Tenants with Housing Vouchers Deserve a Roof Over Their Head

“It’s not fair,” a single father said. “Landlords assume you’re a drug addict or something just because you’re using a housing voucher to pay rent. They treat you like you’re less than human when you mention you have a Section 8 voucher.”

“Even though I had a perfectly legal way to pay my rent,” a mother told the Commission on Human Rights, “I kept getting turned down by landlords which was degrading for me and my daughter. With no place to live, we ended up in the shelter system. It was really depressing and I kept thinking this was a reflection of who I was, even though I knew it wasn’t true.”

Darlene Love and Kristine Johnson Join the 23rd Annual Women Mean Business Luncheon in Support of the First Step Job Training Program

This year’s Women Mean Business Luncheon on April 25th was a huge success, raising $270,000 for the First Step Job Training Program. More than 350 business and civic leaders attended the event at the Pierre Hotel in midtown Manhattan to support and celebrate the work of the Coalition for the Homeless.

CBS 2 Co-Anchor Kristine Johnson kicked off the afternoon’s program as emcee, reminding guests of the critical role First Step has in preparing homeless and low-income women with the skills and confidence they need to overcome their personal obstacles and succeed in the workplace.

Coalition Executive Director Dave Giffen spoke about the need for New Yorkers to pull together to help the more than 62,000 people in shelter tonight – most of whom are families headed by women. He also thanked former NYC Mayor David Dinkins for serving as an example of compassionate and intelligent leadership at a time when those qualities are hard to find in national politics. He then went on to introduce all of the Coalition staff members in attendance who had graduated from the First Step program (14 of them!), including our Graduate Speaker, Zuheilly.

Zuheilly spoke movingly about her journey in First Step, starting as a single homeless mother with little self-esteem and working hard until becoming the full-time Development Associate at the Coalition for the Homeless. With her new position, she was able to move her family out of shelter and into an apartment of her own, and discovered a new-found confidence that she hopes to instill in her daughter.

Attendees also watched a video featuring Elina, another graduate who finally found stability and success in a job that she loves and now has the means to provide for herself, her partner and her two young boys.

A highlight of the afternoon was a spirited keynote address from Academy Award winner, Grammy winner and Rock & Roll Hall of Fame inductee Darlene Love, who shared her own story of coming up through the music industry as a backup singer and overcoming personal and financial struggles to find her own voice and success as a solo artist later in life. She surprised everyone by ending her address with powerful a cappella performance of a beautiful song of thanks, which brought everyone in the room to their feet.

The Coalition was honored to present this year’s Corporate Partnership Award to Burke & Company, whose founder, Christy Burke has been an integral supporter of First Step, providing funding, teaching workshops to our classes, and serving as a mentor to many of the students who have gone through the program over the years. Christy’s deeply heartfelt speech about her experiences with the Coalition and her love of her three-year-old daughter moved most of the guests to tears.

We would like to give a special thanks the attendees, sponsors, Coalition Board, First Step Advisory Board, Luncheon Committee, Darlene Love, and Kristine Johnson for helping to make this year’s Women Mean Business Luncheon the best one yet! The funds you helped us raise will help provide the computer training, skills workshops, food, transportation and comprehensive social services that make First Step such a successful and transformative program for so many homeless and low-income women.

If you were unable to attend this year, please consider making a gift to First Step. Your support helps keep this wonderful program going.

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