At Unity House, we have a vision where everyone is respected and lives a fulfilling life in our community. Share your vision and we can help you today.
In my 27 years at Unity House of Cayuga County, I have always been impressed with the people who work here. They understand our mission to overcome addiction, address mental illness, and/or empower and enrich the lives of those diagnosed with a developmental disorder. Our employees bring our mission to life every day by helping vulnerable people overcome life’s greatest challenges.
Their dedication has become especially evident over the past three years. While many were able to work from home, Unity House employees were putting their health at risk to provide much-needed in-person services. They have developed creative ways to deliver their services despite staffing shortages and new regulations. They picked up an extra shift. The staff of the office also received training and became able to play an active role in the group home.
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To retain the best Direct Support Professionals (DSPs), we increased full-time wages this fall. But at first, even his new rate of up to $19.50 an hour isn’t attracting enough people to this challenging job. Today, more than a quarter of his positions in our positions are vacant, and the vacancies in similar organizations are even higher.
If nothing changes, we will be forced to close the group home this year. I know what that means, so it hurts me to even suggest it: people with disabilities will lose the homes they love.
Unity House supporters are committed to helping. Giving to nonprofits has grown an average of 25% each year over the past three years. Clearly, our community respects people with disabilities and those who support them.
But what about New York State, which funds most of its disability services?
After years of flat funding for organizations that provide direct assistance to people with disabilities, the state passed a 5.4% increase in April 2022. Even that funding has not yet arrived.
But this year brings hope.
Proponents are calling for an 8.5% increase in state funding for direct aid organizations this year. This equates to an increase in the cost of living. If approved, Unity House will be able to raise wages further and fill vacancies. I have spoken to most of the local legislatures and state senators. All of them say they support higher wages for DSPs. No one said it was easy.
here you can help. Reach out to your state senator, state legislator, and Gov. Kathy Hochul today. Communicate your values to them, such as that people with disabilities deserve to live with dignity and that DSPs deserve to be paid fairly. Encourage her representative to approve her 8.5% funding increase to direct aid organizations.
Your voice can make a difference for people with disabilities. Together, we can build a community where everyone is respected and can live their lives to the fullest.
Elizabeth Smith is the CEO of Unity House of Cayuga County, Inc. Unity House provides housing and other support services to people with disabilities in and near Cayuga and Tompkins counties. For more information, please visit www.unityhouse.com.