30 Years of Innovation

In 2018, the Network celebrated its 30-year anniversary: three decades of advocating for supportive housing and building a community of nonprofits who are working tirelessly to end homelessness in New York.

We’re especially grateful to all the visionaries, founders, and problem-solvers who, with their passion for helping the most vulnerable New Yorkers, have made supportive housing what it is today. We want to honor and celebrate the brilliance of the last 30 years with 30 stories of innovation in supportive housing. 

Click to jump to stories about:

Building a Movement /// The People of Supportive Housing /// Models/Populations /// Innovations in Funding /// History


Building a Movement

2000-2018: Largest conference of the supportive housing community in the nation 
Watch (2:36) | In 2000, the Network launched the nation’s first conference for the supportive housing community. It has grown into the sector’s largest learning and networking opportunity, gathering up to 1,700 attendees, with some great moments collected in this slideshow.

2002: The Network Goes Statewide 
Watch (1:36) | The Network's State Advocacy Director Maclain Berhaupt and Upstate Coordinator Stephen Piasecki talk about the organization's decision to take its operations statewide to serve and advocate for supportive housing across all of New York.

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The People of Supportive Housing

Times Square: The largest supportive housing building in the nation
(2:12) | Gloria Senger reflects on the transformations she has seen in her own life and in The Times Square building, where she has lived for over 50 years…

Howie the Harp: A national model for peer advocacy 
(1:50) | Lynnae Brown, Director of Howie the Harp Advocacy Center, and Steve Coe, now CEO of Community Access, explain why Howie the Harp’s peer advocacy program has been lauded nationwide for improving the outlook of individuals recovering from experiences in the mental health system. 

Residents of Supportive Housing
Watch (1:29 and 1:31) | Tressa and Gloria, two of the longest residents of St. Francis Friends of the Poor’s St. Francis Residences, share some of their most important memories from an earlier stage of their lives and some of their greatest moments after finding permanent housing.

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Supportive Housing for Youth 
Watch (2:38) | Dedicated housing and funding specifically allocated for youth protects many young New York residents from homelessness. This slideshow depicts some of the many supportive housing buildings that serve youth and set them up for success.

2011: True Colors: New York’s first supportive housing for LGBTQ homeless youth 
Read One of the most profoundly underserved populations was met with compassion and attention through True Colors, which developed in partnership with Grammy-award winning artist Cyndi Lauper and her manager, longtime West End Residences volunteer Lisa Barbaris.

Housing First: innovation to reduce chronic homelessness
Watch (1:40) | Kevin O'Connor, Executive Director at Joseph's House & Shelter, discusses a practice in supportive housing that rapidly houses the chronically homeless without many of the preconditions that are required of them at other places.

1983: Bailey-Holt House: The first supportive housing for those living with HIV/AIDS 
Read One of the most under-told stories out of the AIDS crisis in the United States in the 1980s is the situation of homelessness that many living with HIV/AIDS confronted. Read more here about how the supportive housing community evolved and rallied to respond to and care for this population. 

1983: Trauma-Informed Care: Identifying and Supporting Trauma Response for Tenants 
Read Learn more about how the practice and philosophy of trauma-informed care developed and became a core part of supportive housing services. Trauma-informed care shifts the question from, “What’s wrong with you?” to “What happened to you?” It values a person’s full story and paves the way for healing.

The Lift Up: A Reflection on NYC FUSE 
Read FUSE was a simple idea that was born in an elevator and would change the trajectory of lives for thousands of individuals that were formerly incarcerated. Learn more about how this supportive housing model evolved here.

1970s: Integration of people with psychiatric disabilities into community housing
Massive deinstitutionalization in the 1970s led to the creation of the Office of Mental Health, which began as a form of temporary, transitional housing and evolved to a much more robust system of care. Learn more here about the earliest decades of OMH’s evolution to adequately respond to the needs of a population confronting mental illness.

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Innovations in Funding

2016: Campaign 4 NY/NY Housing 
Watch (2:50) | This short video summarizes the breadth of partners, advocacy and media coverage that led to NYS Governor Cuomo and NYC Mayor de Blasio’s respective commitments to supportive housing totaling 35,000 new units over the following 15 years.

2016: Empire State Supportive Housing Initiative (ESSHI) 
Read NYS Governor Cuomo announced a commitment to fund 20,000 units of supportive housing across the state over the next 15 years. Read more here for five of the most distinctive characteristics of the initiative.

2015: NYC 15/15: City’s Commitment to Supportive Housing 
Read NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio’s commitment to create 15,000 units of supportive housing in New York City over the next 15 years marked the first housing initiative by a city administration. Read this brief post about seven of the biggest ways this agreement changed city history.

2012: Medicaid Redesign Team: Using state medicaid dollars for supportive housing 
Watch (1:07) | Elizabeth Misa, Deputy Medicaid Director at the NYS Department of Health, speaks about New York becoming the first state in the country to use Medicaid funding to fund supportive housing.

2006: The NYC Acquisition Fund 
Read Acquiring a site is an enormous feat in itself in the process of developing a supportive housing project. While still difficult, the creation of the NYC Acquisition Fund constituted an enormous step forward in the city’s ability to support nonprofits doing this work. 

2005: Nine Key Achievements of the NY/NY III Agreement 
Read Then-Mayor Michael Bloomberg and then-Governor George Pataki signed NY/NY III, the largest commitment to creating housing for homeless people in the nation's history. Read here about nine unprecedented aspects of the agreement.

1990: NY/NY 1: First City and State Agreement for Supportive Housing 
Read The first New York/New York agreement signed into existence was the largest housing initiative for homeless individuals with mental illnesses at the time. Read here about seven of the biggest ways this agreement changed history for the better.

1988: Supportive Housing Loan Program: A unique innovation to finance housing for homeless New Yorkers 
Read A now world-renowned program offering loans to developers to jump-start supportive housing had humble beginnings. Read more about this program and why “nowhere else is there a program for supportive housing that operates at this scale.”

1987: McKinney-Vento: The First Federal Legislative Response to Homelessness 
Read Before the Homeless Persons’ Survival Act, homelessness was considered a local problem and benefited from no federal assistance despite its spread across the country. The act, which passed with a large bipartisan majority in both the House and Congress, remains the only major federal legislation responding to homelessness…

1986: LIHTC: A financing innovation to help build more supportive housing 
Read Learn more here about how the creation of Low Income Housing Tax Credits ushered in a new era of affordable and supportive housing development, expanded the field of stakeholders, and leveraged more private investment.

1983: Homeless Housing and Assistance Program 
(0:54) | Watch this video for a visual summary of HHAP, the first program in the country to dedicate substantial capital to housing for various homeless populations.

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Supportive Housing: The innovative model for ending chronic homelessness
Read | “To make a difference in the lives of the people they cared about, they could no longer just provide services. Somehow they would also need to figure out how to provide them with housing AND services…” Before the late 70s, New York City did not see widespread homelessness, but when all that changed, a few visionary figures developed a concept of supportive housing…

The Network: An innovation in supportive housing 
Watch (3:21) | The former and present leaders of the Supportive Housing Network describe the organization’s key moments of growth across 30 years of serving New York’s supportive housing community.

The Network and its Members: Agents of Change
Watch (1:56) | This short video reflects on some of the Network’s most important advocacy campaigns and achievements for supportive housing in New York.

Reclaiming SROs, Hotels & Historic Sites
Watch (1:49) | This is a short slideshow of the previously dilapidated sites and buildings that have been rehabilitated by supportive housing providers and transformed into buildings contributing to safer, revitalized, and more attractive communities throughout New York.

Excellence in Design in Supportive Housing 
Watch (2:03) | In this video and slideshow of supportive housing projects, Cindy Harden, Architect at EQ Architecture & Design, comments on how the dignity of a person can be reflected in the dignity of a thoughtfully created space.

2001: The Culhane Study 
(1:19) | Julie Sandorf, Founder of CSH, speaks about one of the earliest and groundbreaking studies on supportive housing that was conducted by a team from the University of Pennsylvania. It quantified the difference in taxpayer costs for homelessness versus supportive housing, with the former costing NYC over $15,000 more than the latter. 

1991: The Corporation for Supportive Housing (CSH) 
Watch (2:23) | Julie Sandorf, Founder of CSH and President of Charles H. Revson Foundation, and Deborah DeSantis, current President and CEO of CSH, recall CSH roots in the earliest days of supportive housing in New York and its expansion to work with communities across the country.

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