The closing of Hull House in Chicago reaffirms the powerful role settlements houses and neighborhood centers play across the country. The New York Nonprofit Press recently published an op-ed, “The Settlement House Movement Resurgent,” co-written by University Settlement CEO Michael Zisser and Executive Director Nancy Wackstein. It highlights the importance of settlement houses and how they have flourished for over 100 years because of their resolve to stay constant in their values, their ability to manage and balance multiple funding sources, and their ability to adapt programming to respond to changing community needs. In New York City, there are now more than 37 independent settlement houses and community centers, which make up the membership of United Neighborhood Houses of New York. These non-profit organizations serve more than 500,000 people each year across the five boroughs and employ more than 10,000 staff. They deliver a comprehensive array of vital programs responsive to the diverse and ever-changing needs of communities, especially here in NYC. The Hull House story dramatically illustrates the essential partnership between the non-profit sector and the public and private sectors does not always work the way it should. Non-profits will fail if they are too dependent on government-funded contracts, while it is also critical that the private sector adequately support human service and other non-profit organizations for these organizations to remain financially stable. Hull House is a cautionary but single tale. Settlement houses continue to survive, and most importantly, because families and communities across the country have recognized and relied on the strengths that the settlement movement has brought to their lives.
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