Your Guide to Welfare in NYC

For nearly 350,000 New Yorkers, public assistance is vital lifeline for staying sheltered and fed. But wading through the maze of paperwork and appointments required to apply for benefits is an intimidating process. And applying is just the beginning: to keep their benefits, applicants have to keep track of regular appointments, complicated paperwork, and strict work requirements. If applicants have trouble navigating this system on their own, they risk missing out on the benefits they depend on to get by. 

CUP, the Safety Net Project of the Urban Justice Center, and design studio All Other Services joined forces to create a fold-out poster that breaks down how to apply for and keep public assistance. Your Guide to Welfare in NYC is the first guide of its kind to present all of the information public assistance applicants need together in one place. Each part of the application process is visualized in easy-to-follow steps, including the kind of documents you need to apply and what to expect at benefits appointments. Information on how to deal with application problems is also included, so people can be prepared to protect the benefits they need to survive.

For the launch of Your Guide to Welfare in NYC, CUP and the Safety Net Project held a special event with NYC’s Human Resources Administration (HRA), the organization that administers public assistance. HRA Commissioner Steven Banks addressed a crowd of reporters, public assistance recipients, and advocates, highlighting how important Your Guide to Welfare in NYC will be to helping people get the benefits they depend on for survival. Safety Net Project client Wendy O’Shields also spoke, highlighting the difficulties she experienced while applying for public assistance for the first time during the recession. The poster, she said, represented “a blueprint for public assistance in 2015 and I hope it will be widely distributed!”

A Spanish version of the MPP was launched in 2015. You can get your Spanish copy here.

Resources & Links

The Safety Net Project of the Urban Justice Center protects due process rights and provides direct legal services for low and no-income New Yorkers while engaging the great community in casting a wider, finer safety net for economic justice and human dignity.

All Other Services is a civic-minded graphic design studio that develops visual and strategic direction for brands, institutions, and advocacies that positively impact communities.

Making Policy Public is a program of the Center for Urban Pedagogy (CUP). CUP partners with policy advocates and graphic designers to produce foldout posters that explain complicated policy issues, like this one.

Funding Support

Support for this project was provided by the Nathan Cummings Foundation; the National Endowment for the Arts; A Blade of Grass; North Star Fund; and public funds from and the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council. Additional support was provided by Council Member Stephen Levin. 

Special Thanks

Mark Torrey, Germaine Delaney, Sandra Carter, Eric Kelly, Lee Lightbourne, Wendy O’Shields, Matteo Nania, Jon Pepper, William Stanford, Jr., Samantha Lagler, and Safety Net Project staff


  • CUP
  • Christine Gaspar
  • Clara Amenyo
  • Ingrid Haftel

  • The Safety Net Project of the Urban Justice Center
  • Advocacy Partner
  • Denise Miranda, Esq.
  • Edwin Ortiz
  • Helen Strom

  • All Other Services
  • Designers
  • Joel Stillman
  • Kevin Wade Shaw


New Guide to Public Assistance Aims to Help Neediest Navigate System
  • Gotham Gazette
  • April 30, 2015

The guide was created over the last year through feedback from recipients of public benefits and advocacy groups. The city’s Human Resources Administration (HRA) also helped review the poster drafts and its commissioner, Steve Banks, was at Thursday’s launch event.

This Might Be the Most Important Handout Needy New Yorkers Need
  • Next City
  • April 30, 2015

She adds that this poster is another way for public assistance recipients to be treated in a dignified way, respectful of the fact that these are benefits they are entitled to: “One of the goals of the poster and of this whole campaign is to let people know that there is a real possibility that there are programs out there that might be able to help them in their day-to-day survival for their family.”

A Roadmap to Welfare in New York
  • City Limits
  • April 30, 2015

It’s also a complicated system, and that’s why the Safety Net Project of the Urban Justice Center, working with the Center for Urban Pedagogy, released on Thursday “Your Guide to Welfare,” which walks the reader through the system: who it’s for, what it does and how to access it.