August 9, 2022
Good afternoon Chair Ayala and members of the committee. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to testify before you. My name is Jody Rudin, and I am the President and CEO at the Institute for Community Living (ICL), a New York City based nonprofit that works with about 13,000 individuals a year.
Our clients face very significant mental health challenges, substance use disorders, and intellectual and developmental disabilities. Every night, some 3,200 New Yorkers call ICL home-whether in a community residence, transitional shelter, or supportive apartment. Many of the people we serve have experienced trauma, which has impacted their ability to live independently in the community.
The families now coming to New York seeking asylum have endured unthinkable trauma. I believe we have a moral obligation not just to welcome them into our communities, but to provide them with the services they’ll need to make good lives for themselves in our city.
The arrival of these families seeking asylum will present a challenge for our already-taxed mental health system that has been further compromised by the pandemic. We need to invest in a robust mental health care system to meet this challenge.
That includes building capacity in our shelter system. Right now, ICL shelters are struggling with staffing issues. As you know, this is far too common across the human services sector. In the past year, we saw a 68 percent turnover in our shelter staff. Being understaffed, and constantly having to train new people, impacts the quality of care we are able to provide our clients. We need greater support from the city to attract and retain vital frontline staff.
As we approach the challenge of caring for our new neighbors, we cannot afford to operate in silos. Social determinants of health – like housing, food security, and a safe environment – account for an estimated 80% of a person’s health status. In addition to safe, stable shelter, these families will need a variety of services that address their health and wellbeing.
Providing care for them will require a large-scale whole health effort from a broad range of agencies who are collectively responsible for improving outcomes.
Finally, there needs to be a pathway to permanent housing for families seeking asylum, as well as the existing undocumented New Yorkers in our shelter population. A shelter cannot be the final, permanent solution for these individuals and families. Touching on the theme of whole health, this housing should be connected to additional services that this population will undoubtedly need.
We have a moral obligation to welcome and support these families, who have endured so much. The road ahead for many of these families will be challenging, but if we meet this moment, we know they will make profound contributions to the beautiful mosaic that we are all so proud to call our home. We are fortunate to have a Council and Mayor who are so deeply committed to supporting immigrant families, and to the health and well-being of all New Yorkers.
I thank you again for the opportunity to testify today and will be happy to take any questions.