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HeartShare Saint Vincent’s Services (HSVS) has developed a new program to support families in New York City. The Steps to Home Program aims to provide families with a safe, therapeutic, and caring place to live while they prepare to successfully transition to permanent housing.
The Steps to Home Program is located at two homeless shelters in the Bronx. The shelters were previously operated by a for-profit landlord with oversight from the NYC Department of Homeless Services (DHS). The Baychester site can house 35 women who may have one or two children. The Eden site can house 27 women who may have one or two children.
“Our management of the shelters will not only bring much needed renovations to both sites, but also create the infrastructure allowing women and their children to access the resources they need,” said Shawnta Washington, HSVS Vice President of Residential Services. “We want to make sure that the shelters are a welcoming, but temporary stop in their journey towards stability and independence.”
Homelessness has been a problem in New York City for a long time. The Coalition for the Homeless notes that the primary cause of homelessness, especially among families, is lack of affordable housing. Other causes of homelessness include eviction, overcrowded housing, domestic violence, job loss and hazardous housing conditions.
Last year, the City initiated a plan called, “Turning the Tide on Homelessness.” It states, “The plan will allow the City to get out of 360 cluster apartment sites and commercial hotels, replace them with about 90 high-quality shelters, and upgrade existing shelters.” This plan came after the City found out that landlords were profiting from “cluster sites.” The homeless shelters in New York City gets individuals and families off the streets but it does not guarantee that they will receive the services and support to find stability, especially moving into permanent housing.
Reports from The Coalition for the Homeless, also estimates that, “In May 2018, there were 61,945 homeless people, including 15,023 homeless families with 22,538 homeless children, sleeping each night in the New York City municipal shelter system. Families make up three-quarters of the homeless shelter population.”
According to research from The Bassuk Center, which connects and supports communities across the nation that are responding to family homelessness, “Shelter staff are overburdened, do not receive the comprehensive ongoing training they need to support children and families, and spend most of their time on documentation and paperwork instead of helping families.”
The HSVS Steps to Home Program will be heavily focused on preparing the families in their Bronx shelters to obtain permanent housing. Some of the program goals include connecting clients to higher education opportunities, ensuring that all clients exit the shelter with employment or an identified steady income, and decreasing the amount of time families live in shelters before achieving stable employment, childcare, and permanent housing.
Physical updates to the shelters, security enhancements, and staffing enhancements will be completed by HSVS as a part of the program. Staffing enhancements include employing a program director, program supervisors, social work supervisors, social workers, case managers, employment specialists, housing specialists, recreational specialists, administrative assistants, drivers, residential aids and program analysts.
Renovations are currently being made to the Baychester and Eden shelters in the Bronx, and HSVS hopes to host a ribbon cutting ceremony for The Steps to Home Program’s official opening in the fall.