TESTIMONY: Maimuna Des Vignes
                       COMMUNITY VOICES HEARD
                 Meeting with HRA Commissioner Robert Doar
            Low Wage Workers, Transitional Benefits & Work Supports
                            SEPTEMBER, 18, 2007

Hello, my name is Maimuna DesVignes. I am a leader at Community Voices Heard. I
am a forty-nine years old. I am a divorced, displaced mom of two young adults. I live
with my mom and share her bed because I am currently homeless. Although I am
recently employed at 20-30 hours per week, I still do not earn enough to get my own

I have been on public assistance since December 2005 and immediately was enrolled in
the FEGS We Care program. Since May of 2007, I have been in a transitional status. At
that time, I started working at 20-30 hours per week in a job which I found on my own
because the job developer at my We Care program kept sending me to temporary
agencies who did have any knowledge of my coming; or they sent me to appointments
that didn’t exist. When I first enrolled in the We Care program I was homeless, jobless,
and could benefit from further higher education. Also in May I was approved for an ITA
Voucher to attend Bronx Community College for a course in business administration to
begin in January 2008.

I received a letter from HRA stating that I was reaching the maximum length of services
for a single adult, which is 24 months. However, I am still homeless, working without
benefits and have still not entered school to upgrade my skills. I was recently denied
housing assistance by the newly established Home Base Program that is supposed to
assist people like me. I do not think that I am benefiting from the transitional benefits
that are supposed to help me. Instead of securing low wage worker supports and
transitioning from welfare to self-sufficiency, I am faced with complete termination of
services from welfare. Also, there are so many unknowns and no one to help me answer
the questions that I have. For example, I have not found anyone who can tell me when
does the transitional benefit period end for someone like me who still needs services?
Also, what if the job I am on is not working out and I am fired? Do I have to start all
over again on a 45 day wait period to receive benefits?

I am still in need of assistance and there are many other people in my situation. I feel we
should not be ashamed to say it. I feel that the low wage worker transitioning from
welfare to work should be allotted more time to transition to self-sufficiency.

The length of the transition period should be based on individual needs. HRA
should equally ensure that clients of HRA are outreached to and afforded every
opportunity to benefit from the CEO initiatives for increased worker supports with
no penalty from HRA.

Will you establish a transitional period of at least 6 months during which new
workers can stabilize their finances and continue cash and rent assistance while they
transition to work?

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