For New Yorkers in need, financial problems often arise from a cluster of challenges ranging from debt to legal problems to family stress. Traditionally, these issues have to be addressed one at a time, at different offices in far-flung locations around the city. Those attempting to solve problems for themselves and their families often give up, finding the process to be an additional burden. Single Stop's aim is to reduce poverty by giving people the right advice about public benefits, the right legal counsel and the right financial assistance all in one location.
Single Stop operates at over 80 sites in the city's poorest neighborhoods. In immigrant communities, bilingual counselors are on hand. The initiative serves more than 125,000 impoverished New Yorkers annually. Each Single Stop site is customized to meet the needs of the neighborhood it serves and provides some or all of the following types of free, one-on-one counseling:
Benefits: Specialists using the web-based Self-Sufficiency Calculator determine eligibility and provide assistance with applications for government benefits.
Financial: Trained counselors offer expertise in managing debt and creating a budget.
Tax: Professionals prepare tax returns—at no charge—and help clients secure the Earned Income Tax Credit.
Legal: On-site lawyers from the Legal Aid Society, Legal Services of New York, the Urban Justice Center and the New York Legal Assistance Group provide assistance in dealing with eviction notices, immigration issues, custody disputes, errors in criminal records and more.
Family: Social workers give confidential help on issues including domestic violence, problems at school and substance abuse.
Jobs: After an on-the-spot assessment, job seekers are referred for training.
Robin Hood invests about $15 million a year on the program, delivering benefits worth an estimated $204 million to the sites' visitors. To ensure Single Stop has the most impact, Robin Hood continues to forge strong partnerships with several city agencies: the Human Resources Administration; Department of Correction (Rikers); the Department of Homeless Services; and Department of Consumer Affairs. These partnerships translate into better collaboration between the city agencies and top-tier community-based organizations that deliver Single Stop services.
To replicate this program on a national scale, a new 501(c)3, Single Stop USA, was formed in 2007 with seed money from Atlantic Philanthropies. Robin Hood works together with Single Stop USA to forge new relationships, make necessary adjustments and create uniform best practices that can be implemented in New York City and across the country.
To locate a Single Stop site, please visit www.singlestopusa.org.