Did you happen to miss last night’s FOX 5 / Fox5NY.com coverage of Jericho Project, the Walton Avenue groundbreaking and our very own resident Lisa Spencer? Not to worry. You can check out Liz Dahlem‘s piece right here! Executive Director, Tori Lyon, talks to Liz about the important work we do here offering housing to homeless veterans and aiding them in getting their lives back on track.
Posted by Jericho Project on Thursday, September 10, 2015
Tag Archives: Jericho Project
In His Own Words, Iraq and Afghanistan Vet Recounts Journey From Homelessness To Hope
This piece was originally published in Huffington Post
By Christopher Mathias for The Huffington Post
There’s help out there for homeless veterans. They just need to know where to find it.
There were over 67,000 homeless United States military veterans in 2011. Craig Hinds — who served two tours of duty in Afghanistan and Iraq — was one of them.
But in 2012, Hinds, now 37, found a place to live: the Jericho Project’s veterans-only Kingsbridge Terrace apartment building in the Bronx, a borough of New York City. The Jericho Project — an organization dedicated largely to housing homeless vets — offers what’s called supportive housing: Residents pay a third of their income (or veteran’s benefits) towards rent, and are offered in-house employment and substance abuse counseling, among other services. The Jericho Project gets its funding from a mix of public and private sources, and the group says that less than 10 percent of its buildings’ residents relapse back into homelessness.
As New York City, like cities across the country, tries to end veteran homelessness by the end of this year, organizations like the Jericho Project play an integral part.
Here, in his own words, is how Craig Hinds says he became homeless, found the Jericho Project and started putting his life back together.
I joined the military in 2005. The United States Navy. I did four years. Got out in 2009. Did two tours in Afghanistan and Iraq. I had two jobs. I was a hospital corpsman — which is the equivalent of a medical assistant — and I was also a pharmacy technician.
I dealt with the ground troops. A lot of people don’t know this about the military. The Marines and Navy are actually one. The Marines is the ground troops, and the Navy is the water troops, and we’re together. The Marines don’t have medical, so we treat the Marines.
It was very traumatic. The things that I’ve seen, I don’t want to even describe. The thing — when you see something in the head, you can’t control it. For example, you see something, I’m trained to take care of it, but later on you might dream about it, you might think about it later — the mind plays tricks on you. Especially if you see it again, it might startle you or scare you or give you some anxiety.
So I had a lot of nightmares. I saw a lot of things I didn’t want to see. It would be playing in my head. You can’t say stop.
When I got out in 2009, that’s when I had a lot of difficulties. That’s when I had a real reality check, coming out of the military into — well, we call it the civilian world, but from the military to the real world, it’s a crash course, it’s really different.
For example, to get into the military, they take you away from everyone and everybody and they program you. You know what I mean? Boot camp, no phones, no nothing. This is what it takes to be a soldier. They take away what it’s like to be a normal person, a civilian, they want you a certain way, they train you that way. Unfortunately, when it’s time to leave, they don’t train you to be a regular person. You still come out of the military military-minded, used to the military standards and military structure, so when you come out, it’s not as structured out there so it takes a real adjustment period, and it’s really hard finding resources. You ask five people the same question, you get five different answers.
I had huge difficulties in Atlanta. I don’t know if it’s a South thing or what. I went back to live with my mother, because coming out, I had a little bit of money saved up, but I wanted to get all my benefits and everything that I was told I deserved or earned. So when I came out in Atlanta, they only have one or two [Veteran’s Affairs] hospitals in the whole state, so every time I would try to apply for benefits or try to apply for health care or anything, there would be so many people they would send you back and say come back the next day. It was extremely discouraging, and especially without a mass transit system, it’s almost impossible to get around, so I used a lot of my money and resources just trying to get benefits that I never got in Atlanta.
Atlanta was a shock, because I just came back and — I feel like veterans should be treated a certain way. What they go through and what they’ve done. A lot of times when we come out of the military we already have a lot of PTSD, a lot of unresolved issues. You come expecting open arms. I didn’t find that in Atlanta.
I lived with my mom, and after a while I wasn’t able to help and she’s like, “What are you gonna do?” So I decided to move back to New York. I spoke to my grandmother, and she said I could come stay. I moved to New York in September 2010. I came up here with my grandmother, she lives in Mt. Vernon [in the Bronx.] The Bronx VA is the closest one. Actually I got a lot of help at the Bronx VA, a lot of assistance from the people there. They seemed to be more understanding, more patient. I was able to apply for my benefits, and lucky for me, I bumped into someone I knew from boot camp who worked at the hospital who helped me navigate through certain things. By the time I applied for my compensation, I started going to my routine visits, as far as seeing my primary care doctor, my psychiatrist.
My compensation still hadn’t kicked in yet, because the VA’s really backed up. It took a while. My grandmother grew a little impatient with the process. Unfortunately at that time, I found myself homeless. I bounced to a shelter, but a good shelter was Borden Avenue, an all-veterans shelter. Luckily, my friend directed me there. And that was a big help because it was all veterans.
Being that it was all veterans, there was a certain camaraderie. Even if we’re in different branches — Army, Air Force, Navy, Marines — when we come out we have a certain camaraderie because we all come out and hit the same reality. Borden was a little more comfortable because it was all veterans and because I had my own little cubicle space which helped a lot.
A lot of people think when they hear homeless veteran, they think of some old Vietnam dude who’s an alcoholic but no, I was only 34. There was a lot of people a little bit younger, a little bit older than me. There’s no age group for it. There’s no age, there’s no race, it affects all of us who come out of the military. It’s not an old people thing, it’s a military thing. It’s an adjustment. It’s a hard adjustment from there to here. It’s hard to find resources when you come out. There’s not one place where you can go and get everything. A lot of people end up in bad situations just trying to get their compensation, which takes over a year. A lot of times the VA is backed up.
I had to deal with [substance abuse], but not my own. I had to deal with other people’s, but I didn’t have alcohol [problems], thank God, but I see how it could happen, because you get out and you’re like, “Dang,’”and if you hang out with the wrong people, they’ll say, “Take this, relax,” and then it becomes a habit. And then every day you’re drinking. It’s kind of a Band Aid for us. A lot of us need therapy, a lot of us need to talk it out. In the process between getting out and being able to talk to somebody, that’s when people fall into the substance abuse. Dealing with the not knowing. Sometimes you might live with a family member. They might kick you out. Different traumas might cause people to substance abuse, and I’ve seen that.
[Walking around, knowing you’re going to a shelter that night] is depressing. It’s depressing. It is. And often times: “How’d I get here? How’d I end up here.” But it’s very depressing. But the good thing about [Borden Avenue shelter] is they help you find housing, which is good, so you have a little bit of hope. It’s not like “Oh this is a dead end.” So they do help you. You have a little bit of hope, but it’s still depressing.
I had a friend at the VA, and he introduced me to a woman named Brenda, who works with housing and Section 8, and that’s how I found out about [the Jericho Project.]
She gave me the phone number for Jericho and the address. I had to call, and after making a million calls, I finally got somebody and they set me up with an interview.
[The first night at Jericho], I couldn’t sleep. I was so excited. It was such a shock: beds, furniture. It was much nicer than I expected. I was in shock. I was like, “This is mine?” It was a brand-new building. Brand-new furniture. Everything was fresh and new. A fresh new start in my life. I felt like I was finally getting a chance to get myself together, and I did.
I mean, living here is amazing. We have a computer room, a laundry room, all here in the basement, a TV room, a multipurpose room. We have counselors we can see all day, as needed, we have employment specialists who help us with jobs, job interviews. If you need a resume, they help us do a resume. I believe you can do anything you want to here because you have staff that can help no matter what you want to do. I never went to anybody here and said, “I need help, I need something,” and they’re not able to do it. Everyone is open arms and willing to assist you.
When you come in here, you’re pretty low. You really build your confidence up. You start building up self-worth. You learn how to manage yourself again. You pay your bills. You pay rent, which is based on 30 percent of your income [or VA compensation.] You’re feeding yourself, so you learn how to be independent again. You can build yourself up in so many ways. I didn’t realize how much confidence had a big part to play with it, but I can see as my confidence changed, as I built it up, that everything is working out better.
The facilities with what they have gives me structure. You can’t have outside individuals running inside and outside of the building, so it’s very, very low on distractions. It’s very good for structure.
I meditate twice a day: first thing in the morning and then 3 or 4 in the afternoon. You can do it by yourself, but it also feels better to do it with other people. They have [transcendental meditation] classes at Jericho. They give you a word called a mantra which nobody can know. You repeat it to yourself in your head, and you do that for 20 minutes. You close your eyes, sit in a chair, you say the mantra for 20 minutes and during that period, you release stress and you release things out of the body that feel weird.
It definitely calms me down. It definitely gives me a peaceful state of mind, a peaceful place. I’m able to think clearer, sleep better, and I’m a more happy person, which is what I wanted. I love it.
It makes me really peaceful. It gives me space — whereas before I would just react. I don’t react as much.
The best feeling is to help someone accomplish their goal. For example, I have a friend Anthony, who had no job, no direction, and I said, do this and do that, and he got a job! He got himself together. He’s cleaned himself up, start dressing better, and I was like, “Wow, I like doing this.” So I changed my major to psychology because I really want to help people. I want to talk to them, find out what’s going on, find out how I can help. I think I have a gift for that, and I realized that moving in here, just dealing with a lot of residents.
I’m not using the GI Bill, but I’m using vocational rehabilitation, which is another military tuition assistance program, [to go to Touro College].
I don’t think it’d be best to leave [Jericho] until you’re totally where you want to be, anybody out there. I think if you come in you need to set a goal, you need to get a job, and once you reach that goal I think you should leave because it leaves the door open for other people because there’s always going to be homeless veterans. But I don’t think you should leave until you got what you needed for you to be totally independent and successful — on your own in every way.
This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.
What Happens When The Largest City In The U.S. Decides To End Veteran Homelessness?
This piece was originally published in THINK PROGRESS
By Bryce Covert AUG 19, 2015
The phone rings just as Katrina Fingerson and Latoya McClary are about to leave to start their shift at the Goddard Riverside Community Center. It comes in on the line reserved for the 311 calls from concerned citizens and businesses who report homeless people on the streets and the receptionist immediately starts scribbling down details. Male, pushing a shopping cart, clothes falling off, located at 39th Street and 3rd Avenue. The man falls into Fingerson and McClary’s territory –- anywhere from 42nd Street south to the water –- so he becomes their priority as they get in the car and drive uptown.
The two, who represent the downtown evening shift at Goddard, will spend the next seven hours trying to track down the homeless of New York City living on the streets –- more than 3,000 people on a given night –- in order to record their existence while offering them services and support, starting with the man flagged by a 311 caller. Their on-the-ground work is the only way the city can wrap its arms around its sprawling homeless population, a fundamental step before it can even start thinking about how to reduce it.
And right now, that’s incredibly important to the city. In February, Mayor Bill de Blasio (D) announced that New York City would sign on to a federal initiative to end veteran homelessness, committing to housing all the city’s homeless veterans by the end of this year. In a city with nearly 68,000 homeless people, including 1,645 veterans at the end of 2014, the second-highest number of homeless veterans in a city, that’s no small feat. And to get there, the city will need to know exactly who is out there, whether they’re veterans, and what they need to get inside. It’s relying on organizations like Goddard, and therefore people like Fingerson and McClary, to be its eyes on the streets.
Other cities have gotten there first: first Phoenix and Salt Lake City housed their chronically homeless veterans more than a year ago, then New Orleans, Houston, and Las Cruces, New Mexico housed all homeless vets earlier this year. Plenty of others have signed onto the federal goal of ending veteran homelessness by the end of 2015.
But what does it mean for a city as large and crowded as New York to commit to the same goal? What does it take? And what exactly does victory look like?
Despite the gravity of their work, Fingerson and McClary spend a lot of time wrestling with a mundane concern: congested roads. “We haven’t figured out how to get past this traffic,” Fingerson laughs while idling down the FDR Drive amid a sea of cars around 5:00 p.m. “I wish that we had a hovercraft or something, a boat that could travel in the water.”
As they turn off the FDR and head under an overpass bridge, they both scan the streets and sidewalks. “While we’re driving we’re always looking,” Fingerson says. If they were to find the remnants of bedding, that would warrant a stop to check for homeless people and to record the location of anything they might come across that would indicate it had become someone’s sleeping quarters.
But the current priority is the man reported via 311. The organization is required to respond to those calls within two hours, although Fingerson notes that they hold themselves accountable to getting there in less than an hour. The two-person team parks as close as they can to the intersection and walks over as it starts to lightly drizzle. There’s no one in sight on the intersection or around it, nor anything indicating someone has claimed a spot to sleep on the sidewalk. It’s a common outcome: whoever was there has probably already long moved on, given that the call came in about a half hour ago.
New York faces some daunting and unique challenges before it can declare “mission accomplished” on ending veteran homelessness. It’s long dealt with a housing shortage that has driven prices to record highs and a vacancy rate of just 3.45 percent. Low-income housing is even worse: less than 2 percent of units that go for $800 or less per a month are open.
“The housing stock in New York City’s always going to be an issue,” Tori Lyon, executive director of the homeless nonprofit Jericho Project, pointed out. “You could have a million HUD/VASH [Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing] vouchers [for rental assistance] but you’re not going to be able to find a million apartments.”
George Nashak, executive vice president of HELP USA, has been working on ending veteran homelessness in New York City for 20 years and has first-hand knowledge of the differences between trying to reach that goal in New York City and cheaper cities. His organization has a footprint in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Nevada on top of New York. “There’s a significant difference between New York and Las Vegas in that the housing markets are radically different,” he said. “So we have a much easier time rehousing veterans in Vegas.” Las Vegas had a nearly 8 percent vacancy rate as of the middle of the year.
The city is aware of what it faces. But it still thinks the goal is achievable. “It’s just going to be our grit, our stick-to-itiveness to do it as best we can,” New York City Department of Homeless Services (DHS) Commissioner Gilbert Taylor told ThinkProgress. “Yes there will be obstacles, but I don’t think they’re insurmountable. It just requires us to work harder.”
According to his department, there are currently just 973 homeless veterans in the city, a dramatic drop from 3,762 as of two years ago. Fifteen of them are going without shelter and 17 are chronically homeless. “We are definitely on track to achieve our goal of ending veteran homelessness in New York City,” Taylor said.
The hard work that has inched the city closer to its goal is often carried out through nonprofits. Lyon’s Jericho Project is one that has been tapped. A slight woman who is soft spoken yet fiercely passionate as she talks about her work, Lyon has been involved in trying to end homelessness in New York City through Jericho for nearly 19 years. Sitting in a sunny office in a somewhat run-down office building, she described how the organization’s initiative on veterans began in 2006 after she heard a story at a conference of a family that became homeless after the father came back from serving in Iraq. “I was just really kind of stunned to hear that somebody who had served our country in Iraq and war was coming back and being homeless,” she recounted.
Back then, there wasn’t much in place to help homeless veterans in New York City, so her group focused on building supportive housing that wraps services into permanent apartments. But since Jericho’s focus began, Lyon has seen governmental priorities shift. Five years ago, the federal Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) launched an initiative to end veteran homelessness by the end of 2015.
Then the city started working toward its version of the goal last year. That in turn brought some big changes. Lyon says the most substantial has been intensive coordination between an alphabet soup of agencies: the VA, DHS, NYC HPD (Housing Preservation and Development), NYCHA (New York City Housing Authority), and MOVA (the Mayor’s Office of Veterans’ Affairs). The mayor’s office gets briefed on progress weekly. “It used to really just be the VA,” she noted. City agencies were also flooded with about $150 million in additional funding, and the city has been diligently looking for other sources it can call on.
But more important than both of those changes is one tool: meetings. Weekly case conferences bring together Lyon, Nashak, the VA, DHS, and case managers. Everyone works together to go through the list of each remaining homeless veteran and discuss the specific barriers facing every individual and how to surmount them. Then they come up with a housing plan that will move each veteran from homelessness into a home. “It’s really kind of old-fashioned roll up your sleeves,” Lyon said. The city says it currently has plans for 87 percent of the 973 homeless veterans on that list.
Ending homelessness for any group, however, doesn’t mean there will never be homeless people again. There will always be those who experience homelessness in the future thanks to a variety of factors. The goal is to make sure that those spells of homelessness don’t last. Cities call this reaching “functional zero”: getting housing for everyone who’s currently homeless and then creating a lasting system that ensures anyone who loses housing avoids sleeping on the streets and quickly gets back into a home.
In New York City, reaching functional zero for the homeless veteran population will mean that there are no more than 300 veterans in the system at any given time and that those that do become homeless will get back into housing within 90 days. In other cities, even the definition of functional zero is different, often meaning the ability to get a homeless person into housing within 30 days. That wouldn’t fly in New York, but even its own metric may be hard to pull off. “It’s a really ambitious goal,” Lyon noted.
Karen Wharton knows as well as anyone how challenging New York City’s housing landscape can be. A small woman, she appears far larger thanks to her self-described vivacious character that radiates from her wide smile, lilting laugh, and willingness to give virtually anyone a hug.
But the constant smile can just as quickly give way to tears when she starts talking about what she’s gone through over the last two years. Despite “doing everything right,” as she puts it, she ended up a homeless veteran.
Even though she already had a degree and career in nursing, Wharton became interested in joining the military after doing charity work with the Red Cross after 9/11. “I said, you know what, I’m really interested in becoming more involved and more aware of disasters and how to act,” she said. “So I decided okay, the military is a good place to go.” She served from 2010 until 2014 in nursing and continuity of operations from San Antonio, Texas.
But when she left the military, she returned to New York City to find out that she didn’t have a home. A disaster had invaded her own life: Hurricane Sandy devastated parts of the city in 2014, including her house in Coney Island. Worse, she was told that she had missed an October 2013 deadline to get funding that she hadn’t heard about back in San Antonio. “When I came back I reached out to a lot of organizations and they told me…they have run out of money and sorry that you were in the military and, basically, it sucks to be you,” she recounted.
She moved onto her brother’s couch, staying with him and his wife and child, and started trying to get help from the VA. But that help wasn’t forthcoming either. She was told that she had to be in the system for three years before she could get assistance. Her sole focus was finding a place to live, but she was left on her own to make it happen.
After failing to find the first person they were looking for, Goddard’s Fingerson and McClary get back in the car and crawl up the street to the next stop. They got another 311 call reporting someone on 42nd Street, and as they drive by Bryant Park, they spot him: a young man with a beard holding a sign asking for money.
They approach him from the side and gently tell him who they are and what they’re offering: a check-in to make sure he’s okay, to see if he needs anything, resources if he wants them. “I’m alright right now,” he responds. He’s not interested in services. He doesn’t take the pamphlet they offer. He doesn’t offer up much except gratitude for their visit.
They get his first name –- Michael –- and note it in their records. He thanks them and they leave. The stop takes no more than five minutes. “That was good,” they say to each other. Then they’re off to the next location.
Goddard’s outreach teams, made up of a total of about 40 people (a number that increases in the winter months when things get more dire), are responsible for contacting, cataloguing, and reporting all of the unsheltered people above ground in Manhattan; other organizations tackle those in the subway system.
For employees like Fingerson and McClary, they’re not much concerned with numbers and goals. Fingerson’s first priority is to “have them feel heard and respected… have the choice to talk to us or not talk to us,” she said. The homeless get to choose how they want to interact with Goddard employees during future visits and whether to take advantage of the resources she and her coworkers tell them about with a pamphlet. And she doesn’t mentally sort people into categories, like veteran or civilian, when trying to accomplish those things.
But right now, veteran status is one of the main things she and the other employees ask about. Anyone who’s a veteran gets fast tracked to a special initiative team within Goddard that works specifically with this group.
Some of the hardest work the city faces as it works toward its goal will come in trying to move the people living on the streets indoors, and Goddard plays a key role. “We know exactly who those clients are, we have them on our caseloads, we have street teams and subway teams and caseworkers engaging them on a very frequent basis trying to get them to come into shelter, and to ultimately move them to permanent housing,” Commissioner Taylor said.
Goddard started its veterans initiative in 2011, and Christina Narine, the director of outreach who launched the project, noted that there are still veterans they work with who don’t want to go into shelters or other housing. “We have a lot of vets [who are] just very mentally ill and resistant, folks who have been on the caseload for years,” she said. “Some are resistant because they’re very mentally ill, some are resistant because they’re struggling with substance abuse.”
Her team doesn’t force anyone into anything. “The best practice is engagement,” she noted. Their job is to check in on them regularly and get to know them person to person. “Talk with them about things other than housing, ask them what their day was like,” she said. “Eventually they come around. That’s the best way to reach these folks.”
But that of course takes time, and there’s no guarantee that they will decide to go indoors. “It’s out of our control,” she said. “There’s not much you can do until they’re ready to come in.”
Those resistant veterans are among the ones who are still homeless, counting against the city’s ability to declare victory. And it’s the people who are left who are going to take the most work. “The challenge is now that the 900 and something that are left [homeless] are, as you can imagine, the hardest to serve,” Jericho’s Lyon noted. One particular veteran that came up in a recent case conference has severe developmental disabilities, so he was only in the military for two weeks before his commanding officer realized he shouldn’t have been there in the first place. That means he isn’t eligible for VA services or the other host of resources available to veterans. “Every piece is something complicated like that,” she said.
If the city does reach its goal come New Years Eve, the work is far from over.
“Mission accomplished” may be hard to maintain. Currently, most of the homeless veterans caught in the city’s intensive efforts are from the Vietnam and Cold War eras. Nashak estimates that there’s about a 10-year lag between when someone leaves service and when someone becomes homeless. “The people who are going to experience a problem in the future, they can hold it together for 10 years,” he said. “About 10 years after discharge you start to see the people who are at risk of falling into homelessness begin to do so.” That means there is a coming wave of veterans from the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts who are likely to become homeless in the future.
The good news is that if New York reaches its goal this year, it will know exactly what to do with those veterans when they do become homeless. It’ll mostly be a matter of funding. “The concern is that this funding is maintained and is accordioned up,” he said.
Funding will also be critical for other future efforts. The city, of course, has a much larger homeless population beyond veterans, one that some have recently complained is growing despite de Blasio’s promises to address the crisis. Veterans tend to garner sympathy from both the public and politicians; it’s easy to question why someone who served his country should go without a place to sleep. But that goodwill doesn’t automatically extend to everyone who falls on difficult times. “I think personally housing a veteran is easier than housing other homeless folks,” Nashak said.
Part of the point of reaching the veterans goal is to keep the momentum going and eventually address everyone. The idea is that if advocates and agencies can prove that homelessness is not an intrinsic facet of society, but a problem that has a solution, even for one small slice, then the tactics they used on veterans can be deployed more widely. “The veterans task force has had that explicit conversation,” Nashak said. “Let’s do this and then go back to the administration and say look, this works.”
“The idea is that if we can show we can do it with veterans, then I think that it bolsters the argument…that if you have these resources we can solve this problem,” Lyon agreed. The money involved, though, is the biggest question mark. “It takes a tremendous amount of resources,” she noted. “The VA’s budget for homeless programs just grew exponentially in the past five years.” What would it take to house all of New York City’s homeless, youth, families, the disabled, and everyone else? Perhaps more than it’s ready to spend.
It took just a chance stroll down a new block in the Bronx to change Karen Wharton’s story. After one particular visit to the VA office, “I was just pretty much drowning in my sorrows because it had been such an uphill battle,” she said. As she was walking down the street, she noticed a mural on the side of an apartment complex featuring images of veterans. “I said, ‘Oh my god this is a veteran building? Let me find out if they take veterans.’”
That building was Jericho’s Kingsbridge Terrace supportive housing complex. Within three months of her decision to go inside and ask about whether she could get housing there, she had an apartment of her own. She moved in August of last year.
She takes obvious pleasure in showing off the entire building, including its gym complex, roof deck, and communal areas where residents, who are all veterans, have potlucks and grill on the barbecues. But her greatest pride is her apartment, which she calls “my castle.” A small one-bedroom with just a bathroom and a tiny kitchen area, her smile stretches even wider when inviting in guests after she throws herself onto her maroon leather couch.
The impact of this housing on her life is obvious. Since moving in, she got a job after sending out, as she estimates, more than 1,000 applications from the building’s computer room. (The building’s supportive services also include a career counselor who works with every tenant.) Even though she has a one-and-a-half hour commute, taking three different subway lines, she’s happy to be working. “It takes my mind off everything,” she said. She even turns all the subway stairs she has to climb into an opportunity for exercise.
She still doesn’t know whether she’ll ever be able to move back into her house, another topic that brings tears to her otherwise gleeful eyes. But she’s trying to move on. She’s currently getting trained in the Lean Six Sigma program and she eventually, wants to add either a PhD or MBA to other two degrees. She is planning for the future.
New Supportive Housing Residence Planned for Walton Avenue
This piece was originally published in Bronx Times
A once vacant lot on Walton Avenue will now provide homeless veterans and young people with a new lease on life.
On Tuesday, July 7, the New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development and New York City Mayor’s Office of Veterans’ Affairs joined Jericho Project, B & B Supportive and other partners in announcing the construction of Walton Avenue, Jericho’s largest-to-date veterans and supportive housing residence in the borough.
Located at 2065 Walton Avenue, the new 90-unit residence will be built on a 7,500-square foot parcel within close proximity to the Burnside Avenue shopping area.
It will cost approximately $30.6 million to construct.
The residence is financed under Mayor de Blasio’s Housing New York: A Five-Borough, 10-Year Housing Plan which aims to create and preserve 200,000 units of affordable housing and has received additional financial support from HPD, Bank of America, NYC Employee Retirement System, New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, New York State Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance, the Home Depot Foundation and Citi.
Working with B & B Supportive LLC, Walton Avenue is Jericho’s eighth supportive housing residence, its third veterans residence and its first residence for young adults focusing on the vulnerable LGBT population.
“This is a landmark moment for Jericho Project as we deepen our commitment to veterans and extend our services to young adults who are in dire need of housing and support,” Tori Lyon, Jericho Project executive director expressed.
The new residence will have 33 supportive housing units for young adults ages 18 through 25 from Community Board 5 via referrals from BronxWorks, Covenant House and other local non-profits working with young adults in need.
Unique to Walton Avenue is its special focus on LGBT young adults who are more likely to be homeless and to have suffered from domestic violence.
In addition to housing homeless young adults, Walton Avenue will provide 56 units for homeless veterans referred by the Bronx VA Medical Center.
All apartments here will be affordable to people earning an annual income at or below $18,150 and rents will be subsidized using federal HUD-Veterans Supportive Housing vouchers for veteran units and Project-based Section 8 vouchers from NYCHA for young adult units to ensure that tenants will only need to pay 30% of their income towards rent.
“We are committed to ending both veteran homelessness by the end of this calendar year and protecting LGBT youth on the brink of homelessness and we are proud to collaborate with the Jericho Project initiative whose daily work provides supportive services and affordable housing for homeless veterans and LGBT youth,” NYC Department of Homeless Services Commissioner Gilbert Taylor shared.
Walton Avenue will feature community rooms, computer access including free Wi-Fi, office space for social services, landscaped outdoor space with seating furniture, laundry facilities, full-time 24-hour front desk security coverage and an on-site maintenance staff and property manager.
Jericho will provide tenants here with a full range of services including case management, individual and group counseling, employment and educational assistance, family reunification and social activities.
Information and referral services will include job training, educational programs, primary health care, substance abuse treatment, and mental health treatment.
Various workshops, health fairs, computer classes and other events will also be scheduled at this new residence and open to members of the community.
Walton Avenue is slated for a projected February 2017 completion, according to Lyon.
©2015 COMMUNITY NEWS GROUP
Veterans Not-for-Profit Breaks Ground on New Housing, Adding to Growing Portfolio
This piece was originally published in Norwood News
The Jericho Project, a not-for-profit group aiming to ease homelessness among the country’s veterans, broke ground for its latest veterans-only supportive housing on July 7. A total of 89 apartments will be available for veterans at 2065 Walton Ave. in Burnside–56 for veterans referred by the Bronx VA Medical Center and 33 for young adults ages 18-25 from Bronx Community Board 5, via referrals from BronxWorks, Covenant House, and other local non-profit organizations that work with young adults in need. Officials said they’ll also place a heavier focus in offering housing to veterans of the LGBT community.
The project is aligned with Mayor Bill de Blasio’s Housing New York initiative, which looks to create more affordable housing options in New York City over the next decade. At a July 13 news conference in the Bronx, de Blasio announced a record-breaking number of new affordable housing in the city, with a total of 4,981 units either preserved or built in the city, according to the city’s figures.
Construction Starts on Homes for Veterans, LGBT Youth.
This piece was originally published in REAL ESTATE WEEKLY
A partnership of city and private groups has started work on a housing development for formerly homeless veterans and at-risk lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender young adults.
The development at 2065 Walton Avenue in The Bronx will have 56 apartments for homeless veterans referred by the Bronx VA Medical Center. 33 apartments will serve young adults ages 18-25 from Bronx Community Board 5, via referrals from BronxWorks, Covenant House, and other local non-profit organizations that work with young adults in need.
New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) and Office of Veterans’ Affairs has partnered with The Jericho Project, B & B Supportive, and other agencies to build 2065 Walton Avenue, which is part of the de Blasio Administration’s commitment to help end veteran homelessness by the end of 2015.
The project is being financed under de Blasio’s Housing New York: A Five-Borough, 10-Year Housing Plan to create and preserve 200,000 units of affordable housing.
“The women and men who serve in our nation’s military sacrifice willingly and put the needs of our country before their own,” said HPD Commissioner Vicki Been.
“For many of our veterans the process of transitioning from military to civilian life can sometimes be difficult, but that doesn’t mean they have to go it alone. A safe, stable, affordable home coupled with specialized services and an environment that recognizes their unique needs and honors their service can be the hand up that our veterans need to achieve their best. ”
Gilbert Taylor, Commissioner, NYC Department of Homeless Services, added, “We are committed to ending both veteran homelessness by the end of this calendar year and protecting LGBT youth on the brink of homelessness, and we are proud to collaborate with the Jericho Project initiative whose daily work provides supportive services and affordable housing for homeless veterans and LGBT youth.”
Bank of America Merrill Lynch is providing $17.6 million in debt and tax credit equity to support the project. The Home Deport Foundation granted $500,000 in support of the Walton Avenue residence.
Citi served as the first corporate partner to support the project through a $40,000 contribution through Citi Salutes, a company-wide initiative to help meet the needs of service members, veterans and their families. Citi’s support will provide technology infrastructure for the project.
On-site supportive services will be provided by the Jericho Project. The non-profit began its Veterans Initiative in 2006 in response to the crisis of veterans homelessness, and is now also working to address the rising number of homeless young people, ages 18-25.
The total development cost for the project is approximately $30.6 million. The project was financed through HPD’s Supportive Housing Loan Program (SHLP) and received $9.5 million in HOME Funds plus Low-Income Housing Tax Credits from HPD which will generate $14 million in tax credit.
Affordable Housing Project Fights NYC Homelessness
This piece was originally published in Commercial Property Executive
July 8, 2015 – By Ioana Neamt, Associate Editor
The City of New York is hell-bent on ending homelessness in the five boroughs by the end of 2015, and 2065 Walton Ave. brings it closer to reaching its goal.
The NYC Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD), together with the Mayor’s Office of Veterans’ Affairs, announced the start of construction on 2065 Walton Ave. in the West Bronx, an 89-unit affordable housing development that targets formerly homeless veterans and at-risk young adults. The project is the result of a collaboration between a number of entities, including The Jericho Project and B & B Supportive.
The project is part of Mayor Bill de Blasio Administration’s Housing New York: A Five-Borough, 10-Year Housing Plan, the most comprehensive affordable housing plan in the city’s history. Multiple corporations and organizations showed their support for the project; Citi made a $40,000 contribution, The Home Depot Foundation donated $500,000, while Bank of America Merrill Lynch provided $17.6 million in debt and tax credit in support of 2065 Walton Ave.
The 10-story building at 2065 Walton will incorporate 56 apartments for homeless veterans referred by the Bronx VA Medical Center, as well as 33 apartments that will serve young adults ages 18-25 from the Bronx Community Board 5, via referrals from BronxWorks, Covenant House and other local non-profit groups. The project will direct special attention towards the LGBT homeless youth population, according to Gilbert Taylor, NYC Department of Homeless Services Commissioner.
“We are committed to ending both veteran homelessness by the end of this calendar year and protecting LGBT youth on the brink of homelessness, and we are proud to collaborate with the Jericho Project initiative whose daily work provides supportive services and affordable housing for homeless veterans and LGBT youth,” said Taylor.
Image courtesy of MHG Architects
HPD Commissioner Been, Mova Commissioner Sutton Join the Jericho Project and Partners to Announce Start of Construction on Affordable Housing for Veterans and Young Adults
July 7, 2015 by RealEstateRama
Partnership between the City and the Jericho Project Advances the Mission to Help End Veteran Homelessness in New York City.
The Bronx, NY – July 7, 2015 – (RealEstateRama) — The New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) and New York City Mayor’s Office of Veterans’ Affairs joined The Jericho Project, B & B Supportive, and other partners to announce the start of construction on 2065 Walton Avenue, a new development that will provide affordable housing and supportive services to formerly homeless veterans and at-risk young adults, with special attention to the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender homeless youth population. This project builds on the de Blasio Administration’s commitment to helping achieve the national goal to end veteran homelessness by the end of 2015. The Mayor’s Housing New York plan outlines the City’s approach to address the housing needs of homeless veterans, which includes the use of federal Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing (VASH) Vouchers and active collaboration with non-profit organizations like the Jericho Project and U.S. Department of Veteran’s Affairs (VA).2065 Walton Avenue is being financed under Mayor Bill de Blasio’s Housing New York: A Five-Borough, 10-Year Housing Plan. The plan aims to create and preserve 200,000 units of affordable housing. The most comprehensive affordable housing plan in the City’s history and largest municipal housing plan in the nation, its goal is to help address New York City’s affordability crisis by reaching more than half a million New Yorkers ranging from those with very low incomes to those in the middle class, all of whom face ever-rising rents.
“The women and men who serve in our nation’s military sacrifice willingly and put the needs of our country before their own,” said HPD Commissioner Vicki Been. “For many of our veterans the process of transitioning from military to civilian life can sometimes be difficult, but that doesn’t mean they have to go it alone. A safe, stable, affordable home coupled with specialized services and an environment that recognizes their unique needs and honors their service can be the hand up that our veterans need to achieve their best. I’m proud to work with outstanding partners like the Jericho Project, the Mayor’s Office of Veterans Affairs, and our elected officials who share the mission of ending veterans’ homelessness by supporting the men and women who have dedicated their lives to protecting ours.”
“Today’s groundbreaking ceremony provides tangible evidence of how New Yorkers are heeding Mayor de Blasio’s call to action and committing themselves to ending veteran homelessness,” said Loree Sutton, MD, Brigadier General (retired), Commissioner of the Mayor’s Office of Veterans’ Affairs (MOVA). “Mayor de Blasio has pledged to expand affordable housing across the five boroughs and to end veteran homelessness by the end of 2015—and today’s groundbreaking is a powerful symbol of both of these critical commitments. I applaud the Jericho Project and B&B Supportive for their leadership and ingenuity and am both heartened and inspired by so many individuals and organizations who are likewise stepping up to participate in this historic movement. Working together, we will uphold our collective moral imperative to support those who have served and sacrificed so much on our behalf.”
“We are committed to ending both veteran homelessness by the end of this calendar year and protecting LGBT youth on the brink of homelessness, and we are proud to collaborate with the Jericho Project initiative whose daily work provides supportive services and affordable housing for homeless veterans and LGBT youth,” said Gilbert Taylor, Commissioner, NYC Department of Homeless Services.
“This is a landmark moment for Jericho Project as we deepen our commitment to veterans and extend our services to young adults who are in dire need of housing and support,” said Jericho Project Executive Director Tori Lyon. Jericho currently serves over 1,600 adults and children, including 550 veterans, across the five boroughs of New York.
“B & B Supportive is proud to be collaborating with Jericho to expand the supply of affordable housing for New Yorkers in need,” said Alan Bell, Principal of B & B Supportive LLC, which is committed to developing supportive housing throughout the City for individuals and families.
“Bank of America Merrill Lynch is pleased to provide $17.6 million in debt and tax credit equity to support the Jericho Project and B&B Supportive in this inspirational and innovative project,” said Maurice Coleman, senior client manager, community development banking at Bank of America Merrill Lynch. “Projects like Walton Avenue demonstrate the bank’s commitment to building safe and supportive housing, in this case, helping veterans and formerly homeless youth.”
Joe Wimberley from The Home Depot Foundation said, “The Home Depot is dedicated to improving the homes and lives of U.S. military veterans and their families, enabling them to attain the housing they deserve after bravely serving our country.” The Home Deport Foundation generously granted $500,000 in support of the Walton Avenue residence.
Citi served as the first corporate partner to support the Walton Avenue project through a $40,000 contribution through Citi Salutes, a company-wide initiative to help meet the needs of service members, veterans and their families. Citi’s support will provide vital technology infrastructure for the project.
On-site supportive services will be provided by the Jericho Project. The non-profit began its Veterans Initiative in 2006 in response to the crisis of veterans homelessness, and is now also working to address the rising number of homeless young people, ages 18-25.
Jericho will provide its full range of services to all tenants including case management, individual and group counseling, employment and educational assistance, family reunification, and social activities. Various workshops, health fairs, computer classes, and other events will also be scheduled and will be open to members of the community.
Fifty-six (56) apartments will serve homeless veterans referred by the Bronx VA Medical Center. Thirty-three (33) apartments will serve young adults ages 18-25 from Bronx Community Board 5, via referrals from BronxWorks, Covenant House, and other local non-profit organizations that work with young adults in need.
All of the apartments will be affordable to individuals earning an annual income at or below $18,150. The rents will be subsidized using federal HUD-Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing (VASH) vouchers for the veteran’s units and Project-based Section 8 vouchers from NYCHA for the young adult units to help ensure that the tenants will only need to pay 30 percent of their income towards rent.
The total development cost for this project is approximately $30.6 million. The project was financed through HPD’s Supportive Housing Loan Program (SHLP) and received $9.5 million in HOME Funds. The project also received Low-Income Housing Tax Credits from HPD which will generate $14 million in tax credit equity toward permanent financing. Financing will also include a construction loan in the amount of $13.5 million from Bank of America, a permanent loan from the New York City Employee Retirement System (NYCERS) in the amount of $2 million, and a loan of $108,000 from the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA). The New York State Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance (OTDA) will provide a permanent loan of $3.6 million through the Homeless Housing and Assistance Program (HHAP).
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About the New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD):
HPD is the nation’s largest municipal housing preservation and development agency. Its mission is to promote quality housing and viable neighborhoods for New Yorkers through education, outreach, loan and development programs, and enforcement of housing quality standards. HPD is tasked with fulfilling Mayor de Blasio’s Housing New York: A Five-Borough Ten-Year Plan to build and preserve 200,000 affordable units for New Yorkers at the very lowest incomes to those in the middle class. For more information visit www.nyc.gov/hpd and for regular updates on HPD news and services, connect with us via www.facebook.com/nychpd and www.twitter.com/nychousing.
About the Mayor’s Office of Veteran’s Affairs (MOVA):
The Mayor’s Office of Veterans’ Affairs (MOVA) was established by local law 53 in 1987. MOVA advises the Mayor on issues and initiatives impacting the veteran and military community. Top strategic MOVA objectives include ending Veteran Homelessness in New York City, connecting veterans, active duty military and their spouses to education, mental health and employment opportunities and; connecting veterans and their family members to public and private resources which aid in transition and reintegration after military service. MOVA works with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), the New York State Division of Veterans Affairs (NYSDVA), City Agencies, veteran’s organizations and other stakeholders to offer services to veterans, their dependents and survivors; while encouraging innovative partnerships to ensure creative problem solving. www.nyc.gov/veterans.
About Jericho Project:
Jericho Project is a nationally acclaimed nonprofit that for 32 years has worked to end homelessness at its roots by creating a goal-oriented community that motivates men and women to reach their greatest potential. It has provided supportive housing and counseling services to thousands of men and women to transform their lives for the better: 95% of clients maintain housing stability and 90% of Jericho residents affected by substance abuse maintain their sobriety. Jericho employs rigorous fiscal discipline along with innovative public – private partnerships and a base of passionate donors. Jericho’s housing and extended services cost $13,000 per person annually, compared to $32,000 for a single shelter, $50,000 for a family shelter, and $168,000 for a jail cell annually. For more information, please seewww.jerichoproject.org Twitter: @jerichoproject1
About B&B Supportive LLC:
After leading The Hudson Companies for over 25 years, in 2012 Alan Bell teamed up with his wife Elisa Barnes, an accomplished attorney, to form BellUrban LLC and B&B Supportive to develop new affordable residential and mixed-used transit oriented buildings (BellUrban) and new supportive housing for New Yorkers in need (B&B Supportive). Alan brings to this partnership his decades of success in developing almost 6,000 units of new housing in affordable, market-rate and institutional buildings. Elisa has been a trial and appellate attorney for almost 30 years.https://sites.google.com/a/bandbsupportive.com/b-and-b-supportive/
About Giving Back at The Home Depot Foundation:
Since the first The Home Depot store opened in 1979, giving back has been a core value for the Company and a passion for its associates. Today, The Home Depot, in partnership with The Home Depot Foundation, focuses its philanthropic efforts on improving the homes and lives of U.S. military veterans and their families and aiding communities affected by natural disasters. Through Team Depot, the Company’s associate-led volunteer force, thousands of associates dedicate their time and talents to these efforts in the communities where they live and work.
Since 2011, The Home Depot Foundation has invested more than $85 million to provide safe housing to veterans, and along with the help of Team Depot volunteers, has transformed more than 17,000 homes for veterans. To learn more and see Team Depot in action, visitwww.homedepot.com/teamdepot .
Citi, the leading global bank, has approximately 200 million customer accounts and does business in more than 160 countries and jurisdictions. Citi provides consumers, corporations, governments and institutions with a broad range of financial products and services, including consumer banking and credit, corporate and investment banking, securities brokerage, transaction services, and wealth management.www.citigroup.com Twitter: @Citi | YouTube:www.youtube.com/citi | Blog: http://blog.citigroup.com | Facebook: www.facebook.com/citi | LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/company/citi
About Bank of America
Bank of America is one of the world’s largest financial institutions, serving individual consumers, small- and middle-market businesses and large corporations with a full range of banking, investing, asset management and other financial and risk management products and services. The company provides unmatched convenience in the United States, serving approximately 48 million consumer and small business relationships with approximately 4,800 retail banking offices and approximately 15,800 ATMs and award-winning online banking with 31 million active users and approximately 17 million mobile users. Bank of America is among the world’s leading wealth management companies and is a global leader in corporate and investment banking and trading across a broad range of asset classes, serving corporations, governments, institutions and individuals around the world. Bank of America offers industry-leading support to approximately 3 million small business owners through a suite of innovative, easy-to-use online products and services. The company serves clients through operations in more than 40 countries. Bank of America Corporation stock (NYSE: BAC) is listed on the New York Stock Exchange.
Eric Bederman (HPD), bedermae (at) hpd.nyc (dot) gov
Lynthia Romney (Jericho Project) romneycom (at) gmail (dot) com
Hiring homeless workers proves to be winning strategy for Bronx manufacturer
Hunts Point-based Felix Storch Inc. doing well and doing good with the help of nonprofit Jericho Project
Process this: A Bronx-based appliance manufacturer is seeing big success by hiring multiple homeless workers.
Over the last two years, Felix Storch Inc. a family-owned refrigerator and stove supplier in Hunts Point, has tapped 28 homeless and at risk New Yorkers. Half are veterans.
Placed in entry level shipping, warehouse and production jobs, the Felix Storch hires earn above-minimum wage pay, receive benefits and a get a chance to move up in the company.
It’s not charity, it’s good business.
The workers have been hand-picked by Jericho Project, a midtown Manhattan-based nonprofit that provides supportive housing, employment counseling and other services to the homeless.
Jericho offers workshops and job training sessions, prescreens workers before making a recommendation and stays in touch with the company to see if the hires make a good fit. That’s translated into a more stable entry level workforce for Felix Storch.
Jericho is “telling us these people have fundamental work and life skills,” Felix Storch CEO Paul Storch told the Daily News. “They are coaching them to be successful.”
“Entry level turnover is a problem,” he added. “This gives us a higher likelihood that the people will come to work and stay in the job.”
The arrangement has been a life-changer for Aaron Jenkins, 54.
Jenkins, an army veteran, was a construction worker before an accident put him out of work several years ago.
After splitting with his wife, he found himself homeless and taking odd handyman jobs.
“This gives us a higher likelihood that the people will come to work and stay in the job.”
Jenkins attended a veterans employment event and met a rep there from Jericho. After taking some classes at Jericho, including computer lessons, he was sent on a job interview at Felix Storch.
Two years ago, he was hired as a mechanic with an entry level salary of $8.50 an hour. Since then he’s been promoted to inventory clerk and now earns $12 an hour.
Along the way, Jenkins moved to his own apartment in Jamaica, Queens. For the first time, he’s now saving for retirement in a 401(k) account.
“At the end of the month, I am supposed to get another raise,” Jenkins told the News. “I would like to retire from here.”
Jericho has placed workers with other employers, but Felix Storch is by far its biggest success story.
The economic downturn has made securing jobs for the homeless all the more challenging in recent years.
In the meantime, the ranks of the homeless in the city have reached the highest levels since the Depression.
Each night more than 60,000 people, including more than 22,000 children, experience homelessness, according to the Coalition for the Homeless.
“There is a perception out there that homeless people aren’t able to be employed,” said Jericho Project’s executive director Tori Lyon. “We have shown they can be good employees.”