NEW YORK – October 20, 2022 | Urban Resource Institute (URI), the largest provider of domestic violence residential services in the United States and a leading provider of homeless services in New York City, hosted its annual URI Celebration: Rise Up! virtual event on October 19. The Celebration featured the impactful work of the URI Economic Empowerment Program, with notable speakers and honorees who share the URI commitment to a world free of domestic violence, homelessness, and poverty, and of breaking barriers to safety and healing.
URI’s signature annual Celebration falls in October during Domestic Violence Awareness Month (DVAM). “I’m especially moved by the clients who overcome domestic violence and homelessness in their lives. Their journey is an empowering example of strength and perseverance that I am honored to witness. Every year, our annual celebration takes place during DVAM, a time when the whole country is focusing on an issue that URI addresses 365 days a year,” said Nathaniel M. Fields, Chief Executive Officer of URI.
URI Celebration: Rise Up! was hosted by Emmy Award winning news anchor, talk show host, and author, Cheryl Wills, who disclosed her own family’s experience with domestic violence and has dedicated segments of her talk show, In Focus with Cheryl Wills, to the issue of domestic abuse. Music was provided by the powerful voices of Sing Harlem! Choir, led by co-founder and Artistic Director Ahmaya Knoelle Higginson.
Guests were inspired with a keynote address by Tina Perry, president of the Oprah Winfrey Network, who shares insights into the deep commitment of OWN to empowering women of color and to giving voice to their stories.
“Oprah’s vision connects us with a central purpose, one aligned with URI. OWN’s core goal is to be of service to our audience and our community, especially the themes of empowerment and resilience, triumphing over adversity, and giving voice to these stories,” said Perry. “Both OWN and programs of URI are so critically important. We can see a future in our communities bolster by financial wellbeing, economic independence and social stability. In the words of OWN’s cofounder and namesake, ‘Leadership is about empathy. It’s about having the ability to relate to and connect with people for the purpose of inspiring and empowering their lives.’”
URI Celebration Honorees
This year’s Celebration honored Bronx Borough President Vanessa L. Gibson with the Visionary Award, in recognition of her steadfast advocacy for vulnerable populations and issues of equity and justice, including homelessness and domestic violence.
“URI today operates in a number of domestic and gender-based violence shelters in our great borough of the Bronx. On Domestic Violence Awareness Month, let us be reminded of the incredible organizations like the Urban Resource Institute that are on the ground providing services every single day,” noted Gibson. “Receiving the Visionary Award means so much to me – as someone who knows many victims of domestic and gender-based violence, as someone who has been on the front lines fighting every day for wrap-around services, trauma-informed care, as well as housing and emergency benefits, and making sure victims and their families are safe.”
URI presented the annual Triumph Award to Kerry, a former URI client who has moved from surviving to thriving in her own life and as a role model for her children. Throughout her journey to rise up from years of domestic abuse, the URI Economic Empowerment Program set Kerry on a path to a bright new future in her education and career. In her heartfelt acceptance of the Triumph Award, Kerry shared that she had once been a temp worker at URI, never imagining she would one day need the services of the URI team, who were always behind her, guiding, supporting, and building up her skills, courage, and confidence to find her path, make a plan, and move ahead.
Special Guests and Inspirational Stories
Guests also heard the inspiring stories from other former clients who found the path to bright, stable futures through their experiences at URI, including mother-daughter Obina Escort and Aaliyah Duah, who credit URI with building the foundation of their current lives; and Christine Figueroa, who told of rising from a sixth-grade education to pursuing college, and shared the tale of a meaningful pair of boots that “took her far.”
The Celebration also gathered New York State and City elected officials and community leaders in support of URI’s mission and to strengthen prevention efforts and services to survivors. Guests included: Emily Kadar from the Office of Governor Kathy Hochul; Joseph N. Edwards from the Office of Congressman Gregory Meeks; State Senator Brad Hoylman; State Senator Luis Sepulveda; Dennis A. Weakley from the Office of State Senator Roxanne Persaud; Christina Andries from the Office of State Senator Leroy Comrie; Assemblymember David Weprin; Winn Periyasamy from the Office of Manhattan Borough President Mark Levine; and Sydney Renwick from the Office of Councilmember Selvena Brooks-Power.
Powerful Impact of the Economic Empowerment Program
The Celebration spotlighted URI’s Economic Empowerment Program (EEP) that gives clients the tools and resources to transform their lives through economic stability and financial freedom. Teal Inzunza, Program Director for the URI EEP, shared how financial dependence is a key barrier to fleeing violent situations and a leading reason why survivors return to their abusers.
“When we provide trauma-informed services, we empower through a menu of individualized services, including career development or financial empowerment services; in-person or virtual training sessions; and group programming focused on getting into the workforce or succeeding within a role,” said Inzunza. “We are so proud of the work and the impact we’ve made through the URI Economic Empowerment Program. Clients we’ve placed into a position through the program have increased their income by 350% – which has a lasting effect on themselves and their families.”
About 70% of the residents currently in the URI shelters are youth and children. URI understands that working with youth and children is an important step in ending intergenerational cycles of violence, poverty, and oppression, which is manifested in the launch of the new Fabrication Lab (Fab Lab) in Midtown, Manhattan, where youth from URI shelters are provided with skills training opportunities in technology and fabrication, all while supporting them through their healing process.
“We work to bridge the digital divide by providing an incubator of innovation and learning, a place to experience the latest technology, to find a pathway to jobs of the future and, most of all, for each student to learn that they are capable of great things and they begin to see their own path in front of them, said John Jeffreys, Director of Fab Lab. “Only the URI Fab Lab is dedicated to young people who have faced the trauma of homelessness and domestic violence, whose lives have been turned upside down, and who never dreamed of something like the Fab Lab.”
Through the generosity of the sponsors, including Presenting Sponsor Heights Advisors, as well as donors, URI Board of Trustees, and supporters, the URI Celebration raised nearly half a million dollars to support the URI programs and services for domestic violence survivors and homeless families.
“With so many URI staff members working across all five boroughs, it’s important to take a moment to recognize the goal that we are all working towards – which is providing life-changing services to domestic violence survivors and homeless families. Thank you to our funders, donors, staff, and partners across the city who make our work possible,” added Fields.
About Urban Resource Institute (URI):
Urban Resource Institute (URI) transforms the lives of domestic violence survivors and homeless families by empowering individuals, families, and communities, particularly communities of color and other vulnerable populations, to end cycles of domestic violence, homelessness, poverty, and trauma by increasing safety and resiliency. As the largest provider of domestic violence shelter services in the US and a leading provider of homeless services, URI’s programs impact more than 40,000 individuals annually through prevention, intervention, education, and direct services in both residential and non-residential settings in New York. URI is recognized as a thought-leader with influence across the U.S. and beyond. For more information, visit www.urinyc.org or follow on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Twitter.
If you or someone you know needs immediate assistance, call NYC’s 24-hour Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-621-HOPE or the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE.