First Step Graduates Shine at This Year’s Women Mean Business Luncheon!

On April 19th, nearly 350 business and community leaders gathered at the Plaza Hotel for the 24th Annual Women Mean Business Luncheon, raising more than $265,000 for the Coalition’s First Step Job Training Program.

Dulcé Sloan, comedian and correspondent on The Daily Show with Trevor Noah, hosted the event, bringing a high level of energy and wit while keeping the afternoon’s focus on the amazing women of First Step.

Photo by Seze Devres Photography

In his opening remarks, Coalition Executive Director Dave Giffen reminded the audience that since families – mostly female-headed households – make up more than 75 percent of those in shelters, “it’s impossible to talk about homelessness in New York City without talking about women and women’s issues.” He went on to thank the First Step staff for their tireless efforts to help so many homeless and low-income women transform their lives.

Without a doubt, the highlights of the luncheon were the moving and triumphant personal accounts of First Step graduates Gigi and Kemba.

Gigi, a graduate of Class 142 (featured in the video below), became homeless as a young adult after escaping an abusive home. With the support and encouragement of First Step, she found the knowledge – and courage – to pursue her list of ambitious life goals!

Kemba, the Graduate Speaker, moved the room to laughter, tears and a raucous standing ovation after delivering one of the most eloquent and poignant speeches in the event’s 24-year history. Her devastating account of the unspeakable abuse and trauma she experienced as a child and throughout her life ended with a proud realization: “I’m not just a survivor. I am a warrior.”


Photo by Seze Devres Photography

The Coalition is so grateful to these First Step graduates for the bravery it takes to share their stories and inspire countless other homeless and low-income women to seize control of their own lives and futures.

The Coalition was honored to present LEITZES&CO, represented by Cary Leitzes, with the Women Mean Business Partnership Award for their generous and ongoing in-kind donations to the women of First Step. Over the past three years, the Re: Purpose Initiative has donated hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of beauty products, bags, clothing and other special items to the women of First Step!

Photo by Seze Devres Photography

We would like to thank the attendees, sponsors, Coalition Board, First Step Advisory Board and Luncheon Committee for making this event so successful. During a watershed moment in our country in which women’s voices and the stories of their struggles are beginning to be heard on a broader scale, it is more important than ever to support the tens of thousands of women and girls experiencing homelessness. Your support of First Step helps keep this critical program going!

Not able to attend the luncheon this year? Please consider making a gift in support of First Step.

Today’s Read: Advocates Call for More Homeless Housing Units in de Blasio’s Housing Plan

On Monday, the Coalition for the Homeless and a group of 43 organizations sent a letter to Mayor de Blasio calling on him to dedicate 30,000 units of his Housing New York 2.0 plan to homeless New Yorkers, or 10 percent of the total 300,000-unit plan. Currently, only 5 percent of the affordable housing units in the Mayor’s plan are targeted to homeless households, despite the record number of men, women, and children sleeping in shelters each night. The organizations endorsing the campaign represent a broad range of housing advocates, faith leaders, experts, and service providers.

In a statement, Coalition for the Homeless Policy Director Giselle Routhier explained the urgent need for the campaign, called House Our Future NY: “This coalition has come together to state the obvious: At a time of record homelessness, the Mayor’s housing plan simply fails to direct help where it is needed most. If New York City builds and preserves a record 300,000 units of housing without meaningfully reducing homelessness, we will have missed a once-in-a-generation opportunity — and thousands of children and families will suffer because of it.”

Individuals can add their voices to the House Our Future NY campaign by signing our online petition. To learn more about the campaign and upcoming events, visit

Janaki Chadha wrote about the letter and campaign for Politico:

A group of organizations led by the Coalition for the Homeless submitted a letter to the mayor Monday calling for the city to double the 15,000 units currently allocated for homeless households within the city’s goal of creating or preserving 300,000 units of affordable housing by 2026.

“We urge you to use every available tool to help the record 63,000 people — including nearly 24,000 children — sleeping in shelters each night,” the letter reads. “With well over 15,000 families and more than 16,000 single adults sleeping in shelters each night, this is nowhere near the level of production necessary to meaningfully reduce record homelessness in New York City.”

The coalition is calling on the mayor to up this number to a total of 30,000 units, with 24,000 of those created as new construction. The group argues the current 15,000-unit goal is heavy on preservation of existing occupied units and does not include enough new construction. Because of this, the coalition holds, it will not provide enough of a relief for families currently living in city shelters.

According to the group, the new goal would require the city to build around 2,000 new homeless housing units per year between now and 2026. The letter, signed by organizations including the Legal Aid Society and New York Communities for Change, states this increased production is feasible given the de Blasio administration’s expansion and acceleration of its housing plan. It also points to housing production under previous mayoral administrations.

“At a time when the shelter census was only a fraction of what it is today, Mayor Ed Koch created nearly 15,700 units of homeless housing — constituting more than 10 percent of the units in his 10-year plan,” the coalition writes.

The groups signing the House Our Future NY letter include:

The Ali Forney Center

Banana Kelly Community Improvement Association, Inc.

Barrier Free Living

Broadway Housing Communities

Bronx Health & Housing Consortium

Care for the Homeless

Citizens’ Committee for Children

Coalition for Homeless Youth

Coalition for the Homeless

The Collegiate Churches of New York

Community Access

Community Service Society


Covenant House New York

Emergency Shelter Network

Gateway Housing


Henry Street Settlement

Homeless Services United

Housing Conservation Coordinators

Housing Works

Hunger Action Network of NYS

Hunger Free America

Interfaith Assembly on Homelessness and Housing


The Legal Aid Society

Midtown South Community Council

Mutual Housing Association of NY (MHANY)

National Working Positive Coalition

Neighbors Together

New Destiny Housing

New York Communities for Change

New York Society for Ethical Culture

New York State Council of Churches

Presbyterian Church (USA)

Safe Horizon

Sisters of Charity of New York

Society for the Advancement of Judaism

St Ann’s Church of Morrisania

Strong Families Deliverance Ministries Inc.

Tenants Political Action Committee

University Settlement and The Door



HUD Secretary Ben Carson to Propose Raising Rent for Low-Income Americans Receiving Federal Housing Subsidies

Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson proposed far-reaching changes to federal housing subsidies Wednesday, tripling rent for the poorest households and making it easier for housing authorities to impose work requirements.

Carson’s proposals, and other initiatives aimed at low-income Americans receiving federal assistance, amount to a comprehensive effort by the Trump administration and Republicans in Congress to restrict access to the safety net and reduce the levels of assistance for those who do qualify.

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