Coalition for the Homeless Announces 2021 Compassionate Communities Award for North Brooklyn Mutual Aid’s NBK Essentials Initiative

NBK Essentials Volunteers Aim to Support Unhoused New Yorkers During the Pandemic

New York, NY — November 22, 2021 — Today, the Coalition for the Homeless announced the recipient of its sixth annual Compassionate Communities Award: North Brooklyn Essentials (NBK Essentials), an initiative of North Brooklyn Mutual Aid. A volunteer-run, neighborhood-based initiative, NBK Essentials launched in January 2021 with a winter clothing collection drive and has since expanded to provide street outreach services and street sweeps defense, offer harm reduction information and supplies, and more.

This award comes as the COVID-19 pandemic has continued to highlight and exacerbate the city’s underlying inequities, as many New Yorkers were able to heed the orders to stay at home while tens of thousands of others had no homes at all. The increased visibility of unsheltered New Yorkers – who bed down on the streets, in the subway system, or in other public places – is a poignant reminder of the gaping holes in the social safety net, and of the urgent need for low-threshold shelters and permanent affordable housing. While some have chosen to react with hostility toward the presence of unsheltered New Yorkers, the dedicated NBK Essentials volunteers have chosen to show compassion – listening to their stories, meeting their immediate needs, and above all, never forgetting their humanity.

“The past 20 months have served as a true test of who we are as a city, and it’s hard to think of a better example of what it means to truly be a ‘compassionate community’ than NBK Essentials.  Their commitment to protecting the dignity, health, and wellbeing of their neighbors without homes sets a high bar for all New Yorkers, and is deeply inspiring,” said Dave Giffen, Executive Director of the Coalition for the Homeless. “I hope we see many other communities follow their lead.”

“We are thrilled to receive this award and hope that our work can lead to greater progress. Our initiative began during the pandemic at a time when many of the institutions we should have been able to rely on weren’t meeting our needs,” said Benjamin Adam, Ph.D., Volunteer Co-Coordinator for NBK Essentials. “This was especially true for homeless folks in our neighborhood who needed shelter and social services that worked for them and kept them safe.”

As another winter approaches, NBK Essentials plans to expand the capacity of its street outreach team and distribute seasonal clothing and other necessary items. They also plan to continue collaborating with City agencies and community members on initiatives to keep unsheltered neighbors and their belongings safe.

“North Brooklyn Essentials began as a group of volunteers dedicated to providing essential items to the unhoused population in our community but quickly grew into so much more. NBK Essentials saw a need to enter civic spaces where issues of homelessness were being addressed. All too often, unhoused individuals are treated with disrespect and disregard for their personal needs and experiences. NBK Essentials became a surrogate advocate in spaces where the unhoused population were unable to safely or comfortably enter themselves. They also expanded their mission to center harm reduction for people who use drugs, which often includes people experiencing homelessness. As the Assemblymember, it is wonderful to have a group of neighbors I can turn to who are dedicated to amplifying the voice of this population and center the human rights and dignity of our entire community, which includes those who are down on their luck. They have truly gone above and beyond – from providing opioid overdose response tools to showing up at 6 a.m. to advocate for the community with the Sanitation Department and local Police. NYC is full of vulnerable people, and NBK Essentials highlights and protects the humanity of an often-maligned population,” said New York State Assemblymember Emily Gallagher.

“Today, I’d like to give a warm congratulations to North Brooklyn Essentials for being awarded the Compassionate Communities Award from the Coalition for the Homeless. North Brooklyn Essential’s passion and dedication to serving our community has helped many members of our community, and we are thankful for their contributions and sacrifices. North Brooklyn Essentials is truly deserving of this recognition, and I am looking forward to seeing their amazing work continue in our district for years to come,” said New York State Senator Julia Salazar.

“Congratulations to NBK Essentials of North Brooklyn Mutual Aid for this well-deserved award! NBK Essentials has been on the frontlines, providing compassionate care for unhoused North Brooklyn residents and bringing direct services to New Yorkers, meeting them where they are. From organizing clothing and shoe drives, to providing food assistance, and working with residents and agencies to mitigate the harm of city homelessness sweeps, NBK Essentials has been an incredibly positive force in the community and brought neighbors together in new ways. I am also proud to congratulate their work on harm reduction and in safe drug usage in North Brooklyn. At a time when added dangers like fentanyl have been on the rise, the work of NBK Essentials to help keep neighbors safe and informed is more critical than ever,” said Council Member Stephen Levin.

To learn more about NBK Essentials and the Compassionate Communities Award, visit