New York City Council passes legislation to hold City-funded social service providers accused of sexual harassment and abuse accountable

On August 27, 2021 the City Council unanimously passed legislation introduced by Council Member Helen Rosenthal to ensure that reports of sexual harassment, abuse and/or assault involving City-funded social service providers are handled appropriately.

Intro 2284 was introduced after clients and employees of the City-funded Bronx Parent Housing Network reported multiple instances of abuse by the organization’s director, only to be run around in circles, with no clear way to obtain assistance and intervention.

As the New York Times documented earlier this year, BPHN had received hundreds of millions from the City to run homeless shelters and provide services. But when a growing number of women reported the abuses to a City hotline, a State agency, and even the police, no action was taken.

After the Times report was published, Speaker Corey Johnson, Council Member Rosenthal, 12 additional Council Members, and eight community organizations sent a public letter to Mayor de Blasio, noting that:

“We are gravely disappointed by your response to allegations that a homeless service provider, formerly of the Bronx Parent Housing Network (BPHN), regularly sexually assaulted homeless women. As the New York Times reported, these assaults were carried out in addition to financial exploitation. It is despicable that the City was doing business with an abuser, and continued to do business with him, despite multiple survivors reaching out to the NYC Department of Social Services (DSS) to alert them of the situation.”

In response, the legislation passed today requires that:
– The Department of Social Services provide a “survivor-centric” response to anyone who reports sexual harassment, abuse and/or assault involving a contracted provider.
– Every six months, DSS must review all reports of sexual harassment, abuse and assault involving contracted providers, and it must review any settlements that providers have reached with survivors.
– Both DSS and the Dept of Homeless Services must provide contracted providers with outreach materials regarding survivor resources, and advise providers to make these resources visible to both staff and clients.

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