'Breaking Ground' on solving the homeless crisis
by Crystal Wolfe
Jun 13, 2018 | 6003 views | 0 0 comments | 155 155 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Walter Malone with two Breaking Ground case workers.
Walter Malone with two Breaking Ground case workers.
Supportive housing is a cost-effective intervention that combines affordable housing assistance with supportive services for people experiencing homelessness, as well as other people with disabilities.

Breaking Ground is New York’s largest supportive housing provider. Each year, the organization serves more than 6,000 vulnerable New Yorkers and houses 4,000 per night.

Since its inception in 1990, the organization has helped over 13,000 people escape or avoid homelessness.

Breaking Ground operates 23 transitional and permanent residences, and has 1,000 more units in development.

“We partner with top-notch local social service organizations, who provide on-site case management, mental health counseling, medical services, and more at our supportive housing residences,” said president and CEO Brenda Rosen.

“We have staff who organize events and other activities in the buildings to engage residents socially, which decreases isolation, builds community, and helps them re-enter society,” she added.

Breaking Ground also runs street homeless outreach services in Brooklyn, Queens, and a portion of Manhattan.

“We actively encourage New Yorkers to call 311 when they come across a vulnerable or homeless New Yorker who needs assistance,” Rosen said. “The call goes directly to our outreach teams for a quick response, usually within an hour. New Yorkers know their neighborhoods best, and it's incredibly helpful to get these alerts.”

Builds relationships with the homeless on the street takes time. It can sometimes take months or hundreds of points of contact before a caseworker is given permission by the homeless individual to work with them.

Supportive housing at Breaking Ground has a 98 percent success rate.

“There is an answer to addressing the homeless crisis, and it’s building more affordable and supportive permanent housing in communities across the city,” said Rosen.

Walter Malone was born deaf. He was a mechanic, but when his mother and other family members died, he fell on hard times.

Even though he was still working, he lived out of his van and on the streets for six years until he found Breaking Ground and supportive housing at The Bowery.

“It was hard on the street,” he said. “I was living in my van and sometimes the battery would die and it was cold.

“I moved in at the Bowery and was there for a year and a half,” Malone added. “I was able to take a bath, get clean clothes. I would go downstairs and get food, breakfast, lunch, three meals a day.”

Today, Malone has a lease on his own apartment in Times Square, he's working, and he's happy.

“The homeless aren't much different from all of us,” Rosen said. “Something unfortunately happened in their lives that led them to becoming homeless, whether it's the loss of a job, a loved one, or traumatic event. At Breaking Ground, we start with compassion, treating each person with the dignity and respect they deserve.

“We never give up on anyone, because we believe everyone deserves a home,” she added.

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