Tag: Syracuse

Eviction: The Harsh Reality of Living in Syracuse

In this multi-part series, CNYVitals will take an in-depth look at evictions and how they contribute to the health of Central New York, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic, which has led to a financial crisis for many families. Read more to see how both renters and landlords can avoid evictions and create a better region with higher property values, safer housing and more economic opportunities.

Sixty percent of Syracuse residents are renters. According to the 2017 American Community Survey, about 20% of those renters move at least once per year, sometimes more. This is due to a combination of risk factors, such as low wages, inadequate public assistance, code enforcement violations and overpriced housing which have led to dire situations for both tenants and landlords. According to a 2017 study from the Maxwell Community Benchmarks Program, “Syracuse is severely residentially unstable.”

How can tenants live in safe housing that they can afford? And, how can landlords save themselves time and money by avoiding evictions? It’s a complicated problem but the answer may be that Syracuse-area residents can benefit the most if a solution is crafted with both renters and landowners in mind.

When a family is considering renting a home, they ideally would first sit down to decide what they can afford. But this isn’t always the case if they are in a desperate situation, such as fleeing abuse or high levels of lead. When a renter is anxious to put a roof over their heads, it changes the playing field for both tenants and landlords.

Several lending agencies recommend that the cost of an individual’s housing come in at around 30% of their gross income. According to Palmer Harvey, founder of the Syracuse Tenants’ Union, the average individual living in the city of Syracuse makes just over $20,000 per year, which means that if they are living on a single income, they should live in an apartment that costs about $480 per month. A two-bedroom apartment in Syracuse costs around $850 per month. Already, the issue is clear. A single-income family may need to spend upwards of 50% of their wages on housing, meaning less money is available to put food on the table. Since unplanned financial events could always be around the corner, it’s easy to see how a family in this scenario could get behind on their rent.

Public assistance is available to help people get into housing that they can’t quite afford, however it presents some challenges. According to deputy commissioner of the Department of Social Services – Economic Security and Temporary Assistance, Jennifer Robinson, the shelter allowance provided by New York State hasn’t been re-configured to accommodate the rising cost of living since 2012. For instance, a family with three children would receive $303 in housing assistance. This inadequate amount increases the risk of tenants entering housing with low maintenance or housing violations. Section 8 Housing can also be helpful by providing vouchers that cover the balance, but there is a long waiting list due to high demand for a limited number of housing vouchers, making them hard to utilize in an urgent situation.

Before a tenant moves into a residence, they can check the Syracuse city website to see exactly what the code violations are for the rental unit or landlord with whom they hope to work. But families in a desperate situation, or without easy access to the internet, may not be able to utilize this resource, leading them to enter unsafe housing. In any case, only about 40% of rental units are registered with the City – meaning many landlords are out of legal compliance and their code violations not necessarily tracked. “Syracuse is the dollar store of real estate,” said Harvey. “People can come here and buy a home for next to nothing, put in $1,000 and start to rent.”

This creates a problem for code enforcement divisions of Syracuse because there can be several “quick fixes” that can be done on a property to help it pass inspection. Landlords may fix a leak, snake a drain or patch a hole, but when the underlying causes aren’t addressed, it leaves the tenant with the same problem month after month.  Harvey says that usually, by the time a tenant has called code enforcement, they have likely been dealing with an issue for months without a fix from the landowner. Calling in problems and reporting landlords could magnify the chances that the tenant will face eviction, so it is often viewed by residents as a last resort.

According to the City of Syracuse study “Below the Line”, there are approximately 11,000 people displaced in Syracuse each year, which can result in over 6,000 children being evicted from their homes.

Evictions, according to Sally Curran, executive director of Volunteer Lawyers Project (VLP), can cause a long list of trickle-down problems for evicted families including job loss, depression, health issues and negative educational implications. Evictions affect a person’s ability to build intergenerational wealth by putting a negative mark on their record, which may change their ability to rent a more desirable apartment or buy a house in the future. This scenario can directly perpetuate a cycle of poverty.

What causes an eviction? Laura Rolnick, director of eviction & reentry programs for VLP, stated that 85-90% of evicted tenants simply cannot pay their rent. A much smaller percentage is due to a “hold-over” in which tenants were told to leave but didn’t, or a “claimed lease violation” in which the landlord has claimed that there was a violation of the lease.

The ideal approach is to avoid eviction altogether, but most tenants don’t know what their rights are when facing eviction. Many tenants are also not aware of the terms of their lease or agreement. A rental “lease” fixes the rental cost for the year and makes it harder for landlords to start eviction proceedings. A month-to-month agreement doesn’t provide as much protection to the renter, however notices from landlords are still required. Additionally, on September 14, 2020, Syracuse passed an additional renter protection: Now, landlords who have failed to register their one-and-two-family rental homes will be barred from evicting tenants if they do not participate in in the City’s rental registry. Palmer tells each of her clients: “If you don’t know your rights, you don’t have any.”

In part two of this story, we will look at the Eviction Moratorium, the CARES Act and the Tenant Safe Harbor Act. Check back soon for the next part of this series on evictions in Syracuse.

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What are Redlining and Urban Renewal? Inequality and Resistance in Mid-Century Syracuse

AN ANTI-POVERTY PROJECT: This is the first of many essays to be released by PEACE, Inc. and Ocesa B. Keaton LMSW, executive director of Greater Syracuse H.O.P.E.

Each month, they will explore different dimensions of an issue that affects all Central New Yorkers – poverty. They will unpack topics that are frequently discussed but perhaps not well understood. Additionally, they will present accessible tools to engage/inform people, to build coalitions and to advance policies for change. 

REDLINING. URBAN RENEWAL. Each are terms that many are recently hearing for the first time. The former sounds negative. The latter – on the surface – sounds positive. Yet what are they? Why have these terms emerged as ways for understanding American cities – including Syracuse – and the racial inequalities that plague them? How have these policies helped to concentrate power in the hands of a few and to create poverty among communities of color? How have the vulnerable challenged the inequality introduced by REDLINING, URBAN RENEWAL, and more? In response, we look to answer these questions and begin our broader paper series by contending that the past can shed light on our city’s current plights and inspire the many community reform movements seen at present.

Like other American cities in 1937, Syracuse and its neighborhoods were assigned 4 categories or “colors” by the Homeowners’ Loan Corporation (HOLC), a newly created federal agency. The categories were mapped to guide investment and mortgage lending during the Great Depression. Still, the promise of economic recovery for all fell short, as categories were based upon the neighborhood’s housing conditions and racial demographics in particular. The “riskiest” neighborhoods -rated “Hazardous” and colored “Red-” were African-American communities who were denied home loans. In locations deemed “Definitely Declining” or “Yellow,” only 15% of the residents could access loans. Reversed by the Fair Housing Act of 1968, REDLINING nonetheless prevented Black homeownership and deepened disinvestment in communities of color.

A 1937 Map of “Redlined” Syracuse by the Homeowners’ Loan Corporation (University of Richmond)

 

African-American neighborhoods in Syracuse were not immune to this policy. Near the city’s downtown, the 15th Ward provided a space for African-Americans escaping the racial violence of the American South and the broader discrimination of Central New York. A former resident perhaps described it best when he described the 15th Ward, “Back then, all the blacks lived near each other… That’s how everybody knew each other. And blacks could only rent in certain parts of the city, so that’s why they ended up in the 15th Ward, because whites wouldn’t rent to them on the East Side, on the North Side, on the West Side or the South Side.” (The Stand) Landmarks such as SUNY Upstate medical complex, the Jefferson and Madison Tower Apartments, and I-81 now stand where the 15th Ward once stood. More on this in a minute.

The earlier description of the 15th Ward reflected the effects of non-governmental practices such as Article 34 of the National Association of Real Estate Boards (see below). But such discrimination was also a product of the law, and it wasn’t only Redlining. For example, the Housing Act of 1937 held a provision that, among other policies, allowed for what was described as “slum clearance.” In Syracuse, this led to the creation of Pioneer Homes, one of the nation’s first public housing initiatives. Interestingly, Pioneer Homes was originally intended for whites only. Through the actions of African-American organizations such as the Dunbar Community Center, some degree of integration became possible. (Stamps, 56) Herein lies an important point. As new systems of racial inequality were created, Syracuse’s small but growing Black community challenged them.

Founded by a former slave, the PEOPLE’S AME ZION CHURCH is the oldest Black congregation in Syracuse. It was located at the above site, 711 E. Fayette Street, from 1910 to 1975. The church served as a cultural center for the 15th Ward’s Black community and a site for civil rights activities. There are continued attempts to refurbish the church, which is on the National Register of Historic Places. (PACNY)

 

Later amendments, specifically the Housing Acts of 1949 and 1954, provided additional resources for public housing, slum clearance, and private development. (Rothstein) Such acts of URBAN RENEWAL were accompanied by laws such as the Federal Highway Act of 1956, which looked to interconnect the economies of American cities through 41,000 miles of Interstate. As wealth moved to the suburbs, restrictive covenants –or legal requirements written about a property included in the deed– continued to prevent African-Americans from purchasing homes and ensured “white-flight” was indeed white. In the name of economic “progress,” Urban Renewal cleared blighted properties and relegated African-Americans to declining neighborhoods, leading author James Baldwin and others to describe it as “Negro Removal.”

Such processes affected Syracuse and its downtown as well. For example, the first of the two AXA Towers that currently define the city’s skyline was originally built as the MONY Building in 1966 and was one of the larger accomplishments of the initial “Downtown-I” urban renewal project. (Knight, 17) Most notorious however was the construction of the I81 Viaduct. It physically destroyed the 15th Ward and caused the removal of an estimated 900 African-American families from their homes, and affected more than 80% of the city’s black population at the time. (Stamps, 81; Knight, 10) Here the literature is increasingly extensive; references to a few of the studies can be found at the end of this document.

Less discussed are the forms of African-American resistance against government-sanctioned removal. Mirroring national developments, Syracuse residents also used advocacy to advance social justice, which helped enact policy and create reform with the aim to improve the conditions of African-Americans. For example, the passing of the aforementioned Fair Housing Act of 1968, which outlawed much of the housing discrimination outlined in this text, came during a time of unrest, specifically the national civil rights movement and the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Previous attempts to pass such a bill had failed due to a lack of Congressional support. In Syracuse, the destruction of the 15th Ward and the racial discrimination which prevented its residents from securing quality housing were catalysts for protest. Impacted residents formed groups to present their demands to elected officials. Two of them—the Southside Home Owners Association and the Eastside Cooperative Council– delayed construction of I-81 by two years due to demands of fair pay for the sale of their home. Formed by Dunbar, the Eastside Cooperative Council consisted of human agency groups that served the Eastside of Syracuse. (Stamps, 83) The Council was able to serve as a conduit for information between the community and representatives of the Urban Renewal Program. The council actively worked to create a relocation plan and helped lay the groundwork for the creation of the Relocation Office in 1959. (Stamps, 83)

Later in 1963, The Congress of Racial Equity (CORE) organized protests against the urban renewal in Syracuse. The protest included directly confronting city officials, blocking construction sites, and sitting on cranes to stop demolition work. CORE remained a prominent fixture in the Syracuse community and helped to organize other protests with the goals of creating a more inclusive city for African-Americans.

Insertion of Steel Placements, April 1967 (DOT)

 

IN CONCLUSION, one might ask, why focus on the past? What does history have to do with nation-leading rates of poverty among Black and Brown peoples in Central New York? Why start here? For us, understanding the policies that produced an unequal past -such as REDLINING and URBAN RENEWAL– helps us better understand the conditions that shape our unequal present. Within the past decade, national and local research has shown how the highest rates of concentrated poverty, lead, obesity, gun violence, COVID-19 hospitalizations, and more exist within Syracuse’s previously red– and yellow–lined neighborhoods. In other words, the legacies of REDLINING and URBAN RENEWAL are still seen and negatively felt every day. They are legacies that have established a STRUCTURAL INEQUALITY wherein persons of color in particular have lacked equal access to resources, decision-making, opportunity, and the law. As noted, research has exposed these negative legacies. Yet so too has a mobilized local community that -in this moment of the Black Lives Matter movement, the George Floyd killing, and debates about police reform– once again draws inspiration from national developments. And therein lies a final critical point for looking at the past. One that is perhaps more positive and hopeful. It is to see how those most affected by structural inequality have always combated and challenged it. That they have not been silent in the face of repression.

Next month, we will continue the series. We will discuss HOUSING and poverty to further explore this concept of STRUCTURAL INEQUALITY. Until then.

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES 1) Mapping Inequality: Redlining in New Deal America: The University of Richmond’s interactive website that includes original HOLC maps of American cities and descriptions of graded neighborhoods (including Syracuse). 2) In 2019, The ROOT published a YouTube video, How Redlining Shaped Black America, that effectively outlines the racist legacies of redlining on American cities today (Warning: Strong Language is used). 3) NewsChannel 9 with its “Hidden History: The End of the 15th Ward,” WAER’s “City Limits: A Poverty Project,” and the Onondaga County Historical Association with a special exhibition each released reports about the 15th Ward of Syracuse in 2019.

FOOTNOTES AND SOURCES

Bridge Street. “Remembering the 1963 CORE Protests.” WSYR, February 22, 2018. https://www.localsyr.com/bridge-street/asseen-on/remembering-the-1963-core-protests/. Knight, Aaron C., “Urban Renewal, the 15th Ward, the Empire Stateway and the City of Syracuse, New York.” Syracuse University Honors Program Capstone Projects, 590, 2007. https://surface.syr.edu/honors_capstone/590. New York State Department of Transportation. “History of Transportation in the City of Syracuse.” I-81 Viaduct.

New York State Department of Transportation (DOT), 2020. https://www.dot.ny.gov/i81opportunities/history.

“Mapping Inequality, Redlining in New Deal America: Syracuse.” Digital Scholarship Lab, 2020. https://dsl.richmond.edu/ panorama/redlining/.

“1924 Code of Ethics.” National Association of Realtors (NAR), 2020. https://www.nar.realtor/about-nar/history/1924-code-ofethics.

“PACNY Celebrates Black History Month.” Preservation Association of Central New York (PACNY), 2013. http://pacny.net/ home/.

Rothstein, Richard. The Color of Law: a Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America. New York, NY: Liveright Publishing Corporation, a division of W.W. Norton & Company, 2018.

Stamps, Spurgeon Martin David, and Miriam Burney Stamps. Salt City and Its Black Community: a Sociological Study of Syracuse, New York. Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press, 2008.

“Vision.” Greater Syracuse H.O.P.E., 2019. https://www.greatersyracusehope.org/.

About the Authors: Todd Goehle is Planning/Community Engagement Manager at PEACE, Inc. and previously a SUNYAward Winning Lecturer of History and Humanities. Ocesa B. Keaton is Executive Director of Greater Syracuse H.O.P.E. and a Licensed Social Worker. To learn more about the project, reach out to Community.Engagement@peace-caa.org.

 

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COVID-19 Community Needs Chronicle and Assessment Calls for Systematic Change

Written by Todd Goehle

On 4 June 2020, 26.5% of those hospitalized from COVID-19 in Onondaga County were Black. And yet, only 11.4% of the county’s total population is Black. As outlined within PEACE, Inc.’s COVID-19 Community Needs Chronicle and Assessment, the inequalities of our past continue to haunt our pandemic present. For the full assessment, visit the agency’s website. In the article below, Todd Goehle walks us through some of the major findings.

Overview

The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted the lives of Central New York residents. But what does this mean? Who is struggling? And in what ways? How can different forms of data be used to mobilize resources? To adjust antipoverty services effectively? To help those who are most vulnerable? In May, PEACE, Inc.’s Community Engagement Team began to research these questions. Our efforts became the COVID-19 Community Needs Chronicle and Assessment.

The team analyzed data from national, state, and local foundations, governments, and sources. We met with community leaders, staff members, and agency clients. Client case notes were collected as well. The team also used the Central New York Community Foundation’s Life Needs Assessment Survey, receiving 230 responses over the course of 11 days in May. Through our research, the assessment comprehensively explores the pandemic’s effects on Physical and Mental Health; Youth, Family, and Senior Supports; Food and Nutrition; Employment; Education; Childcare; Housing; Access to Capital; Technology; Access to Information through informal networks and media; gender; and race and ethnicity.

Findings

Two findings are noteworthy. First, the majority of the problems seen during the pandemic are not new per se. Rather, COVID-19 has intensified long-standing structural insecurities and inequalities.

So what do these complicated ideas mean? It starts with this map of Syracuse:[1]

 

The map was produced in 1937 by the Homeowners’ Loan Corporation (HOLC), a federal agency that assigned neighborhoods 4 investment “ratings” and thus guided mortgage lending. The “riskiest,” rated “Hazardous” and colored “Red,” were based upon building conditions and racial demographics. Here, residents of color were unable to access federal loans. In “Definitely Declining” or “Yellow” neighborhoods, only 15% of residents could receive backing. Banned in 1968, “redlining” created obstacles for Black homeownership, a means for growing personal wealth historically. Redlining furthered financial disinvestment. And it deepened chronic poverty in communities of color.

Redlining, poverty, and issues of race, employment, and health have been well-documented in Syracuse.[2] More recent research by the New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU) found that 3 of the 4 ZIP codes with the highest COVID-19 case rates had large portions of yellow or redlined neighborhoods.[3] Past and present disparities are linked. County health statistics also confirm how people of color are disproportionately affected by COVID-19 in Onondaga County.

Onondaga County COVID-19 Cases by Race and Race as Percent of Population (4 June 2020)[4]

 

Race Percent Hospitalized by Race Race as Percent of Population
Black or African American 26.5% 11.4%
White 59.8% 79.9%
Other 9.2% 8.7%
Unknown 4.5% 0.0%

 

During the pandemic, cities across the country have declared racism as public health crisis.[5] With the legacies of redlining clear, the research of NYCLU and now PEACE, Inc. supports this claim for Syracuse.

A second key finding from the assessment: those most vulnerable in the COVID-19 pandemic lack multiple basic needs. Social Determinants of Health interact and reinforce one another to impact a person’s ability to remain healthy. Let’s address food and poverty.

Throughout the pandemic, the community has worked hard to provide nutrition for those in poverty. At PEACE, Inc., only 9.7% of nearly 230 Life Needs Assessment Survey respondents answered that they lacked food.[6] Still, as NYCLU noted, significant portions of those Syracuse ZIP Codes most impacted by COVID-19 are both “redlined” and classified as food deserts.[7] Poverty is layered. For example, nearly 40% of survey respondents “spend time alone more often than they would like.”[8] More than a third lack the technology to “meet needs for work, school, or other responsibilities.”[9] How might matters of socialization connect with hunger? The closing of Senior lunches and congregate meal sites has left low-income seniors both food insecure AND isolated.[10] Senior “Meals-to-Go” services have provided nutrition and smiles for those forced to remain at home. Yet the data reveals the smiles might only be temporary. The African proverb rings true, “One who eats alone cannot discuss the taste of the food with others.”

Other examples from the assessment are telling. An elderly woman raising 2 of her grandchildren can pay for groceries but lacks a car and has health conditions that make her nervous to ride the bus. A single mother struggles to cook -let alone to shop- due to a lack of home supports for her disabled child. A recently unemployed man who went to a food pantry for the first time now feels shame that he could not provide for his family. Food must be placed within wider contexts of poverty

For Action Steps, 3 policy suggestions can be recommended:

1) Services must be multifaceted, meet immediate need, and foster systematic change. The research reveals how trauma-informed services, local interventions where poverty is highest, and affordable Internet for impoverished families are just 3 examples that address long-standing inequalities and meet multiple needs.

2) Nonprofits must have difficult, inclusive conversations. By connecting the COVID-19 pandemic with longstanding inequalities, the assessment questions the effectiveness of our community’s antipoverty initiatives. It provides starting topics to advance conversation and change. And it supports the need for a) the rising community advocacy of recent months, b) more inclusive public forums, and c) equitable reform.

3) Building a Culture wherein Data is accessible to all. Like CNYVitals, the assessment provides public research and data. More transparency is needed, however. We hope critical assessments will spur partnerships and help local agencies value sharing data publicly. Defining the terms that we use to measure poverty can also challenge our underlining assumptions about it. Most think “Redlining” is bad. But can we explain it? Or connect it with the lived experiences of its victims? Trainings for staff, “lunch and learns” with the community, as well as monthly 1 to 2-page overviews are just some ways in which data can become more inclusive and equitable.

About PEACE, Inc.

Incorporated in 1968, People’s Equal Action and Community Effort, Inc. (PEACE, Inc.) is the federal designated Community Action Agency (CAA) for Syracuse, Onondaga County, and portions of Oswego County. The agency’s mission, “to help people in the community realize their potential for becoming self-sufficient,” defines its 9 antipoverty initiatives: Head Start, Family Services, Department of Energy and Housing, Senior Nutrition, Foster Grandparents, Senior Support Services, Eastwood Community Center, Big Brothers Big Sisters, and Free Tax Preparation.


[1] Map retrieved from Central New York Community Foundation. (18 May 2018). “How the History of Redlining and I-81 Contributed to Syracuse Poverty.” CNY Vitals. Retrieved from  https://cnyvitals.org/how-the-history-of-redlining-and-i-81-contributed-to-syracuse-poverty/.

[2] See Ibid.; Onondaga County Health Department. (June 29, 2017). “Mapping the Food Environment in Syracuse, New York 2017.” Retrieved from http://www.ongov.net/health/documents/FoodEnvironment.pdf; and Urban Jobs Task Force (UJTF) and Legal Services of CNY. (2019) “Building Equity in the Trades: A Racial Equity Impact Statement.” Retrieved from https://www.ujtf.org/reis.

[3] NYCLU. (May 18, 2020). “Testimony of the New York Civil Liberties Union before the New York State Senate and the New York State Assembly regarding the Disproportionate Impact of COVID-19 on Minority Communities.” Retrieved from https://www.nyclu.org/sites/default/files/field_documents/20200518-testimony-coronavirusracialdisparities.pdf.

[4] PEACE, Inc. (2020). COVID-19 Community Needs Chronicle and Assessment. Retrieved from https://www.peace-caa.org/about-us/covid-19-community-chronicle-and-needs-assessment/.

[5] Vestal, Christine. (15 June 2020). “Racism is a Public Health Crisis, says Cities and Counties.” PEW Charitable Trusts. Retrieved from https://www.pewtrusts.org/en/research-and-analysis/blogs/stateline/2020/06/15/racism-is-a-public-health-crisis-say-cities-and-counties.

[6] PEACE, Inc.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Ibid

[9] Ibid.

[10] Eisenstadt, M. (May 1, 2020). “Crews bring lasagna and connection to the locked-in elderly starved for a friendly face (video).” Syracuse.com. Retrieved from https://www.syracuse.com/coronavirus/2020/05/crews-bring-lasagna-and-connection-to-the-locked-in-elderly-starved-for-a-friendly-face-video.html

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Community Needs Assessment Enhanced with ‘Data Dating’; Nearly $120,000 in New Grants Will Help Nonprofits Measure

Enhancements to a community assessment tool, designed by the Central New York Community Foundation, are making it easier for area nonprofits to analyze their programming in real-time, ‘match’ with partner organizations, and evaluate the greatest concerns of those they serve.

Community assessment is a major focus of the Community Foundation’s Performance Management Learning Community (PMLC), now entering its eighth year. PMLC uses grant dollars and peer learning to help nonprofits measure their effectiveness.

PEACE, Inc., a federally-designated Community Action Agency that works to help people become more self-sufficient, joined PMLC last year to continue becoming data-structured from within. The organization’s goal was to help staff effectively track and measure the effectiveness of its food pantries, family resource centers, and programming for youth and seniors.

“The first objective within our organization’s strategic plan is to develop a data-driven culture,” said Todd Goehle, development coordinator at PEACE, Inc. “So we identified emerging leaders across our organization who could take what they’ve learned from PMLC and make it a part of our daily philosophy.”

After a year in PMLC, PEACE, Inc. consolidated database systems, which now allows staff members to collaborate across teams and with external organizations. In addition, the agency benefited greatly from the findings of PMLC’s community needs assessment, a measurement of which life needs—such as affordable long-term housing, addiction counseling, lead poisoning support, job readiness and economic independence—are not being adequately met for those living in poverty. PMLC participants can study responses to the needs assessment by neighborhood or census tract to complete pre-and post-program evaluation.

“When we evaluated the data that we and our PMLC partners gathered, it became clear to us that we needed to double down on our food pantries,” said Goehle. “We found that there is a real need for food and personal items within some neighborhoods of the city, and we need to increase our efforts to get funding that will allow us to increase our supplies.”

This fall, the Community Foundation released a whitepaper that examined the impact that can be made if social programs addressed the nuances within the areas where they work, as PEACE is doing.

Recently, the Community Foundation introduced new online enhancements to the assessment tool, which include access to interactive, real-time results. This allows nonprofits to take their analyses one step further. Nicknamed ‘data dating,’ organizations can quickly identify other participating organizations they ‘match’ with for collaboration, such as to fulfill a client need that they do not offer. The tool also makes information about program measurement accessible by all members within an organization, from front-line staff to executive directors, without the need for extensive training.

Goehle reports that he hopes to use the new interactive features to partner with organizations that have clients reporting needs that PEACE, Inc. can help provide.

“The data that we’re accumulating doesn’t necessarily reflect the community at large,” he said. “This tool gives us opportunities, especially with live mapping, to identify locations where interventions can be made.”

This year, seven organizations received a total of $118,756 in grants to join the next PMLC class: ACR Health ($20,000); Everson Museum ($15,000); Hiscock Legal Aid Society ($20,000); Mercy Works ($20,000); Madison County Health Department ($15,200); Northside Learning Center ($14,956); and Planned Parenthood of Central and Western New York ($13,600).

The Community Foundation awards PMLC grants toward data measuring efforts, which include such things as database management and statistical analysis, to help nonprofits track their efforts and look for trends. This in turn assists the organizations in identifying what is working and what’s not, leading to the development of more effective programming and funding competitiveness. Applicants agreed to participate in a year-long learning community in order to qualify for a grant.

Another six organizations are joining PMLC Prep and PMLC Pro groups to learn how to collect community assessment responses and use the new interactive tool in new and innovative ways with $5,000 grants each: Huntington Family Center; On Point for College; PEACE, Inc.; Refugee & Immigrant Self-Empowerment; Southwest Community Center; Westcott Community Center; and Women’s Opportunity Center.

For organizations like PEACE, Inc., the PMLC collaboration is helping form new connections that will benefit the community as a whole.

“Sometimes in Syracuse, organizations tend to work in silos and there are not always a lot of opportunities to meet and exchange ideas,” Goehle said. “This provides us with an opportunity to all get to the table and examine through data how we can work through problems collectively.”

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Author of “The Color of Law” Visits Syracuse for Community Conversation

FREE Community Conversation with Author of “The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How our Government Segregated America”

The legacy of intentional, government mandated housing segregation has led to Syracuse having some of the highest rates of extreme concentrated poverty for African Americans and Hispanics in the nation. Let’s learn from our history and imagine how we can create opportunity and equity moving forward. Richard Rothstein,* an expert on this topic, will visit Syracuse on Tuesday September 17 as part of an initiative led by Legal Services of Central New York and CNY Fair Housing to discuss housing segregation in our community.

The event is free and open to the public and will feature Mr. Rothstein discussing his New York Times Bestselling book, “The Color of Law” which highlights the intentional and systematic web of laws and policy that codified housing segregation in America, including in Syracuse.  In addition to being discriminatory, this severely curtailed financial, career, and educational opportunities for African Americans and created an extreme wealth disparity between whites and African Americans that continues to widen today.

Mr. Rothstein will be joined by panelists Vincent Love (Blueprint 15), Lanessa Chaplin (NYCLU), and Sally Santangelo (CNY Fair Housing). The conversation will also include a welcome by Mayor Ben Walsh and opportunities for audience Q & A.

In preparation for this exciting free community event, this summer the Syracuse Citywide Book Club brought people throughout our region together to read and discuss Mr. Rothstein’s book: “The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How our Government Segregated America”.  More than 100 people are currently registered for the Syracuse Citywide Book Club, with hundreds more following on Facebook and reading the book on their own.  Individuals can sign-up at www.lscny.org/thecoloroflaw to receive exclusive content and updates.  Everyone is invited to read along with Mayor Ben Walsh and other community leaders at www.facebook.com/syrbookclub.

The 2019 Syracuse Summer Book Club and the free Community Conversation with Richard Rothstein are sponsored by Legal Services of Central New York, CNY Fair Housing, NBT Bank, and Syracuse University College of Law.  To register for updates and exclusive content visit www.lscny.org/thecoloroflaw or for more information contact wrhodes@lscny.org.

*Richard Rothstein is a Distinguished Fellow of the Economic Policy Institute, Emeritus Senior Fellow of the Thurgood Marshall Institute at the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, Senior Fellow at the Haas Institute at the University of California, Berkley, and author of New York Times Bestseller “The Color of Law.”

 

 

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Addressing the Mental Health Needs of Refugees

Between 2007 and 2016, Onondaga County became home to more than 9,500 refugees, consisting mostly of Burmese, Bhutanese and Somalian settlers[1]. That figure includes approximately 1,000 Iraqi and Afghan refugees who were affiliated with the United States military, as well as 250 refugees from the Syrian conflict[2]. A large portion of these refugees turned to local nonprofits for support to establish economic and social-self-sufficiency, long after the initial resettlement period.

English-as-a-New-Language (ENL) lessons and housing assistance are primary support services refugees have access to. While these services are critical, (70 different languages are spoken in the Syracuse City District[3]) and housing remains a difficult process, mental health services are far less common. The lack of adequate, culturally responsive mental health services is problematic as many arrive from countries where large scale violence, sexual assault and persecution are prevalent.

The consequences of these complex traumatic situations linger in the form of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), anxiety, substance abuse depression, and challenges in family relationships. Refugees are approximately ten times more likely than non-refugees to have PTSD[4] and three times more likely to develop depression and anxiety[5], while access to mental health treatment is limited due to a number of factors including language barriers, stigma and lack of appropriate training of psychotherapists.

To address this, Dr. Rashmi Gangamma, associate professor of Marriage and Family Therapy at Syracuse University (MFT), approached the Multicultural Association of Medical Interpreters (MAMI) to identify ways in which some of these barriers could be reduced.

Through a series of meetings with MAMI and members of the New American community, an idea emerged for a collaborative approach targeting two needs: training psychotherapy students to deliver culturally informed psychotherapy for refugee populations and training language interpreters to effectively interpret psychotherapy sessions with individuals, couples and families.

“Throughout our work we’ve noticed each family member has experienced different traumas and circumstances and they don’t always adapt at the same speed,” said Gangamma. “It’s important for us to spend time with each family member including parents, children and even extended family to target their specific issues.”

The Central New York Community Foundation provided MFT with a $19,760 grant to launch a free training workshop that brings together interpreters in training from MAMI and her psychotherapy students at SU to learn and work collaboratively. The workshop, launched in January 2019, will utilize the grant to continue operations over a full one-year cycle.

The project will be completed in three phases. Phase one includes planning for the workshop with MAMI and community members; phase two is the actual workshop offered to both interpreters from MAMI and psychotherapy students at SU; and phase three involves a follow-up to assess the impact of the workshop.

“I believe training in conjunction with the community’s interpreters will be crucial for both interpreters and for mental health clinicians in our community,” said Shaelise Tor, a doctoral candidate at Syracuse University who has closely worked with Dr. Gangamma. “It’s been a great experience to work with a multidisciplinary team to craft this training, because we each bring our own areas of knowledge.”

The Marriage and Family Therapy Department at Syracuse University is the only provider of free family therapy services to the community in Syracuse and has been serving Onondaga County since 1969. The department maintains relationships with refugee centers in Syracuse including the Bhutanese Community Center and RISE to provide and assess the family therapy needs of those communities.

In collaboration with MAMI, who has served Central New York since 1998, MFT hopes to build a stronger relationship between its department, interpreters, and refugee populations to ensure long-term access to mental health solutions in Syracuse.

[1] CNY Vitals (https://cnyvitals.org/people/)

[2] CNY Vitals (https://cnyvitals.org/people/)

[3] Semuels, 2015, “The Refugees Who Come Alone”, (https://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2015/11/the-refugees-who-come-alone/415491/)

[4] Giacco & Priebe, “Mental Health Care for Refugees”, World Health Organization (http://www.euro.who.int/__data/assets/pdf_file/0006/293271/Policy-Brief-Migration-Health-Mental-Health-Care-Refugees.pdf)

[5] Hameed, Sadiq, & Din, 2018, “The Increased Vulnerability of Refugee Population to Mental Health Disorders” Kansas Journal of Medicine (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5834240/)

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