Leaders Speak – A Conversation on Human Service Delivery in New York City

We are introducing a Special Edition of The Business of Government Hour — Leaders Speak —     focusing on human service delivery: the challenges being faced and innovations being forged in our local communities.

Today state and local governments are under tremendous pressure to do more with less. Nowhere is this more evident than in the delivery of human services – that social safety net bringing to those most in need, a leg up, well-being, and ultimately self sufficiency.  As we continue to engage government executives who are changing the way government does business, we explore human service delivery in the City of New York with three key city agency executives.

What about New York City’s ambitious plan to eliminate homelessness?  How are New York City social services agencies managing to do more with less? How is technology making human service delivery more efficient, effective, and citizen-centric? AND, what can federal agencies learn from these local efforts.

Today, our guests — Robert Hess, Commissioner, New York City Homeless Services, Kamal Bherwani, Executive Director, NYC’s HHS-Connect, and Robert Doar, Commissioner of the New York City Human Resources Administration — offer their extended reflections on such questions.

You may hear directly from our guests by clinking on the links embedded in this post.

All across America, small towns and large cities are facing the social realities of homelessness, and the steady increase in demand for homeless services.  While providing shelter and services to those in need is critical, the national conversation is shifting from managing to ending homelessness, especially chronic homelessness. New York City has embraced such a goal, and has begun to reshape and expand its services to prevent homelessness in a more comprehensive and coordinated way than ever before.  From a system that did little more than provide cots and meals to single adults and families, it is now recognized nationally and internationally for providing quality shelter and related services in humane settings, with a client-centered philosophy.

“The Department of Homeless Services in New York was created in the early ’90s.  Before that, we were part of the Human Resources Administration in the city,” explains Robert Hess, Commissioner, New York City Department of Homeless Services. The mission is to support individuals and families that are experiencing homelessness and to help them move back into the community.

Here’s Robert Hess, Commissioner of the New York City Department of Homeless Services on the: Challenges facing the NYC Department of Homeless Services

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg issued a five-year plan to end chronic homelessness.  There’s no one size fits all approach to this issue and Commissioner Hess underscores the importance of finding strategies that work – and learning from doing: New York City’s five-year plan to end chronic homelessness

The New York City Human Resources Administration is the largest department of social services in the city of New York.  According to Robert Doar, Commissioner of HRA, “we have the biggest collection of programs and the largest groups of New Yorkers who we serve. We have the Medicaid program.  We provide health insurance to more than 2.5 million New York City residents.  We have the food stamp program.  We provide food assistance or benefits to help people purchase food for about 1.6 million New York City residents.  And we have the cash welfare program, which is a much smaller program, which we serve about 350,000 New Yorkers. We haveother programs in the area of social services: domestic violence, adult protective services.  Our principal role is to provide a safety net and a support for people who are particularly vulnerable or are struggling — help people get into employment.”

Commissioner Doar identifies three key challenges facing his agency and how he’s meeting these challenges: Challenges facing the New York City HRA

With the dramatic fall in city revenue and even more troubling revenue picture at the state level, they’ve required a series of spending reductions for all programs.  Commissioner Doar tells us how he’s doing more with less and meeting reduction targets: approaches to “doing more with less” in human services delivery

Local and state governments are under tremendous pressure to do more for citizens and to do it better. Technology has enabled governments to do just that and nowhere is this more evident than in the delivery of human services.  To meet such ends government Chief Information Officer’s have found it necessary to identify and implement technologies that make operations more responsive to the needs and expectations of its citizens. Over the last several years the city of New York has made a concerted effort to implement technologies design to make it more accessible, transparent, and accountable.

Kamal Bherwani, former chief information officer for New York City’s Health and Human Services and former executive director of HHS-Connect describes the city’s HHS-Connect initiative and the strategic vision that frames it: vision & principles behind NYC’s HHS-Connect

This post introduces three dedicated public servants delivering social and human services in one of the largest city’s in the world. You can access the complete program and hear the entire conversation at Leaders Speak – Human Service Delivery in New York City


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