic mismanagement. But it will take a far more thorough investigation to uncover the full truth than I am able to provide. That’s why I suggest that the appropriate investigatory and compliance agencies examine what I feel are startling allegations.

Legal Documents: Biased de Blasio Case Against CORE Services Will Be Dismissed

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For years, the de Blasio administration relied on CORE , a minority governed and managed not-for-profit, to provide crucial services to homeless New Yorkers. CORE repeatedly rose to the occasion – including at times opening shelters within mere days of being contacted. The de Blasio administration routinely praised CORE, and named it NYC’s “Provider of the Year” in 2019.

But as homelessness continued to spiral out of control, the de Blasio administration sought to deflect criticism by scapegoating CORE in the media. It then filed a baseless and misleading lawsuit against CORE in which it feigned ignorance of CORE’s business model, which had been disclosed in detail to the city as early as 2017. And despite its long record of good work, the city has failed to pay this minority governed and managed non-profit tens of millions owed for services performed. 

Fighting City Hall isn’t easy, and the media is unfortunately buying de Blasio’s self-serving spin. These legal documents – written in clear, easy to follow language – show exactly how the de Blasio administration used CORE when it needed crucial services, how it repeatedly praised CORE in emails, and how CORE updated the city was about the very operations de Blasio now claims he didn’t know about.

The newspapers who tarnished CORE’s reputation have not reported these claims despite the fact that they are publicly available. Apparently only scandal – real or manufactured – sells.

CORE wants the truth out there. We invite all New Yorkers to read these read these documents. Legal experts agree that the de Blasio administration’s lawsuit will be dismissed.

Please read the legal documents here.

NYC Mayor Eric Adams and Comptroller Brad Lander Release Five Key Actions for A Better Contract For New York

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Photo by: Office of New York City Comptroller

The Joint Mayoral and Comptroller task force presented recommendations to improve contracting and get nonprofit service providers paid on time

NEW YORK, NY – New York City Comptroller Brad Lander and senior members of the New York City Mayor’s Office stood together to release the findings of “A Better Contract for New York: A Joint Task Force to Get Nonprofits Paid On Time.” Both offices announced five actionable steps to better manage and streamline the nonprofit contracting and procurement process while increasing accountability and transparency. The recommendations were the result of a joint task force first convened during the transition period to jump start solving long-standing issues in city governance that impact the delivery of services to New Yorkers.

“For too long, the City has relied on nonprofits to deliver essential services without holding up its end of the bargain,” said Mayor Eric Adams. “The failure to pay our nonprofits in a timely manner has not only hurt our nonprofit sector, which is predominantly made up of Black and Brown workers, but also the New Yorkers who rely on their services. The findings from this task force will guide needed reforms to our contracting and procurement rules, improving transparency and accountability throughout all stages of the process. I thank Comptroller Lander for his partnership, the members of this task force, and the human services providers who perform life-saving work for New Yorkers who need it most every day.”

“Our City’s nonprofit human service providers are lifelines for New Yorkers, providing essential services from feeding the elderly to mental health care, yet our City’s cumbersome contracting process has hindered many nonprofits’ abilities to deliver these critical services,” said Comptroller Brad Lander. “With input from dozens of organizations and agency stakeholders, Mayor Adams and I put our heads together to substantially improve the process for the organizations New Yorkers rely on. Our mission was to ensure timely payments to responsible contractors so that organizations can continue to serve New Yorkers, while maintaining appropriate oversight to prevent abuses. I look forward to working with Mayor Adams, his future appointment to the newly created Mayor’s Office of Nonprofits, and our city’s essential non-profit organizations to implement these overdue reforms.”
New York City contracts out many of its programs to nonprofits—from health and housing assistance, shelter operations to after school activities. Last year, the City procured $12 billion in human services, totaling 40% of procured goods and services. The nonprofit sector is a substantial part of the City’s economy, employing over 500,000 people, an overwhelming majority of whom are women and people of color. 
Unfortunately, many of these partners wait months, and up to more than a year, to get paid for services they provide to New Yorkers. In FY22, over three-quarters of the City’s contracts with nonprofit organizations arrived at the Comptroller’s office for registration after the start date. Delays and flaws in the process of registering and paying contractors have left many nonprofits in a lurch, taking out loans to continue their essential operations while they wait for reimbursement from the City.

“The overwhelming majority of human services nonprofit organizations serve in the best interest of the New Yorkers who rely on them, yet face too many challenges when doing business with the City. These organizations demonstrated endless commitment at the height of the pandemic when their workers showed up to make sure that residents were fed, housed, and had their most fundamental needs met when we were in crisis. Now we need to be there for them. These substantial reforms are grounded in shared accountability, greater transparency, and renewed leadership and management structures — which will ultimately get nonprofits paid on time for the services that build the City a stronger future,” said Annie Levers, Assistant Comptroller for Policy.

“Nonprofits provide numerous valuable services to the City of New York and its residents. Ensuring that they are paid on time and fairly is essential to getting resources in place that our city needs. As a backbone organization, United Way of New York City works closely with partners across sectors to make actionable change and initiatives that benefit New Yorkers in need. It is important for us to advocate on behalf of our nonprofit partners so that we can continue to support them in their timely and effective delivery of services that our city and residents depend on,” said Amy Sananman, Senior Vice President and Chief Impact + Strategy Officer at United Way of New York City.

“Our City’s human services partners show up every day to deliver critical services to our communities, including our most vulnerable residents. Their unwavering commitment is essential to the vitality and health of our City taking on greater significance during the pandemic,” said Lisa Flores, Director of Mayor’s Office of Contract Services. “MOCS is proud to be leading procurement reforms established by the Task Force that recognize our important partnership and make it easier for nonprofit partners to do business with the City.  A procurement system that is transparent, accountable and accessible is the cornerstone for realizing greater equity in New York City.”

“Our city’s non-profits provide essential human services to thousands of New Yorkers—from afterschool programs, violence interrupters, to housing the homeless, and their contracts should be paid on time through a transparent process. The Bureau of Contracts Administration welcomes these recommendations and we look forward to working with our agency partners to streamline the registration process for nonprofits while ensuring accountability and oversight. These recommendations will go a long way towards a system that not only greatly benefit the non-profits, but also all those who rely on their services day-in and day-out,” said Charlette Hamamgian, Deputy Comptroller for Contracts and Procurement.   

“Human services Nonprofits fill local needs and gaps with targeted services that the City is unable to carry out. It’s unacceptable that these trusted community partners have seen their finances collapse as a result of delays and inefficiencies in the City’s contracting process,” said Council Member and Contracts Committee Chair Julie Won. “As Chair of the Contracts Committee, I look forward to partnering with the Mayor, Comptroller, and the Nonprofits to reform our city’s slow and broken contracting process, starting by holding a hearing on the much-maligned PASSPort system this week. Until my last day in office, I will work to streamline outdated processes and inefficiencies across our city’s procurement and contracting process.”

“The city’s procurement process is inequity hidden in plain sight. I’ve heard from nonprofits who are owed millions for essential services they have already rendered to the neediest New Yorkers. We need to make sure we can pay our contracted service providers on time not just because it’s the right thing to do, but because people in New York City need us to. It’s great and long overdue that we have a mayor, comptroller, partners in the council, and a community of respected nonprofit leaders all committed to getting this right. In this case, the cliché of government efficiency really means something: unless we live up to it and make sure nonprofits have their funds when they need them, working class New Yorkers are the ones last left on the hook,” said Council Member and Chair of the Finance Committee Justin Brannan.
The primary recommendations for reforms included:

  1. Accountability and Transparency: Create new systems that both hold city stakeholders accountable for timely procurement and contracting and increase transparency to nonprofit providers and the public, including creating Contract-stat– a public data dashboard similar to Compstat.
  2. Streamline and Modernize: Reduce inefficiencies and delays in the procurement and contracting process with improved and expanded adoption of the PASSPort digital procurement system across agencies.
  3. Fairness and Equality: Lower the burden incurred by smaller, primarily BIPOC-led nonprofits when contracting with the City, including increasing the Returnable Grant Fund and rewriting the standard human services contract to acknowledge cost escalations, like cost of living adjustments, that would increase the original cost of these vital services contracts without the need for amendments.
  4. Leadership and Management Practices: Establish leadership and management practices at the highest levels of city government, including the new Mayor’s Office of Nonprofits, with input from nonprofit organizations.
  5. Capacity Building: Strengthen the capacity of nonprofit organization’s administrative and contracting capabilities through training and technical assistance to support nonprofits

The Mayor and Comptroller are jointly responsible for procurement and contract administration, each playing a defined role to protect public funds and award contracts fairly. Both offices have committed to ensure nonprofit contractors are paid on time, in full, on a predictable schedule, while preserving appropriate oversight to prevent abuses – and requires continued coordination between Mayoral agencies and the Comptroller’s Bureau of Contract Administration.

“It was an honor to serve with fellow nonprofit leaders as Mayor Eric Adams and Comptroller Brad Lander stood together to release the findings of ‘A Better Contract for New York: A Joint Task Force to Get Nonprofits Paid On Time.’ We were tasked with giving open and honest feedback on our experience with city procurement. What we came up with is what we have all been waiting for– needed change to make our contracting job easier to serve the very communities city funding is aimed to serve,” said Dr. Debbie Almontaser, CEO and Founder, Bridging Cultures Group Inc.

“We at Community Capacity Development, salute Mayor Adams and Comptroller Lander for their leadership in reforming the city’s procurement process on behalf of not-for-profit organizations delivering essential services to the city. Our organization’s contract was just registered six months late, and we have yet to be paid despite providing life-saving programs for neighborhoods facing gun violence. As a frontline organization working with grassroots community groups to stem the tide of violence and promote human justice, this timely contracting reform will make the difference between life and death. With our collective-input and sustained effort, these recommendations are a harbinger of future progressive community-oriented policies targeting not-for-profit organizations serving marginalized communities in New York,” said K. Bain, Founder and CEO of Community Capacity Development and Co Founder of the NYC Crisis Management System.
“It is my honor to represent the performing arts nonprofit community on this important task force. Our shared commitment to strengthening the nonprofit sector and elevating all of our collective work is an important priority. This action plan provides clear guidelines for movement forward as we begin to address essential changes that must be made,” said Alejandra Duque Cifuentes, Executive Director, Dance/NYC.

“We are proud to be part of this joint task force, which includes the Mayor’s office and the Comptroller’s office and introduces a new spirit of collaboration. This partnership builds on and enhances the work of the City Department for the Aging and its network of providers, which ultimately benefits all New Yorkers. Even in the darkest days of the pandemic, our network of providers never stopped serving older New Yorkers and delivering critical services. Providing our partners with a more efficient approach to contract registration and expedited reimbursement of invoices will help them better fulfill their mission and the goals of the City’s Community Care Plan for older adults,” said Commissioner Lorraine Cortés-Vázquez, Department for the Aging.

“The mission of the NYC Department of Youth and Community Development (DYCD) is to invest in a network of community-based organizations to operate a continuum of afterschool, community center, youth workforce, runaway and homeless youth, and anti-poverty programs that provide opportunities for New Yorkers and communities to flourish. Critical partners in achieving that mission are DYCD’s network of nonprofit providers—they are essential community institutions and one of New York City’s greatest assets. During the pandemic, we witnessed again the strength and commitment of the City’s community-based organizations in serving New Yorkers. DYCD is dedicated to improving the contracting process, and we look forward to working with our Administration colleagues, Comptroller’s Office, City Council, and the provider community in advancing the recommendations of the Action Memo,” said Anthony Ng, DYCD Acting Chief of Staff and Task Force member.

“For too long, local government has disrespected and undervalued the efforts of New York City’s nonprofits and their employees, the majority of whom are women and People of Color. This commitment by Mayor Adams and Comptroller Lander reflects an overdue and substantive shift in the way the City treats our essential work. It also gives us many reasons to be optimistic about the relationship between the non-profit and public sectors in New York City in the years ahead,” said Alan van Capelle, CEO and President, Educational Alliance.

 “Settlement houses, along with a constellation of nonprofits across the city, work tirelessly to deliver vital programs that children and families need to survive and thrive; food, shelter, education, employment, healthcare, and the arts – essential services that serve as a lifeline to countless New Yorkers and are the fabric of the safety net that is needed to help the city recover from COVID.  As a provider with an extensive range of government contracts and partnerships, Henry Street Settlement understands how critically important it is that the procurement and payment process function efficiently and effectively in order for providers to be able to execute and deliver on their mission.  We commend Mayor Adams, Comptroller Lander, and the task force for taking on such fundamentally important issues and for the commitment to implement policy and practice that will improve the human service sector’s ability to benefit those we serve,” said David Garza, President and CEO, Henry Street Settlement. 

“Over 90% of Department of Homeless Services contracts are not registered until after their start date yet, the nonprofits upon which the City relies to uphold the right to shelter remain open, providing shelter, meals, and rehousing support to tens of thousands of New Yorkers every day.  The fiscal strain can be enormous, and the costs of these delays have pushed responsible nonprofits to the brink compromising the City’s ability to identify enough good partners who can afford to do this vital work. Homeless Services United is grateful to Mayor Adams and Comptroller Lander for taking on this challenge and collaborating with the sector to solve this long standing problem. Their demonstrated commitment to timely contracting and payment gives us hope that we can finally get the sector on secure financial footing so we can focus on delivering the quality services our clients deserve,” said Catherine Trapani, Executive Director, Homeless Services United.

“Nonprofit human services providers have long been a backbone of both the economic and social fabric of New York, but are often treated as an afterthought by government partners. Nowhere is this more clear than in the extreme delays in paying providers for critical, lifesaving services. Mayor Adams and Comptroller Lander took a huge step in acknowledging the invaluable role of the sector by making procurement a key transition issue with this task force. We applaud them for hitting the ground running with a series of important recommendations, and for including the sector in this process. This will ensure that New Yorkers get the support they need to not only survive, but thrive. The Human Services Council and our members look forward to continuing our partnership, and seeing these recommendations to completion so that our communities can continue to depend on human services nonprofits for essential programs,” said Michelle Jackson, Executive Director, Human Services Council of New York.

“I applaud Mayor Adams and Comptroller Lander for convening the Task Force and releasing these critically important recommendations. The speedy implementation of these recommendations will reduce wasted non-profit staff time and wasteful interest expense, improving the quality of non-profit services that millions of New Yorkers rely on every day,” said Ben Thomases, Executive Director of Queens Community House.

“It is heartening to see Mayor Adams and Comptroller Lander jointly acknowledge New York City’s procurement problems, seek reforms to a system that unfairly burdens the nonprofit sector, and to also take responsibility to address contract registration and payment delays in a timely manner.  For too long, the City has taken advantage of the heart, soul, and budgets of the nonprofit sector.  Settlement houses, in partnership with the City, remain committed to their neighbors and to strengthening their communities with early childhood education, after school, senior services, mental health counseling and adult literacy programs. We look forward to ‘A Better Contract for New York’,” said Susan Stamler, Executive Director at United Neighborhood Houses. 

“In New York City, human service nonprofits sustain and support vulnerable New Yorkers. Government supports this work through the procurement system. UJA-Federation of New York stands with Mayor Adams and Comptroller Lander in recognizing that New York City’s procurement system is in high need of restructuring and improvement. This important report, created with a broad group of stakeholders, and issued less than 45 days into Mayor and Comptroller’s administrations, speaks to the commitment of the Mayor and Comptroller to reform procurement and their priority on the partnership, both between their offices and with New York’s nonprofit community,” said Louisa Chafee, Senior Vice President, Public Policy & External Relations, UJA-Federation of New York. 

“VOA-Greater New York is proud to provide housing, health and wealth-building services that help to end homelessness in NYC.  We believe that a vibrant nonprofit sector, unencumbered by systemic financial risk, can be a powerful force for transformative change in NYC. We are grateful to Mayor Eric Adams and Comptroller Brad Lander for convening this task force. The recommendations in this report serve as a roadmap to ensuring that the City’s procurement and contracting process enhances the quality of services we provide to our neighbors in need, and I look forward to working with them both on implementing these reforms,” said Myung Lee, CEO of VOA-Greater New York.
For the full report read here and for the full article read here.

CORE Services in Search of Fairness

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By Barrington M. Salmon, NNPA Newswire Contributor

NNPA NEWSWIRE — Among the claims made by the de Blasio administration — and, in particular, the New York Department of Homeless Services — is that CORE hid from DHS officials its organizational structure and its use of several subsidiaries to provide food, security and other services at shelters. But CORE has countered that it has “overwhelming documentary evidence – including documents referenced in the Complaint” – that show company officials routinely made detailed disclosures to the city. 

Under the leadership of Jack Brown, the non-profit CORE Services Group, Inc. has provided services to thousands of homeless residents in New York City for nearly 20 years and made a name for itself as the social-service agency that the city turned to in times of crisis, including the pandemic.

Despite its years of service to New York City, the de Blasio administration in its final days in office decided to cut ties with CORE on what a number of critics say are trumped-up claims — and then ordered the non-profit to repay $2.3 million for “excessive executive salaries.”  In recently filed court documents and interviews, however, CORE officials slammed the administration as disingenuous and duplicitous – and pointedly noted that the de Blasio administration merely wanted a way to get out of paying CORE more than $30 million for work the organization has done on the city’s behalf.

“While the lawsuit attacks CORE, the real story here is about how the de Blasio Administration knowingly used the services of CORE, a minority-founded not-for-profit, to provide tens of millions of dollars in services to homeless New Yorkers and then failed to pay CORE for the contracted services,” the documents said.

Among the claims made by the de Blasio administration — and, in particular, the New York Department of Homeless Services — is that CORE hid from DHS officials its organizational structure and its use of several subsidiaries to provide food, security and other services at shelters. But CORE has countered that it has “overwhelming documentary evidence – including documents referenced in the Complaint” – that show company officials routinely made detailed disclosures to the city.

“[The] DHS was well aware that CORE was obtaining essential services and supplies from CORE’s wholly owned subsidiaries within budget, and that rather than complaining about CORE’s use of subsidiaries, DHS approved them, relied on CORE and its subsidiaries for emergency interventions and rated CORE as one of its best service providers,” CORE said in recently filed court papers in which CORE seeks dismissal of all claims with prejudice.

CORE has also garnered a number of prominent supporters, including civil rights and human rights attorney Benjamin L. Crump.

“CORE appeared to be well on the way to fulfilling Jack Brown’s vision of a better way,” Crump said. “For more than a decade under his leadership, CORE has provided innovative, high-quality residential and supportive services that have enabled homeless individuals to feel safe, find shelter and be empowered to contribute to their community.”

In addition to the litigation, both Brown and CORE have been the recent targets of a series of attacks and leaks to the media from the Department of Homeless Services and former officials from the now departed de Blasio administration, according to sources. The press, for instance, seized on the city’s charge that Brown has not been fully transparent on CORE’s corporate structure, the relationship between CORE and its for-profit subsidiaries, and that members of Brown’s family also worked for the company.

One New York Times story also claimed CORE channeled contracts worth about $32 million into for-profit companies affiliated with Brown, which put him in the position to earn more than $1 million annually. According to ’CORE’s recently filed court papers, CORE provided evidence of its full transparency: a 2017 letter to the New York City Department of Homeless Services explaining its “newly formed corporate structure,” including wholly owned subsidiaries of CORE Services Group, Inc. — a structure “used by peers in the both the nonprofit and for-profit sectors”

“Notwithstanding these undocumented and conclusory claims, the truth is that in all relevant respects, CORE’s house is in order, but the de Blasio Administration’s house was not,” CORE said in court documents. “CORE was transparent with DHS regarding CORE’s structure, leadership and operations, and DHS understood and accepted the salient facts of how CORE was operating.”

Regarding the New York Times story, the paper’s main criticism focuses on Brown’s salary and compensation.

“The article’s main criticism appears to be that Mr. Brown, a talented African American businessman, is compensated too generously – about $1 million on what CORE says is an annual revenue of $132 million in 2019,” said Dr. Wilmer Leon, III in a column titled, “An Unfair Attack on an Organization Making a Difference.”

Leon added: “What the article was not interested in exploring, however, is how Mr. Brown built an organization that has sought to routinely innovate and create new models for delivering its services in a challenging environment – so much so that New York City’s DHS has clearly come to depend on CORE through the years.”

As President Joe Biden goes through the process of choosing the first Black woman nominee for the US Supreme Court, it is also hard not to view CORE’s battle with New York City Department of Homeless Services without taking race into account as the competence and abilities of Black professionals almost always come under attack from certain critics seeking to undermine them and their abilities regardless of the experience and expertise they bring.

Ike Brannon, a senior fellow at the Jack Kemp Foundation and a former senior economist at the U.S. Treasury Department, said he hopes New York City’s new mayor, Eric Adams, will revisit the issue and correct what he considers to be unnecessary and unjust attacks on CORE and Brown.

In the meantime, the city owes CORE more than $30 million for services rendered and is moving to terminate ’CORE’s contracts with the Department of Homeless Services.

“With luck,” Brannon wrote, Mayor Eric Adams “will focus on solving problems first and not worry about the ideological motivations of those helping to do so.”

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New York’s Largest Minority-Run Homeless Service Is Unfairly Attacked

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When the late New York Congresswoman, Shirley Chisholm, said, “You don’t make progress by standing on the sidelines, whimpering and complaining. You make progress by implementing ideas,” at least one man was listening — Jack Brown III. He also heard her when she admonished, “Don’t listen to those who say YOU CAN’T. Listen to the voice inside yourself that says, I CAN.”

Envisioning a better way to meet the needs of New York City’s 48,000 homeless residents, Mr. Brown launched CORE Services Group. For more than a decade under his leadership, CORE has provided innovative, high-quality residential and supportive services that have enabled homeless individuals to feel safe, find shelter and be empowered to contribute to their community.

Beginning in 2014, CORE began to build a portfolio of shelter programs for the homeless, including some that were relinquished by providers that had run into difficulty. By early 2020, CORE’s portfolio included 40 programs with 1,300 staff members serving more than 3,000 homeless people each night. CORE appeared to be well on the way to fulfilling Jack Brown’s vision of a better way.

In the category of “no good deed goes unpunished,” Mr. Brown has been blindsided by largely ad hominem attacks from City officials and the local media — together attempting to paint him as a “housing boss” with a “troubled past.” Yet, apparently the worst that can be said is that Mr. Brown has earned a salary commensurate with his responsibilities and that CORE has used a customary corporate structure (which was disclosed to the Department of Homeless Services (DHS) to deliver high quality services. In fact, CORE has been scrupulous in proactively and transparently communicating with DHS and other funders about its organization and staff salaries.

The City’s treatment of Mr. Brown and CORE is perhaps the clearest example yet of how a craven administration hides from its own shameful failures by casting aspersions upon the character of those that it assumes are unwilling or unable to fight back with facts and truth. While the De Blasio Administration trumpets its concern for NYC’s marginalized and disadvantaged residents — here it attacks a minority-run organization in an attempt to hide from its failed housing policies.

De Blasio’s DHS has a dismal record of supporting its providers, especially Black and other minority-governed businesses. In fact, earlier this year, in a report card issued by New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer, DHS received an ‘F,’ for failing to do business with Black-owned companies.

Mr. Brown’s mission was, and continues to be, to provide services to the city’s most vulnerable at a time when bureaucrats all too often turn a blind eye to their most disenfranchised constituents. CORE programs help clients secure jobs or access technical skills training, mentorship, training in independent living skills, case management and permanent housing placement. And they do all this without ever losing sight of the dignity and respect owed to those they are helping.

Instead of acknowledging their own shortcomings in addressing homelessness, certain officials in City Hall who have never set foot in a shelter appear bent on sullying Jack Brown’s reputation through leaks to the press. And the media has been happy to oblige and pile on by making insinuations based on cherry-picked facts taken out of context.

Why are prominent media outlets attacking CORE, an organization that has faithfully served the City and people in need and even continued to do so during the past 18 months though it wasn’t being paid for many of the services it was providing? Because nothing sells papers and generates clicks like a juicy corruption story, even one that is rooted in insinuations and lacking in evidence. And perhaps because CORE – which is owed $33 million for services already provided during a pandemic that killed thousands of New Yorkers – asked DHS to pay up so it could continue to employ the staff members who have shown up to work every day since the beginning of the pandemic and have risked their own health (and the health of their families) to care for the most vulnerable among us.

I can only hope that the next administration will correct the wrongs of the De Blasio Administration and do right by Jack Brown, a Black man who has dedicated his life to helping others get back on their feet – because he believes everyone deserves a second chance and no one can do it alone.

Jack Brown’s plight is yet another sad example of the impediments Black Americans still face when we strive for excellence. Mr. Brown is being pilloried for his commitment to caring for homeless New Yorkers, a group which unfortunately includes a disproportionate number of Black and brown people. CORE came every time DHS called. But sadly, as Congresswoman Chisholm also once said, “Racism is so universal in this country, so widespread, and deep-seated, that it is invisible because it is so normal.”

Benjamin Lloyd Crump is an American attorney who specializes in civil rights and catastrophic personal injury cases such as wrongful death lawsuits.

(Image: CBS News)

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Correcting The Record: Inaccurate, Misleading, and Biased Media Coverage About CORE Services Group, Inc.

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Recent media coverage about CORE Services Group in The New York Times and other news outlets is filled with inaccuracies and insinuations based on assertions that are incomplete and taken out of context.

DYCD Shelters Provide Crucial Services to Young People

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As New York City continues to contend with an historic homelessness crisis, the agency tasked with serving homeless youth has gradually increased its shelter capacity, providing temporary accommodations for hundreds of teens and young adults.

Advocates and some local lawmakers, including Speaker Corey Johnson, say there is much more the city can do to help so-called “runaway and homeless youth” find shelter and access permanent housing, however.

The Department of Youth and Community Development now operates 753 shelter beds for young people between ages 16 and 20 across the city, a 22 percent increase from the beginning of the last fiscal year, and a 500-bed increase over what existed when Mayor Bill de Blasio took office in 2014. DYCD has opened another 25 beds for young adults ages 21 to 24, with 35 more beds — for a total of 60 — funded but not yet available for young adults in need of a place to stay.

“We’ve reached a point where any young person shows up and needs a bed, we can find a bed,” says DYCD Commissioner Bill Chong. “No 16- to 20-year-old has to go to an adult bed in a [Department of Homeless Services] shelter.”

The City Council has pushed the de Blasio administration to expand shelter services and capacity for young people experiencing homelessness, an issue once again in current budget negotiations.

The DYCD shelters provide crucial services to young people during a developmental phase psychologists refer to as “emerging adulthood.” The youth shelters offer life skills training, job coaching and guidance as basic as reminding teens to zip their coats before heading outside.

“I have learned how to actually cook and that is one of the greatest gifts I could have ever received because you need to learn how to cook to be independent,” says Q, a 20-year-old aspiring physician who stays in one of five Lighthouse youth shelters run by the organization CORE Services Group. “It’s great to have a place where I can leave my clothes at and have a place to go to sleep and wake up refreshed and ready.”

Q, who asked not to use her last name, says she has stayed at five other shelters over the past 15 months. None of the adult settings provided the services she needed to succeed, she says.

CORE’s Lighthouse residence are among 495 DYCD-funded Transitional Independent Living beds, which allow people under 21 to stay for up to two years. Another 258 Crisis Service Programs beds enable young people to stay for up to 120 days.

“I never had a connection with my family so being at Lighthouse was home to me,” says Denise, another 20-year-old CORE client. “They cared for me. They wanted to see me do better.”

Despite the increase in beds for young people experiencing homelessness, there is still a significant need for age-appropriate shelter in New York City.

The city’s 2019 point-in-time homeless youth count identified at least 7,374 homeless young people ages 24 and under, with 97 percent staying in shelters, most operated by the Department of Homeless Services.

An untold number of young people experience homelessness without seeking shelter from city agencies like DYCD or DHS. They spend their nights “doubled up” with friends or other associates — crashing on a couch in an apartment where their name does not appear on the lease or exchanging sex for a place to sleep, for example.

A January report on the state of New York City homelessness by Johnson and Council Social Services Committee Chair Stephen Levin calls on the city to add even more short-term crisis service and longer-term TIL beds, which provide a home-like environment for young people.

The two councilmembers have also recommended creating 40 new beds for homeless young people ages 21 to 24, “since there are already reports of waiting lists” for the 60 beds that have not yet opened.” DYCD says the agency is assessing demand as the new beds for 21- to 24-year-olds open.

The report’s ultimate goal is to move young people from shelter to permanent housing. Johnson and Levin both support enabling people in DYCD shelters to access city housing vouchers that pay rent for a year at privately owned apartments.

“We need to take immediate steps to provide appropriate services and supports that enable people to exit homeless shelters more quickly and easily, or avoid them in the first place,” Johnson and Levin write in the report, titled “The Case for Change.”

Access to vouchers is also a major focus for advocates, especially as the Council and mayor engage in budget negotiations.

“They should immediately provide homeless youth relying on DYCD programs access to local rental subsidies like CityFHEPS, including those young people who only access drop-in sites, as well as priority access to NYCHA and Section 8 vouchers,” says Craig Hughes, a social work supervisor at the Urban Justice Center’s Safety Net Project who is writing a doctoral dissertation on the city’s history of youth homelessness.

Hughes says the city should also allow young people who rely on DYCD services to have access to units set-aside for homeless New Yorkers in Housing Preservation and Development-funded apartment buildings.

Chong, the DYCD commissioner, says his agency also supports access to vouchers, though he would not say when that could become a reality.

“That’s one of the recommendations from ‘Turning the Tide,‘“ Chong says, referring to Mayor de Blasio’s plan for addressing homelessness. “We’re working with DHS and [the Human Resources Administration] to figure out eligibility and what’s the best way to execute it.

“I think the city has said we’ll do it but the question is working out all the details,” he adds. “But it’s not within my control.”

DYCD also cannot control the opening of the new beds for young adults between ages 21 and 24, Chong says.

The state Office of Children and Family Services regulates youth shelter space, size and location, which inhibits DYCD’s flexibility to open new sites, Chong says. At the same time, however, the state has not provided new funding to expand programs.

“This is the irony: we’re regulated by the state and they say how we should do it, but they don’t provide any money,” Chong says.

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Date: February 6, 2020
Author: David Brand

The 2019 McSilver Awards

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Each year, the McSilver Awards recognizes outstanding individuals who are transforming systems to address the needs of individuals, families, and communities living in poverty, locally and globally. This year’s McSilver Awards were held at the Rosenthal Pavilion, the top floor of the NYU Kimmel Center for University Life.

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Reentry Centers Play a Crucial Role in Helping Ex-Inmates

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Despite a hot jobs market, Washington and the nation are confronting a quiet employment crisis: legions of formerly incarcerated individuals who have little or no hope of becoming productive members of society because of fears, prejudices and other barriers they face to entering the workforce.

If anyone has doubts about the scale of the problem, consider this: More than 8,000 ex-offenders return home to Washington annually, at a time when the unemployment rate for formerly incarcerated individuals is estimated by some to be as high as 27 percent nationally.

We all have an interest in providing them the kind of support to enable them to return to the workforce. Without it, they face the possibility of slipping into despair and homelessness — or back in prison. This support includes safe and secure housing as well as vocational training.

This is where socially responsible reentry centers — also called halfway houses, a term loaded with baggage — can make a difference. The mission of reentry centers is to provide job training, housing, transportation and other temporary support for these individuals, a group that is disproportionately made up of black and Hispanic men. The centers also provide strict rules, constant monitoring and compassionate counseling on deeply personal issues.

The centers also help these men with the challenge of readjusting to a world that has changed dramatically since they were sent to prison years earlier. Consider that a man released after serving 20 years in prison may never have used a personal computer or seen a smartphone and be bewildered by smart TVs, Metro cards and parking meters that issue receipts. It is not surprising, then, that roughly 43 percent of District residents who are on parole, probation or supervised release are unemployed.

Policymakers ought to take a hard look at what some — though not all — reentry centers have been quietly doing to make a meaningful difference in the lives of the formerly imprisoned, their families and communities.

I draw from years of experience as the president of CORE Services Group, a human services and community development organization. Our organization operates residential reentry centers that specialize in providing housing and targeted skills training. In addition, we work with our clients to help them develop a sense of self-worth.

Even though reentry centers are a pathway to successful transitions, discussions about their role too often become mired in rumor and falsehood. Not because people are narrow-minded and callous. Rather, the issues are complex and easily confused or distorted. Fear takes hold, and misimpressions become truth. At least this has been my experience.

Regrettably, this dynamic is playing out to some degree in Ward 5 in Northeast Washington, where CORE’s proposal to open a transitional reentry center has stalled after community concerns were raised. In November 2018, CORE was awarded a Federal Bureau of Prisons contract to open a reentry center in Ward 5, but the project is now in jeopardy. Good people — well-meaning people — are upset. Perhaps shedding a little light on this subject will help allay some of the concerns.

Let’s start here. As I said, the men (only about 7 percent of federal inmates are women) coming out of prison and into reentry centers are largely black and Hispanic. Though they have been relegated to society’s margins, they are not strangers: They are our sons, brothers and fathers. The job of reentry centers is literally to welcome them home.

The CORE curriculum has been tested and refined over two decades. Upon arrival, residents complete a comprehensive assessment. Based on the results, they are paired with case managers and social services coordinators who guide development of an individualized reentry plan. Residents enroll in workshops ranging from résumé-writing and interviewing skills to how to knot a tie and use the Internet. When they are ready, residents work closely with full-time job-placement specialists who help them secure meaningful employment at local businesses.

Study after study has demonstrated that just two factors — safe and secure housing, and living-wage employment — predict long-term success for previously incarcerated individuals.

To best serve its residents, the District needs a comprehensive approach capable of providing these men the vocational skills they need, open access to a broad array of health-care services, and supports to reunify families and address other challenges.

Until we do this, our neighborhoods will be disrupted by high levels of recidivism and cycles of crime and punishment and broken families. This is the inevitable result of a society that fails to temper justice with mercy and common sense.

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Date: March 8, 2019
Author: Jack Brown

Helping Former Inmates Transition to Life Outside Prison is Key to Criminal Justice Reform

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The recent unease in northeast Washington, D.C., around a proposed transitional reentry center for formerly incarcerated individuals has raised understandable questions about the societal role of such transitional centers. While the project is now stalled, concerns voiced by some Ward 5 residents deserve to be addressed — especially because D.C. is well-positioned to lead the nation’s efforts to grapple with an array of criminal justice challenges.

To be sure, a single program cannot on its own solve problems that have been generations in the making, including high recidivism rates, the spiraling costs of corrections programs, overcrowded prisons, mass incarcerations and criminal-justice policies that disproportionately punish Black and Hispanic men andseparate them from their families and communities. But ignoring the problem — or looking for others to solve it — will most certainly not improve things.

Jack Brown
CORE CEO Jack Brown

I have a responsibility, both personal and professional, to clearly explain what reentry centers — like the one at the center of this debate — are all about. I am the chief executive officer of CORE, the organization that proposed the center in northeast Washington. Mission-driven, our organization helps former inmates, homeless families, runaway youth and others transform their lives for the better by providing structured, transitional housing and access to critical social and supportive services.

For more than 20 years, CORE’s senior leadership has been empowering its clients, many of them men, face the daunting task of returning to their communities. These men — who are fathers, brothers and sons — require assistance to reenter the workforce, establish independence, reunite with family and regain their self-respect. With the help of case managers and social services coordinators, our residents participate in a comprehensive assessment and develop a reentry plan. Residents are also paired with full-time job placement specialists who help them secure livable wages and meaningful employment.

Our life and transitional skills coaches work with residents to adjust to many of the significant changes their communities — and society as a whole — have undergone during their incarceration. The challenges these men confront include having to adapt to new societal and cultural norms, as well as needing to learn new technologies and getting around communities that may no longer seem familiar.

Guided by our belief that employment and permanent housing are the twin keys to long-term success and preventing recidivism, we offer workshops ranging from resume-writing and interviewing skills to how to knot a tie and use the Internet.

This round-the-clock support helps clients make significant strides. Through it, clients pick up tools for managing everything from personal relationships to their finances.

Our commitment to values-centered support is backed by our lengthy experience. And it can have a truly extraordinary impact, such as when an estranged father reunites with his children.

Despite CORE’s track record of achieving such outcomes for former inmates, we know that some Ward 5 residents have asked what a reentry center would mean for them and their neighborhood.

Unfortunately, misinformation and falsehoods have circulated and stood in the way of a fruitful dialogue with members of the community who had questions about public safety.

While I cannot speak to the security conditions at transitional reentry centers operated by other providers, I can proudly assure you that CORE works tirelessly to achieve the absolute highest standards of security. In fact, our New York City facility has been lauded in regular reviews by Federal Bureau of Prisons for the high quality of our community relations and CORE’s success in “maintaining accountability of the residents.”

CORE also appreciates the need to provide transportation assistance to our clients. This is a vital component of our services. In Washington, CORE vans will ferry residents back and forth from Metro stops. 

Simply put, we take our commitment to be a good neighbor very seriously. CORE identified northeast Washington as an appropriate location for one of our programs for several reasons, including that many of the individuals who would be housed there are from the D.C. region. They deserve the opportunity to return home with support and dignity.

We believe that Ward 5 has the opportunity to set a powerful example of community corrections done right, curbing recidivism by combining CORE’s rigorous yet compassionate transitional support initiatives.

Finally, transitional reentry centers bring a socioeconomic benefit to the communities they serve, by facilitating the transition from inmate to stable, wage-earning members of their families and communities.

CORE welcomes the opportunity to continue this critically important conversation with the people of Ward 5.

Jack Brown is chief executive officer of CORE Services Group.

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Date: January 14, 2019
Author: Jack Brown

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