BronxWorks is known for being a trusted homeless service provider in the Bronx and New York City. A key part of our mission to address homelessness is our work with vulnerable families. Today, BronxWorks operates three Family Residences capable of housing 276 families at a time and recently opened a new emergency Family Sanctuary to assist the migrant families arriving in New York City.
This year marks thirty years of our work providing shelter for homeless families in the Bronx. The BronxWorks Nelson Avenue Family Residence (NAFR) first opened in 1992, followed by the Jackson Avenue Family Residence (JAFR) in 1995, and the Willow Avenue Family Residence (WAFR) in 2004. Today, NAFR can house up to 79 families and, with the largest units, can accommodate families of 6-8 people, while JAFR can house 95 families and WAFR can house 102 families at a time. Combined, the three BronxWorks Family Residences can work with and provide shelter for as many as 500 families in a given year.
Homeless families in New York City enter the shelter system through the Prevention Assistance and Temporary Housing Office (PATH), the citywide shelter intake center. Based on their intake assessment, families are matched with shelter units depending on their family size and composition and unit availability.
When families arrive at one of our sites, they are immediately assessed and matched with a team that includes a dedicated Case Manager, Housing Specialist, and Social Worker. Each site is also supported by Case Management Supervisors, a Social Services Director, childcare staff, after-school programming, and a robust maintenance and security staff. The teams work to address any family needs, including mental health, supporting children in their education, assistance with benefits, medical care, or legal services, while helping each family ultimately secure permanent housing.
For all families that enter BronxWorks Family Residences, the ultimate goal is to work toward attaining permanent housing. Once a housing package is completed, shelter staff assist each family with their housing interviews, accompany them in viewing potential apartments, and help families move out of the shelter and into their permanent homes. But the work doesn’t just end there. Families are connected with after-care services through the BronxWorks Transform program and other community-based partners that provide long-term case management and engagement during and after their transition to permanent housing.
The BronxWorks Family Sanctuary
As a part of the New York City strategy to assist migrant families arriving from border states, BronxWorks opened a new Family Sanctuary in September. BronxWorks opened the Family Sanctuary in short order to provide shelter for almost 90 migrant families, many of whom are seeking asylum here in the United States.
Most families arrived at the Sanctuary overnight during the first weekend that the site opened. Yevy Bednaya, Director of Social Services at the Nelson Avenue Family Residence, led the opening of the Family Sanctuary as the new Residence Director. It was a large collective effort supported by volunteers from programs throughout BronxWorks to ensure that the site was ready to welcome the families and adequately equipped to meet all of their basic needs.
That first weekend we focused on getting as many intakes done as possible,” Yevy says, “making sure we understood all of the needs of our families, providing clothing and household items, connecting them to medical and legal services, enrolling the children in school, and ensuring that everyone feels welcome and safe here.”
While the work at the Family Sanctuary is similar to the three other BronxWorks Family Residences, there are added challenges as a result of how the families arrived. Many of the families came with minimal belongings, and many have very young children. The families will need added care to adjust to life in the United States and in the Bronx, including assistance with their legal status, all in addition to securing permanent housing. “This process will take longer for us and for the families, and we’re asking them to be patient with us just as we are asking everyone who is here working to be patient with them.” Yevy, a Licensed Social Worker and multi-year veteran of the BronxWorks Family Shelter Department draws from her own experience coming to the U.S. as a refugee when she was child. Within just a few weeks, the BronxWorks Family Sanctuary already housed 84 families representing nearly 300 people, including 110 children.
Why This Work Matters
Marjorie Jeannot is the Department Director for the BronxWorks Family Shelter Department. She oversees the three Family Residences as well as the newly-opened Family Sanctuary. We asked Marjorie to put into perspective her twenty years working with homeless families. “It comes down to the work we do every single day,” Marjorie says. “It can be easy to get stuck on the numbers, whether it is the placement numbers, or the number of families in the system city-wide, but for us, these are families with real people, real children, working to overcome real challenges to achieve their goals.”
Marjorie explains that as a shelter provider for homeless families, BronxWorks Family Residences are responsible for everything as it relates to the well-being of every family member, from their day-to-day needs to their long-term goals. That includes ensuring that the children have the resources needed to succeed in their education. That means making sure students are regularly attending school. That means making sure parents have everything they need to take care of themselves so that they can take care of their families.
The impact we have is made through consistent incremental and daily progress. It is made through being here day in and day out for our families, and celebrating every small success in big ways.”
Marjorie says that at its core, the work isn’t about simply making housing placements, or getting families out of the shelter system. At its core, the work is about working to prepare families while they are with us to achieve a stable and healthier life once they have left.
As the families in the newly-opened BronxWorks Family Sanctuary get settled, Yevy says they are eager to pursue the lives they envisioned as they made the treacherous journey to come here. She says that the children are excited to start school and the parents are keen to find work or learn English
There has been an outpouring of support from the community, including BronxWorks staff, partner organizations, local churches, and private donors and community members. As such, they have been able to give each family many of their basic household needs, such as clothing, toys, cookware and even groceries. “One of the biggest things that our families have wanted to do is cook their own food,” Yevy says. “When I walk through the halls it already smells great.”