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First Lady Chirlane Mccray Delivers Remarks At The 20th Annual Women Mean Business Luncheon

April 3, 2014

NEW YORK—On Thursday, First Lady Chirlane McCray delivered remarks at the 20th Annual Women Mean Business Luncheon Benefitting the Coalition for the Homeless’ First Step Job Training Program. Below are the remarks as prepared for delivery.

Remarks as Prepared

Good afternoon, everyone. Thank you, Mary Brosnahan, for that wonderful introduction.

It is an honor to be here at the 20th Annual Women Mean Business Luncheon.

And I know you really mean business!

I bring you all greetings from my husband, our Mayor, Bill de Blasio. Isn’t he doing a terrific job?

Many of you have known Bill when he was a Council member, then as Public Advocate – always pushing for the protection of the legal right to shelter.

He has worked in close partnership with you, and looks forward to your continued support in helping us keep New York City a place where everyone has a chance to make it. 

So thank you, everyone who works with the Coalition for the Homeless, for understanding the importance of preventing people from becoming homeless in the first place.

I appreciate that you are so persistent and relentless in trying to put yourselves out of this business!

Thank you, former Mayor David Dinkins and Barry Berke, for your continued support of the Coalition, and for being with us today.

I also want to acknowledge the Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services, Lilliam Barrios-Paoli, who joins us this afternoon as well.

Thank you, Kramer Levin, for your commitment and support for the Coalition and the First Step Job Training Program.

And everyone, please, give the graduates of the First Step Job Training Program a round of applause.

Graduates, we applaud you because when the odds were stacked against you, and barriers loomed large, you still found a way. You still found the courage and strength to transform your life and the lives of your loved ones.

You stuck with the program. And you proved to yourself and to anyone who ever doubted – that you could do it. 

What you have achieved takes faith and a tremendous belief in your own abilities.

We can never really know your pain or your fears. But, we are witnesses to your strength and to your determination.

You are remarkable women, and I am so delighted that we are celebrating with you today. 

You know – everyone has tough times. It doesn’t matter who you are. That’s just the way life is. 

There are good times. And there are times that are not so good.

But when the going gets tough, some people are fortunate and have family or friends – or both – to lean on. Some people have financial support.

And if they’re really lucky, they have all of that – a very large safety net. 

Sometimes, it only takes one accident or one tragedy – a loss of a job or a business – to push a family into a catastrophic situation.

Everyone needs a safety net. No one benefits when people or families fall through the cracks.

Right now, there are more than 52,000 people in our shelter system – a majority of them women and children. Fifty-two thousand people.

That is a population the size of a city – like Hoboken, NJ. 

The main cause of this homelessness is evictions, and the second highest cause is domestic violence. 

It is unacceptable that so many people lose their homes, and in such a traumatizing way.

And I am committed to using whatever influence I have – as First Lady and as Chair of the Mayor’s Fund – to work toward an end to these terrible situations.

The mission of the Mayor’s Fund is to find innovative solutions to some of the biggest challenges facing the citizens of our city.

We pursue this mission by fostering partnerships among government agencies, non-profit organizations and private funders. Now, that might sound like government-speak, but it translates into real programs that are making a real impact.

I know there is no one cure-all. So, if we want to reduce homelessness and address the root causes, we’re all going to have to work together and work together in new ways, too. 

And preventing small problems from escalating into bigger problems is key.

That’s the reason why the de Blasio administration has been so vocal when it comes to the education of our children.

It’s the reason why we pushed so hard for universal pre-K classes for New York City children and after-school programs for middle school students.  

We know that if we start early, we can prevent problems from ever starting. We have the statistics, and we know from experience that if children get a good, high quality early education – they are less likely to fall into poverty, less likely to get arrested or go to prison, and more likely to live a healthy and productive life.

We have the numbers. We know this! 

Just days ago, we achieved a historic victory when New York State reached a budget agreement that will change the lives of thousands of our children. And their families.

Beginning in September, our children will have the opportunity to attend free, full-day pre-K classes.

It’s an unprecedented triumph for our children, parents and families throughout the city.

Together, we will finally begin to improve our public school system by establishing a strong foundation early on – for all of our children, from every borough.

The state budget agreement also recognizes the city’s devastating homeless crisis. 

This agreement represents a new beginning in our approach to homelessness, by clearing the way for a rent subsidy program that will help families transition out of our shelter system.

In addition, the agreement provides a rent cap for those diagnosed with HIV or AIDS.

I am excited about these initiatives, which are just the tools we need to start making more tangible progress. I think we all do better when we all do better.

And there are some other wonderful things happening in our city.

In my travels around New York as First Lady and Chair of the Mayor’s Fund, I have the opportunity to see quite a few innovative programs and programs that are best practices.

And I write about them. I describe the programs, and the people I meet, on my Tumblr, which is called FLONYC.  The initials FLONYC stand for “First Lady of New York City.”

And you can find the blog at

It’s an interactive blog with photos and video, stories and poetry.

And when you get a chance, I hope you check it out. Because I want to share what I’m doing with you, and I also want to hear your ideas.

One of the things you’ll read about on FLONYC is the job readiness course operated by the Osbourne Association, which helps young people who have been involved in the justice system move past their mistakes.

You’ll also see that I was recently at the opening of the city’s fourth Family Justice Center, in Lower Manhattan. 

The Justice Centers are open and provide crucial support to anyone who has suffered through abuse. In one visit, survivors can meet with a prosecutor, speak with a trained counselor, and apply for housing and financial assistance.

These centers create a safe haven, and give legal and social services for people who often have nowhere else to turn.

We have four centers now – one in Brooklyn, Manhattan, the Bronx and Queens – and the goal is to open up a fifth center in Staten Island next year.

Making this resource even better is the new partnership just announced, between Columbia University Medical Center and the Bronx Family Justice Center, which will include a program for much-needed mental health services.

Repairing and rebuilding lives is what this initiative is all about.

I’ll finish by saying, thank you – for remembering that we are all connected, for remembering that we all belong to one human family. And if we are to survive, we need to take care of one another.

Thanks to dedicated and compassionate people like you, our city is still a place where people from many different backgrounds have an opportunity to succeed. 

So please, keep on doing what you are doing. When you touch another person’s life, you never know how much you are helping, or where it may take that person. 

One day, someone from this audience could be standing where I am today. 

Congratulations, again, to all the graduates: keep working toward your dreams, and never give up – never.

Thank you.

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