By: Lori Boozer, JD, Mobility LABs Senior Program Officer

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Mobility Learning and Action Bets — or Mobility LABs — is a four-year initiative to spur the development of new solutions to sustainably lift families out of poverty, and to promote dynamic leaders who will change the national conversation around mobility. Mobility LABs is supporting nine local anchor partners leading work in five demographically and geographically diverse communities across the country. In February 2020, Robin Hood hosted the first convening of all anchor partners in New York City.

In February of 2020, before the pandemic struck (barely before it), the Mobility LABs team hosted its first convening of its national partners. Local Anchor Partners traveled from all five geographies (the Bay Area, New York City, Suburban Cook County, IL, Northeast Pennsylvania, and Baltimore, Maryland). The theme of this year’s convening was “Mobility LABs…in Community.” With a sizable chartered bus, the convening took all participants on a crisscross to the three New York City boroughs where LABs partners are located — Brownsville, Brooklyn, Flushing, Queens, and the South Bronx.

Each Community hosted a different theme as…

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By Amber Oliver, Managing Director at the Robin Hood Learning + Technology Fund, a collaboration between Robin Hood, Overdeck Family Foundation and Siegel Family Endowment. The goal of the Fund is to partner with organizations, school leaders, educators, and researchers in New York City to leverage and model how technology can spark and deepen learning for high-poverty students, specifically around literacy and computing.

We don’t know exactly what this school year holds, but it is safe to say that it won’t look like the school days we all remember. This global crisis has opened up the door to two opportunities: one for educators and the organizations that support them to think differently about their work and the students they serve, and another for funders and philanthropists to support the necessary changes needed for innovation to thrive in the classroom. These adjustments are critical if we are to close the opportunity gap that disproportionately affects students of color and those living in poverty to ensure no one is left behind. …

Congress Must Close Gaps in Federal COVID-19 Aid to Prevent Vulnerable Communities from Falling Through the Cracks

COVID-19 has taken an unprecedented toll on low-income New Yorkers and has devastated the city’s public health system and economy. The unemployment rate reached 20 percent in June — on par with the Great Depression — yet this hardship is more severe than these numbers indicate. Robin Hood’s own Poverty Tracker found that before COVID-19, 45 percent of New Yorkers were unable to access even $400 cash for an emergency expense — a lack of financial security now coupled with widespread job loss. …

The COVID-19 Pandemic and the Housing Crisis

New York City’s housing crisis has persisted for years, leading to overcrowding and homelessness, forced moves and evictions.(1) And consequences of this crisis have been overly borne by Black and Hispanic New Yorkers — a direct product of housing policy and gentrification, which have disproportionately pushed New Yorkers of color from their homes and served to concentrate and segregate poverty and material hardship in New York City.(2) The COVID-19 pandemic has only exacerbated housing insecurity — particularly for Black (non-Hispanic) and Hispanic New Yorkers who have lost work.

Preliminary data from the Poverty Tracker show that Black (non-Hispanic) and Hispanic workers who have lost work for a reason related to COVID-19 are significantly more likely to have faced housing hardship prior to the pandemic compared to White (non-Hispanic) workers who have lost work and to respondents who have not lost work. Overall, 26 percent of Poverty Tracker respondents who have lost work for a reason related to COVID-19 faced some form of housing hardship priorto the COVID-19 outbreak — compared to 15 percent of those respondents who have not lost work (see Figure 1). Looking at these results broken out by race and ethnicity, we find that 37 percent of Black (non-Hispanic) and Hispanic respondents who have lost work faced a housing hardship prior to the pandemic, compared to only 19 percent of White (non-Hispanic) respondents who have lost work. Black (non-Hispanic) and Hispanic respondents who lost work due to COVID-19 experienced housing hardship at nearly twice the rate of White (non-Hispanic) respondents who have lost work. …

Prior to the COVID-19 outbreak, many New Yorkers struggled to keep food on the table, and the pandemic has only exacerbated this crisis. The early days of the pandemic were marked by grocery store lines that wrapped around city blocks and empty store shelves, cleared by those who could afford to stock up. Soon after, the City was put “on pause,” and the lives of workers and their families were entirely upended. Preliminary data from the Poverty Tracker, a longitudinal-study of poverty and wellbeing in New York City, indicates that about half (51 percent) of respondents who were working before the outbreak have been laid off or have lost work-related income for a reason related to COVID-19. During this economic turmoil and uncertainty, food hardship has only intensified. Families wait in lines for blocks to be served by the food pantries which have managed to stay open — a visual illustration of the inadequacy of the federal policy response to address food hardship during this crisis. …

Robin Hood’s Poverty Tracker checks in regularly with a representative sample of New Yorkers, monitoring trends in poverty, disadvantage, and well-being. Through the COVID-19 outbreak, we’re continuing to check in with these families to learn how the pandemic is impacting New York City’s most vulnerable. This unique dataset informs our relief grant-making and investment strategy — providing insight into where the greatest needs are and which nonprofits are best suited to meet these needs. …

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By Suzi Epstein

Four tips from Robin Hood’s Grant Readiness Insights and Training (GRIT) program, which helps equip nonprofits with the tools needed to apply for funding from results-driven, evidence-based funders.

The nonprofit world has exploded in recent years. In the last decade alone, there has been a 30 percent increase in the number of nonprofit enterprises in the United States. Indeed, in New York state alone, there are roughly 31,000 nonprofits, according to the most recent data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

With this breakout in the field, there is fierce competition for resources along with rapid change that affects organizations, government, corporations, philanthropies and constituents everywhere. In recent years, we see ever more clearly that dedicated and worthy service providers must work harder to create a set of “win-win” strategies to attract foundation and public sources of support along with visibility and loyal individual donors. At the same time, at Robin Hood, New York’s largest anti-poverty nonprofit driven by rigorous metrics, we also observe and endorse the need for organizations to demonstrate concrete, measurable and robust results. …

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There are about 6,800 young homeless people under the age of 24 in New York, but many advocates believe that number is low, considering youth homelessness is often overlooked.* Undercounting the population can lead to fewer social services for at-risk youth and there are challenges with programs that are restricted by age and gender.

On Tuesday at Two Sigma’s offices, Robin Hood held an Unplugged featuring speakers discussing youth homelessness — the challenges and opportunities for helping this particularly vulnerable population find stability and housing.

Laura Mascuch, the executive director of The Supportive Housing Network of New York, an advocacy organization, moderated a panel that included Skye Adrian and Nicole Giannone of the Ali Forney Center, which provides LGBTQ youth with housing and services, and Elizabeth Garcia of Good Shepherd Services, an organization focused on helping at-risk youth. …

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“There’s nothing left for me there,” said Reshma Jaigobin, a 21-year-old immigrant from Guyana, reflecting on her homeland.

Before coming to the United States, she had to hide her true identity, pretending to be someone she wasn’t. Reshma is gay and with Guyana’s conservative culture this was taboo.

“Homosexuality is frowned upon there like in most societies” she said.

For Reshma, it would take nearly two decades and thousands of miles before she would eventually find her home and community at Guttman College, an innovative Robin Hood-funded institution in New York City.

“Since I was a kid, my parents painted this great picture of America and they told me, ‘You’re going to be there someday and you’re going to have many opportunities that do not exist here.’” …

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At our 2016 benefit, we launched a $50 million five-year effort — called the Fund for Early Learning (FUEL) — to transform New York City into an “early learning metropolis” to ensure parents in low-income communities can provide their young children with the best possible start to their lives.

But how?

For the past ten months, we have been hard at work answering that question and laying the foundation to implement this sweeping initiative.

The vision from the outset was to translate the powerful findings from research in early brain development into simple, effective interventions that can turn every parent, grandparent, and caregiver into brain builders. The inspiration for this work is twofold: 1) the developmental stage from age 0-to-3 is the most critical to a child’s future trajectory and lifetime outcomes and 2) in New York City, there are at least 100,000 children this age living below the federal poverty line who are especially vulnerable to falling behind. …


Robin Hood

Fighting poverty in New York City since 1988.

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