As we gradually emerge from COVID-19 pandemic, we would like to take the opportunity this month to recognize the BronxWorks programs that kept a vulnerable population safe and stably-housed throughout the worst of the past year’s crisis.
There is a longstanding debate in economics about effective structural change and how we as a society should pursue it. On one side, there are big picture people who believe sweeping, society-level changes are needed and must be initiated through a top-down approach. On the other side, there are grassroots movements who understand that small-scale, local changes are actual changes: one person, one life, one trajectory. These individual shifts accumulate over time and space and create large-scale transformations. In the face of a homelessness crisis in New York City, there are a handful of BronxWorks programs that create these shifts for hundreds of formerly homeless individuals now stably and permanently housed in BronxWorks supportive housing units.
Within the BronxWorks Supportive Housing Department there are 359 housing units in both congregate and scattered-site settings across four current programs. The Brook, operated in partnership with Breaking Ground, supports 190 units for formerly homeless individual adults in a congregate residential setting. Qualifying individuals must have demonstrated homeless chronicity and a diagnosed serious mental illness (SMI). Cooper Gardens, which opened in 2018, is the newest congregate supportive housing program at BronxWorks, with 95 units, and it is the first to house formerly homeless households consisting of both individual adults and families with children. Similar to The Brook, for Cooper Gardens, qualifying heads of household must demonstrate homeless chronicity and a diagnosed SMI.
Congregate supportive housing programs have offices on-site with a full team of case managers, social workers, and program staff offering a range of services to promote healthy and independent living skills, including financial management, educational and vocational resources, medication management and support, recreational and social activities, community events, and more. Each resident is assigned to a dedicated case manager who will work in collaboration with the client to determine goals and create a case plan that they can pursue and follow as a team. Clients pay 30% of their income toward apartment rent while the programs subsidize the rest. The ultimate goal is to keep these individuals and families permanently and stably housed.
In addition to the congregate programs, the BronxWorks Supportive Housing Department operates two scattered-site programs, the HUD Scattered-Site program, supporting 53 units for formerly homeless individual adults, and the Stable Homes to Health program, supporting 21 units for individual adults who are high-utilizers of Medicaid. The Department also operates a home-visit case management program called Transform which helps families transition from the shelter system to permanent housing.
BronxWorks is excited to open two new congregate supportive housing programs in coming years. The Park Haven project is expected to open in 2021 providing 50 units of supportive housing to formerly homeless individuals and families. At the Bronx Point development project, expected to open in 2023, BronxWorks will provide supportive housing services to 81 formerly homeless individuals and families. To read more about the Bronx Point groundbreaking, click here.
HUD Scatttered-Site Supportive Housing Program
The BronxWorks HUD-funded Scattered-Site Supportive Housing Program now houses 53 formerly homeless adults in apartments spread throughout the neighborhoods of the Bronx. In contrast to the congregate models like The Brook and Cooper Gardens, scattered-site supportive housing has a team of case managers and program staff based out of an independent office, in this case the Hunts Point Multi-Service Center at 630 Jackson Avenue. Scattered-site staff then visit each unit and client every week. In between these face-to-face contacts, case managers make telephonic contacts with their clients, assisting with a variety of needs and goals, including healthcare management, coordinating appointments and travel, securing benefits and access to other resources, referrals to employment programs, and oftentimes simply providing a safety net and person that the clients can rely on.
The BronxWorks Supportive Housing and the Adult Homeless Services Departments collaborate wherever possible to move clients from transitional to permanent supportive housing. In a typical process, AHS teams will put together housing packages for all clients in BronxWorks shelters which are then referred for placement into supportive housing. Each client package is reviewed, an interview with the client is scheduled, and a determination is made as to which client would have the highest likelihood of success within the program’s parameters. In this case, can the client have long-term success living in a scattered-site setting with little to no on-site support? The goal of supportive housing is for clients to achieve permanent, stable housing, and to not return to homelessness or shelter.
Todd is one such client in the HUD-funded program. He had spent three years at the Pyramid Safe Haven before moving into a scattered-site apartment in March 2020, just before COVID-19 restrictions passed across the city. Sarah Carbone, the Program’s Director, said the move and adjustment was particularly challenging because there was very little time to get to know the client, and for the client to get to know the program staff in-person. COVID-19 also complicated other city processes, such as public benefits, making an already difficult transition from shelter to independent housing just that much more challenging. Case managers from both the HUD program and the Pyramid helped Todd move into his new apartment. At move-in, the Scattered-Site program provides the necessary essentials for beginning independent living, such as a bed and bedding, basic furniture, and cooking and kitchen tools.
BronxWorks is there to help guide you down the right path.”
The HUD Scattered-Site team, which includes Case Manager Supervisor Diana Peralta, three Case Managers, and a Management and Housing Liaison, has worked tirelessly throughout the COVID-19 pandemic to ensure that every client in the program has remained safe and supported. Today Todd has been stably-housed for over a year, has his correct public assistance activated, and has safely navigated the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. To date, the program has had no COVID-related deaths or serious illnesses.