Recovery Begins with Housing

Concern for Independent Living, a leading non-profit provider of supportive housing, held a Ribbon Cutting/Grand Opening Ceremony on June 30, 2017 to celebrate the opening of Concern Bergen, a 90-unit supportive housing development for persons with disabilities and families in need of affordable housing in Brooklyn.

Concern Bergen follows NYS Office of Mental Health’s very successful Supportive SRO Model. This model allows for the integration of disabled individuals (often with a history of homelessness) with members of the community. In addition to private apartments, residents are offered person-centered, flexible supportive services that reflect evidence-based practices that promote wellness and recovery. Persons who were formerly homeless or institutionalized are able to live in a community that encourages recovery, dignity and respect.

The former warehouse that once occupied the site was demolished in early 2014 to make way for a newly constructed 7-story building. Concern Bergen offers an array of apartment sizes (studio, one-bedroom and two-bedroom apartments) and amenities, including a computer room, exercise room, laundry facilities, community room, and rooftop garden with panoramic views of the City. Staff work proactively with residents to develop customized service plans aimed at maximizing their independent living skills. Supportive services include self-advocacy training, community integration, daily living skills training, medication management and training, financial/entitlement training and assistance, substance abuse services, symptom management and crisis management.

Supportive housing in New York arose in response to a number of social and economic factors, including the loss of low-income housing and the financial crisis of the 1970s, the deinstitutionalization of the State’s in-patient psychiatric hospital population, the reduction in single room occupancy units and rooming houses, and the dramatic rise in homelessness across New York City. The early 1980s formed the basis for what would become today’s Supportive Housing model. Pioneering non-profits such as St. Francis Friends of the Poor, Catholic Charities of Brooklyn and Queens, and the West Side Federation for Senior Housing created hundreds of units by piecing together up to a dozen funding sources. Today, New York leads the nation in Supportive Housing development, with more than 50,000 units in operation.

In addition to the supportive units at Concern Bergen, the project also includes 32 apartments for community members in need of affordable housing. Our experience has shown that an integrated environment results in better outcomes for our residents, including housing stability, increased employment and decreased hospitalizations. By offering persons with psychiatric disabilities the opportunity to reside in their own apartment in a high-quality building, they can shift their focus from maintaining the bare necessities of life to their wellness and achieving higher goals such as educational, vocational, and social ambitions.

Supportive Housing has been proven again and again to play a vital role in the recovery process for persons with disabilities, with staggering outcomes that include and 85.6% decline in the mean number of shelter days; up to a 60% reduction in state hospital use; and 68.6% reduction in public hospital use (D. Culhane, Et Al., Public Service Reductions Associated with Placement of Homeless Persons with Severe Mental Illness in Supportive Housing, 2002).

In the last year, Concern has opened a number of similar projects including Norwood Terrace in the Bronx and Liberty Landing in Lake Ronkonkoma. Funded in part by Governor Cuomo’s MRT Initiative, Norwood Terrace will contribute to decreasing Medicaid spending in New York State, while increasing the much-needed stock of affordable apartments. Norwood Terrace consists of 115 apartments, 58 of which are for homeless adults with psychiatric disabilities and a history of high Medicaid usage.

Similar to Concern Bergen, both Norwood Terrace and Liberty Landing integrate affordable units with supportive units. The inability to obtain housing that is affordable is one of the largest contributors to homelessness among families in both New York City and on Long Island. In addition to the thousands of families residing in shelters, there are tens of thousands more that are just one personal crisis away from homelessness because they are living paycheck to paycheck and spending too much of their income on housing. Affordable housing offers these families the chance to enjoy quality living environments, as well as the opportunity to better their future by saving money and investing in educational and employment opportunities for themselves and their children.

Liberty Landing in Lake Ronkonkoma is Concern’s second Veterans project on Long Island. It includes 59 units, of which 30 are reserved for homeless Veterans with psychiatric disabilities. Designed in a townhome-type configuration, Liberty Landing is a community which blends seamlessly into the surrounding suburban neighborhood. An on-site community center includes staff offices, community space, exercise room, computer room and laundry facilities.

Recognizing the importance of this housing model, in May, 2017 Governor Andrew Cuomo made a historic commitment of $2.5 billion for the creation and preservation of 6,000 units of supportive housing across New York State. Concern for Independent Living, Inc. is pleased to be a part of this historic effort to end homelessness and promote recovery though housing.

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