Lantern staff meet Albany legislators

Lantern staff Nicholas Perez, John Sentigar, and Lara Tobin take part in The Network's Advocacy Day

On March 1st, three Lantern staff members joined The Network‘s “Legislative Advocacy Day” in Albany, to share with our elected officials the impact of supportive housing and urge them to honor their commitments to fund more.

IPS Employment Specialist Nicholas Perez, Social Worker Lara Tobin, and Program Director John Sentigar took an early morning bus from NYC to Albany with advocates from across the supportive housing sector. Together, they met with Senators and Assembly Members who have Lantern buildings in their constituencies, discussing the impact supportive housing is having in our clients’ lives.

Nicholas Perez supports clients living with mental illness at Huntersmoon Hall on the Upper West Side to find and keep jobs that work for them. In his meeting with newly-elected Sen. Marisol Alcantara, he was able to tell the story of a client who has just been cast in a new Netflix Original Series through Central Casting of NYC. Sen. Alcantara said she was inspired by the role that supportive housing had played in connecting him to care for his illness, and ultimately to such an amazing job.

Lantern staff went on to meet with the offices of Senators Jose Serrano, Ruben Diaz and Velmanette Montgomery, and Assembly Members Victor Pichardo, Andrew Hevesi, Daniel J. O’Donnell, and Richard Gottfried. They had great conversations all around, and were particularly impressed to see End AIDS in 2020 campaign and Pass GENDA posters in Assembly Member Gottfried’s office.

Reflecting on the day, Lara Tobin says that the biggest impact for her was the feeling of human connection with our elected officials and their staff, instead of an amorphous idea of “politicians.” She says:

“It reminded me to view them, as we do each other, and the tenants, as human beings that are currently in a situation that leads us to have to connect with one another to collaborate on reaching a goal. That gives me much more hope and a feeling of strength.”

The team also appreciated meeting political representatives that reflect the diversity of New York City, and said that it really matters seeing people other than white, cis, heterosexual men in positions of government. In meeting Sen. Alcantara, Nicholas appreciated that they also spoke about their families and cultural backgrounds, and that the conversation flowed between English and Spanish seamlessly.

Most of all, John, Lara and Nicholas said that they felt that our elected representatives were genuinely interested and keen to be partners in tackling our homelessness crisis. John says:

“Today’s experience really changed my thoughts about how our elected officials consider their constituents. I found everyone to be quite interested in what we had to say. Our officials were not sugar-coating things – they were being real and that’s what I appreciated most.”

Thanks to the Network for organizing another great advocacy day, and to our elected officials for taking the time to hear about our work. We look forward to seeing the release of the Governor’s $2 billion committed for affordable and supportive housing units very soon!

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