Launching Stronger Together – New Poverty Fighting, Education and Employment Program for Public Housing Residents

January 30, 2015

Fifth Avenue Committee, Inc. (FAC), an award-winning Brooklyn-based community development corporation, formally launched Stronger Together: Creating Opportunities for Public Housing Residents in Red Hook and Gowanus with an inaugural program outreach day and press conference.

Stronger Together is a new program partnership led by Fifth Avenue Committee in collaboration with its partners Brooklyn Workforce Innovations (BWI), Red Hook Initiative (RHI) and Southwest Brooklyn Industrial Development Corporation (SBIDC) to reduce poverty by providing free job training and placement, adult education and individual and family support services, such as legal advice, financial coaching, benefits counseling and tax preparation.  Over the next four years, more than 1,200 adults living in poverty in NYCHA developments in Red Hook and Gowanus, Brooklyn – or one in three adults living in poverty in these developments – will gain access to these free services through Stronger Together.

Over 500 Stronger Together participants will gain access to quality careers and benefits to support themselves and their families, and an additional 500 will improve their math and literacy skills, obtain their HSE, graduate high school or move on to college.  Multiple studies have shown that having jobs paying a decent entry-level wage significantly increases lifetime earnings, and that educational attainment has a direct and dramatic anti-poverty effect that lasts a lifetime.

FAC was joined by City Council Members Carlos Menchaca and Brad Lander, as well as program partners and participants and NYCHA representatives on January 30 at The FAC Center for Community Development at 621 DeGraw Street, Brooklyn, NY 11217.

The Stronger Together program will expand existing award winning and highly effective services provided by the four partner organizations and will improve referrals among the partner organizations, ensuring participants get more of the services they need.  A new, robust performance measurement system will track outcomes on individuals and the community, documenting the program’s effectiveness in reducing poverty.

The program was developed thanks to core multi-year support from Change Capital Fund (CCF), a collaborative of 17 major New York City funders working to develop data-driven strategies that alleviate poverty among individuals and families living in persistently low-income neighborhoods.  CCF is providing FAC and its partners $1 million in funding over the next 4 years for the Stronger Together program.

The Brooklyn Delegation of the New York City Council has also provided $77,500 to support the inaugural year of Stronger Together as part of the Delegation’s JOBS 2015 Project to enhance workforce development programs provided by thirteen highly effective Brooklyn based nonprofits. 

Quotes:

  • “Fifth Avenue Committee and our Stronger Together partners are deeply committed to advancing equity and lifting people out of poverty in Red Hook and Gowanus.  The support from the Change Capital Fund and the Brooklyn Delegation of the New York City Council is critical to doing just that. We are enormously grateful for this support and to be given the opportunity to expand our programs in NYCHA in Red Hook and Gowanus and ensure that our programs are maximizing their impact,” said Michelle de la Uz, Executive Director of Fifth Avenue Committee.
  • “Brooklyn Workforce Innovations has long maintained a commitment to providing quality, career-focused skills training and job placement to residents of public housing throughout New York City,” said BWI Executive Director Aaron Shiffman. “Honing a focus toward the NYCHA communities in our back yard – Red Hook and Gowanus – and creating greater opportunities to address families’ needs beyond workforce development is an exciting new strategy.”
  • Stronger Together supports Red Hook Initiative in extending invaluable resources and services into the Red Hook community that bolster our work to empower young adults. These free services range from financial empowerment to HSE classes (formerly GED) and ensure that our members are better positioned to overcome oftentimes seemingly insurmountable obstacles on the path to independence,” said Jade Elias, Acting Executive Director, Red Hook Initiative. 
  • “We are excited to participate in Stronger Together as a key partner for job placement,” said David Meade, Executive Director of Southwest Brooklyn Industrial Development Corporation.  “Stronger Together offers local residents great opportunities for job training, education and the wrap-around services they need to become truly job ready, and SBIDC is able to help these jobseekers over that final hurdle to find quality employment with real career potential and opportunities for economic mobility.  Furthermore, for many individuals who come to SBIDC seeking employment, the Stronger Together network also allows us to refer them to our partners for other needed services.”
  • The Stronger Together model represents the best of Brooklyn—government working with community-based and trusted organizations to improve the lives of local residents,” says Carlos Menchaca, New York City Council Member and Co-Chair of the Council’s Brooklyn Delegation.  The leadership of Fifth Avenue Committee, Brooklyn Workforce Innovations, Red Hook Initiative, Southwest Brooklyn Industrial Development Corporation, and my colleagues in government have created a space where people in our local communities will have a fighting chance to get the jobs—and the lives—that they deserve. This model can serve to meet the needs of communities from across our City concerned with unemployment, lack of education, and lack of access to a higher quality of life.
  • Stronger Together stands poised to lift over 1,200 public housing residents in Gowanus, Wyckoff, and Red Hook Houses out of poverty through new opportunities in education, workforce development and placement into good jobs,” said Council Member Brad Lander, “I’m proud to work together with Council Member Carlos Menchaca to support these high caliber organizations with proven track-records of poverty reduction. This initiative also strengthens our ‘Bridging Gowanus’ effort to insure that the future of the area around the Gowanus Canal brings real benefits for neighborhood families. When it comes to fighting poverty, we truly are stronger together.”

Photographs and video are available upon request.          

Stronger Together Partner Organizations

Fifth Avenue Committee, Inc. (FAC) is a nationally-recognized community organization based in South Brooklyn that advances economic and social justice by building vibrant, diverse communities where residents have genuine opportunities to achieve their goals, as well as the power to shape the community’s future. Formed in 1978, FAC works to transform the lives of over 5,500 low- and moderate-income New Yorkers annually so that we can all live and work with dignity and respect while making our community more equitable, sustainable, inclusive, and just. To achieve our mission, FAC develops and manages affordable housing and community facilities, creates economic opportunities and ensures access to economic stability, organizes residents and workers, offers student-centered adult education, and combats displacement caused by gentrification.

Brooklyn Workforce Innovations (BWI) identifies sectors of the economy that offer good starting wages to skilled entry-level workers, and opportunities to advance over time.  We recruit jobless and working poor New Yorkers who want to start a new career and offer them free full-time training leading to industry-recognized credentials, followed by two years of job placement and career services.

Red Hook Initiative (RHI) believes that social change to overcome systemic inequities begins with empowered youth. In partnership with community adults, we nurture young people in Red Hook to be inspired, resilient, and healthy, and to envision themselves as co-creators of their lives, community and society. We envision a Red Hook where all young people can pursue their dreams and grow into independent adults who contribute to their families and community.
Southwest Brooklyn Industrial Development Corporation (SBIDC) provides advocacy and services to help businesses in the Sunset Park, Red Hook and Gowanus neighborhoods grow and create employment opportunities for local residents. Founded in 1978 by local businesses, SBIDC is a neighborhood-based economic development organization that works in the Brooklyn waterfront neighborhoods of Sunset Park, Red Hook and Gowanus. Since the organization’s inception in 1978, SBIDC has been a driving force in the improvement of the Southwest Brooklyn economy by delivering a wide range of business services to local firms and acting as an advocate for business interests.