In 1999 I was living in a shelter and going through WEP. I didn’t have real work experience or college education and I thought WEP would help. I worked in the Medicaid office but I felt they disrespected people on public assistance—expecting us to dress formally when we didn’t have those kind of clothes and they didn’t even pay us enough to buy toilet paper. I saw a flyer for a CVH workshop: “Do You Know Your Rights?” and I went; it was interesting and I kept on going to meetings. I participated in CVH’s Community Organizer training program, and was hired as an Organizer in 2002 and did that for three years. Next, I moved to a Staff position with Picture the Homeless – an ally organization - in 2005. Currently I work for the Board of Elections and am also serving my 2nd term on the CVH Board, as Co-Chair.
I’ve been on the [workfare] campaign since joining CVH and I’m ecstatic about these latest changes [to phase out the program]. CVH had met with [now Mayor] Bill de Blasio previously in his other elected roles [Council Member, Public Advocate] and as a candidate; this was something new — we never had a relationship at all with [former] Mayor Bloomberg. It always amazes me that politicians can take steps without knowing how it affects people.
One of my best memories was the “Waffle” action we ran in 2002—we took four buses down to Washington D.C. to [then Senator] Hillary Clinton’s house—she said she wouldn’t sign anything that would add more hours to workfare, but a week later we heard she’d signed off on a measure to increase hours from 30 to 35 hours per week. She was waffling, so we went up to her house to demonstrate, and leave waffles on her doorstep; someone even wore a waffle costume. 3 days later, she took her name off the list!
I’m happy organizations like CVH can help give people voice to their opinions. When something wasn’t right, my mother would tell her neighbors; now when something’s not right, I tell the powers that be.