On March 25th, 2021, Urban Pathways Case Manager Lelia Daugherty participated in the #AlwaysEssential Press Conference, hosted by the New York City Council Women’s Caucus and the Human Services Council.

The Press Conference highlighted the essential role of the human services workforce and the need for increased wages for frontline staff members in programs contracted by City government. (While nonprofit organizations provide human services, many work under contracts with City governmental agencies, which set the wage schedules.) The Press Conference featured members of the Women’s Caucus, including Council Members Vanessa Gibson (District 16, Bronx and Co-Chair of the Women’s Caucus), Adrienne Adams (District 28, Queens), and Darma Diaz (District 37, Brooklyn), alongside representatives from the human services workforce.

In recognition of Women’s History Month, the press conference focused on the contributions of women of color in the sector and underscored the issue of low wages set by City contracts as an issue of racial and gender equity. New York City’s essential human services workforce is comprised of 82% women and 80% people of color, and are the second-lowest paid workforce after restaurant workers.

Lelia shared her experiences as a Case Manager at the 105th Street Safe Haven, ensuring that her clients have the services and resources they need to move on to permanent housing, and how helping her clients achieve their goals has been changed by the pandemic. She also shared the need for the City to invest in the human services workforce, who have been essential frontline workers throughout the pandemic, and who had been helping New Yorkers in need long before COVID-19.

“I wish the government would invest in the human services workforce the same way that we invest in our clients. Without us, these services would not exist. Without me, my clients would not receive the compassion and care they need to heal and regain their housing. If the City is going to name the human services workforce as essential, they must raise our wages to match the work that we do.”

Thank you, Lelia, for sharing your story and for your advocacy! You can view a recording of the press conference here (and catch Lelia’s powerful remarks starting at 17:36).