The Network Celebrates Our Tenant of the Year Nominees
Every year, the Network honors remarkable tenants at the Annual Awards Gala for their leadership and growth in supportive housing. Nominations this year were abundant and inspirational, so we decided to bring all tenant nominees together to share their stories, bond with other tenants and staff, and receive honorary certificates as a group. On November 30, supportive housing tenants came together at Fortune Society’s Castle Gardens Residence for a celebratory breakfast. Together, we shared a meal, laughed, and connected across experiences in a truly meaningful gathering. Here are some of the conversations held throughout the event.
After decades of drinking, Joseph Borden (The Doe Fund) announced that he is proud to be sober for almost a year, despite all the challenges thrown his way. Joseph spoke with animation about his appreciation for supportive housing, grateful for how far he has come. He advocated for more scattered site residential groups, and adores and respects his case manager, Yolanda Jones, who was at his side throughout the event.
Wayne Dunn (Lennox Hill Neighborhood House) quit smoking this year with his program’s smoking cessation class! He also works every week to plan, prepare, and serve community meals in his building. He also advocated for and attended Casa Mutua’s Overdose Prevention Training for staff and tenants. He spoke with great enthusiasm for supportive housing, and is known as a strong and kind leader in his community.
Jennifer Garris (Breaking Ground/CUCS) spoke from the heart about the devastating impact of her husband’s death, which led to her battle with alcohol, homelessness, and depression. She loves The Schermerhorn’s Tai Chi and jewelry-making classes, and she makes her way down from the 11th floor of the building every Sunday to cheerfully wish all residents well and check in on her neighbors. “God is not done with me yet,” she explains. Ms. Garris is a true inspiration amongst tenants and staff.
Denise Jackson (Institute for Puerto Rican/Hispanic Elderly) bravely shared the traumatic story of witnessing her mother’s murder, subsequent responsibilities as the family’s “Cinderella,” and eventual drug use and suicide attempts. Today, she is a mother of five, grandmother of 24, and has a great-grandchild on the way. She gives back to her community and has committed to sobriety and wellness in honor of her mother. She is known as one of the most active, beloved, motivating and respected tenants in her building, and had comforting words of support and love for everyone present.
Ivan Lassitier (Federation of Organizations) has shared, “In five years, I see myself living on my own, married, and holding down a good job. You have to stay positive. There are going to be obstacles ahead but you have to get up and dust yourself off. Keep doing the things that are right.” Ivan attends Mosque every Friday and continues to connect with friends and family members. He is grateful for the structure of supportive housing, which has assisted him in the process of living fully to better thrive.
Jamicka Martin (Guidance Center of Westchester) shared her struggles with addiction and poignant reflections on how it impacted her child. She has now graduated with her Associates Degree in Applied Science and Chemical Dependency Counseling, and she is a certified Substance Abuse Counselor. She passionately spoke about how her journey has led her to help others, as her life’s work is to support people struggling to find a power higher than their addiction. Jamicka spoke with confidence and love about her advocacy and her calling to give back.
Tina Miller (Services for the UnderServed) has lived in her residence since 2009, and praised every part of the journey! She proudly stated that she will stay there with her two children until she has saved enough money to buy a house, and she is actively pursuing her nursing degree at Bronx Community College, soon to enroll in Hunter College. A doting mother who has maintained her sobriety, Tina encouraged other tenants at the breakfast to network amongst peers, as that has been her pathway to positive changes in her life and her community.
Robert Reynolds was stationed in the Army years ago in Germany, and he shared the story of his recent return to what used to be the Army base and is now a high school. Robert spoke to the German school’s graduating class! He has reconnected with his daughter in Germany after 32 years, and is eagerly anticipating his next visit to see her and his two grandchildren this spring. Robert entered and left the event smiling from ear to ear.
Teresa Rodriguez (Alliance for Positive Change) spoke openly about her years of drug addiction and the impact it had on her life, including a prison sentence. She is now sober and an advocate for other tenants and her community—she helps new residents get settled in with Housewarming Kits and runs weekly arts-and-crafts groups and movie groups. Teresa’s work has recently been featured in the newspaper and on the local news, discussing the work she does for supportive housing! She connected with other tenants at the breakfast, expressing love, support and hope for others.
Alongside tenants, it was also wonderful to meet the dedicated staff who work with tenants daily and continue to help tenants create new pathways forward in supportive housing. CUCS Case Manager Phylisha Peters-Howard provided information about the innovative emotional healing group she is co-developing with tenants, utilizing relationships and trauma-informed tools to address painful emotional experiences, with an emphasis on tenant-driven curriculum development. Phylisha also spoke at length with Network staff about strategies to address diversity in spirituality and religious faith in tenants’ recovery processes.
Network Executive Director Laura Mascuch addressed the group, thanking them for their strength and leadership, and providing the group with a brief history of supportive housing in New York. It was humbling and inspiring to hear from such amazing tenants and to honor their journeys—the Network will absolutely be holding a tenant breakfast in the years to come.
Network/CUCS trainings announced for 2017-2018
The Network’s collaboration with the Center for Urban Community Services (CUCS) Institute continues this year with an exciting roster of upcoming trainings.
Next up this year is a training on Foundations of Motivational Interviewing, Part 1:
Motivational Interviewing (MI), developed by Millerand Rollnick, is an intervention that helps people recognize and address problem behavior (present or potential), and is intended to help resolve ambivalence and to get a person moving along the path to change. MI serves as an important prelude to other treatment and services by creating an “openness” to change, which paves the way for further important therapeutic work. This training provides an introduction to the basic principles and skills associated with MI including OARS (Open Questions, Affirmation, Reflective Listening, and Summary Reflections), expressing empathy, rolling with resistance, and avoiding common roadblocks to change. It also offers a foundation for Motivational Interviewing Part 2, which expands these skills into actual “change talk” and promotion of commitment to change.
This training is accredited as a New York State Social Work Continuing Education Course and OASAS Certified. You can register for this training here, and use the code SHNNY-MI-12-12-17 as the coupon code for your membership discount.
Founded in 1979, the Center for Urban Community Services (CUCS) is a comprehensive human service agency and the nation’s largest provider of supportive housing social services. The CUCS Institute is a leader in the provision of training to professionals in New York City and nationally. The trainers are at the forefront of emerging research and train on a range of topics related to housing and homelessness, behavioral health, criminal justice and clinical practice. The CUCS Institute is recognized as a continuing education provider by the New York State Education Department’s State Board for Social Work for licensed social workers and by New York State’s Office of Alcohol and Substance Abuse Services (OASAS).
For more information on registering or training content, please contact CUCS Institute.
Partnering with Churches to Develop Supportive and Affordable Housing
Some fifty members of the faith community gathered at New Greater Bethel Ministries (NGBM) in Queens to hear how their churches can work with mission-driven nonprofits to develop supportive and affordable housing. Invited by Dominic Dummett of Signature Building Consultants, hosted by NGBM’s Pastor John Boyd and organized by the Network, the gathering featured presentations by the Network’s Laura Mascuch, HPD’s Theresa Cassano, Association for Neighborhood and Housing Development (ANHD)’s Benjamin Dulchin and RiseBoro’s Scott Short.
In his opening remarks, Dominic referenced the context for the day’s conversations – namely that churches, plagued by near daily offers by developers have been making ill-advised deals to sell their properties. By partnering with mission-driven nonprofits to develop affordable and supportive housing, however, faith leaders can both gain assets and further their mission to care for “the least of these.”
Laura kicked off the morning by talking about supportive housing’s deep roots in the faith community, having been invented and promulgated by faith leaders in the early 80s and having, at its core, the intention of helping the most vulnerable among us achieve independence and a life of dignity in the community. She also informed those assembled that between the City’s and State’s commitments to supportive housing, there are significant resources available to develop residences in New York.
HPD’s Theresa Cassano then presented on the numerous programs the City has to encourage the development of supportive and affordable housing. She also walked attendees through the concrete steps faith-based institutions need to take in order to start the process.
ANHD’s Benjamin Dulchin then spoke briefly about the importance of working with organizations that share the same values as faith based organizations hold, ticking off the benefits of churches partnering with community-based nonprofit developers. ANHD recently published a white paper about the fact that buildings developed by nonprofits have a deeper level of affordability than those built by for-profits.
Scott Short, of RiseBoro (formerly Ridgewood Bushwick Senior Center) then presented on a number of actual projects that have been developed or are in process of being developed as a result of partnerships with faith-based organizations. In one instance, the church sold its property outright, in another the church was a true Joint Venture partner and in a third the church receives a new worship space and additional rentable commercial space and is providing a long-term ground lease.
A lively well-informed question and answer period followed including questions about the Attorney General’s role in these deals (the AG must approve any transfers of church properties) and how churches can know whether they’re being taken for a ride (“get a good lawyer”)– and what are the different levels of affordability? (ANHD passed out cheat sheets on Area Median Income).
Thank you to everyone who participated and especially to our host, Pastor Boyd and the amazing people at New Greater Bethel Ministries.
Joint Venture Panel and ESSHI State Partners Panel in Rochester
On October 12th, the Network convened partners in Rochester for two events focused on meeting the ambitious new statewide supportive housing development goals.
In the morning, representatives from twenty of our nonprofit members participated in a workshop titled Joint Ventures: What’s on the Table. Expert panelists included Kevin Hoffman of Richman Housing Resources, Karen Sherman of ShermanLaw, Michael Claisse of Bank of America, and Monica McCullough of MM Development Advisors. Attendees learned about the basics of Low Income Housing Tax Credit development, risks and rewards of tax credit projects, and what questions to ask when negotiating a joint venture development agreement. Whether they were new to development or had participated in dozens of deals, attendees walked away with a deeper understanding of how to approach a joint venture agreement and how to arrive at a deal that works best for the needs of their organizations. The Network looks forward to more programming on joint ventures as we strive to meet the development goals of the Empire State Supportive Housing Initiative (ESSHI).
Additional members from banks, tax credit syndicators, and for-profit developers joined us for a packed afternoon panel on ESSHI. Moderated by the Network’s Laura Mascuch, the panel featured Moira Tashjian of the NYS Office of Mental Health, Richard Umholtz of the NYS Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance, and Leonard Skrill of NYS Homes and Community Renewal. Panelists reflected on the past year of ESSHI and answered questions about the program’s implementation moving forward. According to the panelists, there were 182 applications in year two: 169 proposals with a total of 5,453 units received conditional awards.
Participants shared a great deal of information about the evolution of the initiative and imparted important information about conditional and permanent awards. To move from conditional to permanent award status,, a project must have all of its capital financing in place. Additionally, although the number of units in the project can change as the project moves forward, neither the population nor location may change from the conditional award. If groups are not 100% sure about their site location, it would be more prudent to not list the site. We are deeply grateful to Providence Housing Development Corporation for hosting this day in their beautiful Bishop Hickey Conference Center and to our generous panelists.
Check for upcoming events related to our Capacity Building Initiative here.
A Spectacular 2017 Network Awards Gala
New York's supportive housing community came together on October 18th for our annual Network Awards Gala in a year of beginning to implement the historic commitments from the Governor and Mayor for 35,000 new units of supportive housing.
More than 600 guests joined us at Capitale to celebrate a few outstanding individuals and our amazing community. The mood was festive during the 90 minute cocktail hour as friends and colleagues revived old friendships and forged new ones.
The night’s festivities continued with our awards ceremony. This year we honored Deutsche Bank as our Private Sector Partner of the Year, and RuthAnne Visnauskas as our Government Partner of the Year, as well as three remarkable tenants and two outstanding residences.
Network Board Chair and Breaking Ground President & CEO Brenda Rosen welcomed the crowd, and introduced the Network’s Executive Director, Laura Mascuch, who expressed her heartfelt thanks to the Network’s Board, staff and the community for all their support. Ms. Mascuch also offered special thanks to our gala fundraising committee chaired by Ralph Fasano of Concern for Independent Living and Hercules Argyriou of Mega Contracting.
Milagros Bursey, of the YWCA of Rochester, accepted the first of the evening’s three Tenant of the Year awards from the Network’s Sydney Kopp-Richardson. Ms. Bursey spoke forcefully about the difference supportive housing – and the YWCA of Rochester – had made in her life, after struggling with homelessness, domestic violence, and myriad health challenges.
The Network’s Steve Piasecki presented our upstate Residence of the Year award to Melissa O’Geen of DePaul for their gorgeous Carriage Factory Apartments, serving a mix of formerly homeless and low-income individuals and families.
Kimathi Witt of Concern for Independent Living, accepted the second of the evening’s Tenant of the Year awards from the Network’s Ms. Kopp-Richardson. Mr. Witt spoke movingly about how connecting with Concern for Independent Living was the key to turning around a life full of challenges including undiagnosed manic depression and homelessness. Since moving in with Concern, Mr. Witt has reunited with his son, married his girlfriend, completed one Master’s degree, was inducted into the Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society, and started a successful photography business.
Former Network Board Chair William Traylor, President of Richman Housing Resources, welcomed John Kimble of Deutsche Bank to the podium to receive our Private Sector Partner of the Year award on behalf of Deutsche Bank. Mr. Traylor highlighted the huge impact that Deutsche Bank has made on New York supportive housing. Mr. Kimble spoke about the importance of explicitly acknowledging issues of social justice in our work, in particular, the impact of racial inequity –as well as working to champion racial equity in our own organizations and partners.
The Network’s Cynthia Stuart presented the second Residence of the Year Award to Robert Sanborn and Brian Bardell of Volunteers of America-Greater New York for the beautiful Creston Avenue Residence. Jessica Katz, Associate Commissioner of NYC Department of Housing Preservation and Development, presented our Government Partner of the Year award to RuthAnne Visnauskas, Commissioner & CEO of NYS Homes & Community Renewal. Ms. Visnauskas spoke to her long career in supportive and affordable housing starting with Clinton Housing, her time at NYC Department of Housing Preservation and Development and now at NYS Homes and Community Renewal implementing the very ambitious 20,000 supportive housing unit commitment.
The final Tenant of the Year Award was presented to Robert Offley of Urban Pathways by Ms. Kopp-Richardson. Mr. Offley spoke about the decades he spent living on the streets before finding a new life thanks to supportive housing. His emotional ‘thank you’ to Urban Pathways and all those assembled won a standing ovation.
The evening ended with more cocktails, conversation, and delicious desserts!
You can also read more about each of our honorees by following the links here and check out the photos of the evening.
We hope to see you at next year's Gala!
NYC 15/15 Panel with HRA, HPD, and DOHMH
Some 90 providers, investors, lawyers and city and state government representatives gathered at Fortune Society’s Castle Gardens on September 28th to hear about the City’s NYC 15/15 initiative which seeks to create 15,000 new units of supportive housing over the next fifteen years. The panel, moderated by our own Laura Mascuch, featured HRA Deputy Commissioner of Supportive/Affordable Housing & Services Kristin Misner Gutierrez, HPD Deputy Director of the Supportive Housing Loan Program Theresa Cassano, and DOHMH Senior Director, Office of Housing Services Gail Wolsk. Of special interest to those in attendance was information about the City’s newly minted rental assistance program which will be separate from service contracts and entirely funded by the City’s tax levy funds.
Stanley Richards of Fortune Society welcomed guests with a wish that the residence in which the panel was situated served as an inspiration to those developing the next wave of supportive housing.
Kristin Misner Gutierrez presented a quick overview of NYC 15/15 – both the congregate and the scattered site programs. She summarized the six month process through which the City and the provider community used data and on-the-ground experience to develop recommendations for improving systems and rates, recommendations that the City then integrated into NYC 15/15. She also laid out the City’s expectations as to how many units will go to which populations, both in terms of scattered site and single site units.
Gail Wolsk then summarized some of the innovations in service contracts that are new under NYC 15/15, including 1:15 caseloads, programs for families that must include services for children, and the requirement that services be evidence-informed.
Theresa Cassano then took over, laying out for the first time the City’s rental assistance program that will be paired with the NYC 15/15 service contracts. She explained that both service and rental assistance contracts can be used in a number of HPD programs beyond the Supportive Housing Loan Program, including ELLA and Mix and Match. The new subsidy will closely resemble Project Based Section 8, although, because the funding is all City tax levy, the subsidy will not trigger Davis-Bacon. Ms. Cassano told attendees that HPD has been meeting with both providers and investors about the subsidy program to address questions and concerns.
The presentation was followed by a lively question and answer period covering a range of concerns about both the scattered site and the single site programs. Panelists also stayed after the session ended to answer participants’ questions one-on-one.
Stay tuned for a Guest Blog Post from the three participants answering frequently asked questions.
The Network’s Getting to 35K Initiative
Ever since last year, when the state and city committed to create 35,000 new units of supportive housing in two separate initiatives over the next fifteen years, the Network has focused on supporting our community in meeting this unprecedented opportunity. 27,500 of these units will be single-site. The state’s commitment of 20,000 of these units – the Empire State Supportive Housing Initiative (ESSHI) – will be developed through an annual statewide RFP process, while New York City’s 7,500 single-site units – part of NYC 15/15 – will be developed through an open, rolling RFP. The total number of units is three times that of any previous commitment.
The Network has embarked on a multi-year Getting to 35K Initiative for our nonprofit community. Last winter, we surveyed members to gauge their interest in developing supportive housing and to identify any impediments to the process. The results of this survey pointed us towards the types of trainings, convenings, and connections our nonprofit members needed to move forward.
In the first eight months of 2017, we convened our state partners for an ESSHI question and answer session which was attended by 100 members of our community. In February, we piloted a small, hands-on training on how to structure a joint venture with representatives from ShermanLaw, Bank of America, and Richman Housing Resources. Throughout the spring, we presented at various forums to help faith-based organizations partner with affordable and supportive housing developers, including a gathering we hosted with the Mayor’s Center for Faith and Community Partnerships. Eight of our annual conference workshops were aimed at helping the supportive housing community implement NYC 15/15 and ESSHI. And in July, we held our first Joint Venture ‘mixer’ – bringing together for-profit developers and nonprofits interested in partnering to develop supportive housing…in a bar!
Over the next several months, we will be holding a number of events across the state on topics including financing a tax credit deal, joint ventures, and HCR’s unified funding process. While we will be sending out specific invitations to each of these events, we wanted to keep you abreast of what we’re planning to offer.
We would love to hear your thoughts on what else the Network could do to help us all meet our collective vision: ending chronic homelessness in New York State through the creation of sufficient supportive housing.
The Network would like to thank our funders for the Getting to 35K Initiative, without their support this work would not be possible: Bank of America, Capital One, Deutsche Bank, New York Community Trust, the Oak Foundation, Robin Hood, JP Morgan Chase, and the van Ameringen Foundation.
Medicaid Redesign Team Supportive Housing Program
Some 70 representatives from a broad spectrum of health and housing organizations gathered at the offices of Robin Hood September 12th for a presentation on first year evaluations of the Medicaid Redesign Team Supportive Housing Program by representatives of the Department of Health (DOH) and SUNY Albany.
Welcomed by Robin Hood’s Managing Director for Health programs, Sarah Oltmans, the Network’s Laura Mascuch then framed the morning’s focus and introduced the presenters. She also summarized the Evaluation’s overall findings: that the programs reduced inpatient days by 40%; reduced emergency department visits by 26%; reduced rehab admissions by 44% and inpatient psych admissions by 27%; and reduced overall Medicaid spend by 15%.
DOH Deputy Medicaid Director Liz Misa kicked off the presentation by giving an overview of the MRT program, by far the largest investment in housing by any state health agency in the country. To date the program has invested $641 million over seven years; served 11,000 high need Medicaid recipients, developed 19 rental subsidy and supportive service programs statewide, added 1,482 units to the state’s supportive housing inventory and prioritized placements in single-site residences for the most vulnerable Medicaid recipients. Ms. Misa then showed a brief film created by BronxWorks in which tenants of their Health Home Supportive Housing Pilot Program described the impact of having stable housing. That program has produced a 46% reduction for the first seven participants for whom they have data, according to the Bronx Health and Housing Consortium.
The research team from SUNY Albany then took over, unpacking cost and utilization data from the tenants of 11 MRT housing-related programs. Dr. Lauren Polvere led off, describing the tenants in terms of their demographics, ethnicity and chronic conditions. Dr. Sandra McGinnis and Dr. Diane Dewar took attendees through the utilization and cost reports, paying special attention to two of the supportive housing programs that had the most robust outcomes in cost and utilization – scattered-site programs for high-need Medicaid recipients run by the Office of Alcohol and Substance Abuse Services (OASAS) and the Office of Mental Health.
Representatives from city and state government, MRT supportive housing, Managed Care Organizations, foundations and health care professionals then participated in an hour-long discussion of the results and proposed next steps. Presenters told attendees that additional studies are being conducted to inform effective targeting of participants for the MRT units as well as to better understand unmet need. Ms. Misa left open the possibility of expansion or creation of new programs depending on budget discussions.
We thank the presenters as well as our Robin Hood hosts for the opportunity to discuss this groundbreaking work.
2017 Network Gala
There are only a few weeks left before our 2017 Awards Gala on Wednesday, October 18th at Capitale. We have much to celebrate this year, so please plan to attend this wonderful event! We'll be honoring RuthAnne Visnauskas Commissioner & CEO of NYS Homes & Community Renewal as Government Partner of the Year, for her pivotal role in securing the state’s landmark Empire State Supportive Housing Initiative as well as her part in ensuring its swift implementation. We are also delighted to honor the decades-long contributions of Deutsche Bank as Private Sector Partner of the Year, including Deutsche’s creation of the innovative DB Share program and the bank’s longstanding support of both the Network and our nonprofit providers.
We also look forward to honoring our outstanding supportive housing tenants and residences of the year.
The Network would like to thank our Gala co-chairs, Hercules Argyriou of Mega Contracting Group and Ralph Fasano of Concern for Independent Living and the Gala Committee for spearheading our fundraising efforts.
We look forward to seeing you and celebrating your achievements next month.
Hope you can join us!
2017 Network Awards Gala
Please plan to attend the 2017 Network Gala on Wednesday, October 18th at Capitale. We have much to celebrate this year, so please save the date for this wonderful event!
We'll be honoring RuthAnne Visnauskas Commissioner & CEO of NYS Homes & Community Renewal as Government Partner of the Year, for her pivotal role in securing the state’s landmark Empire State Supportive Housing Initiative as well as her part in ensuring its swift implementation. We are also delighted to honor the decades-long contributions of Deutsche Bank as Private Sector Partner of the Year, including Deutsche’s creation of the innovative DB Share program and the bank’s longstanding support of both the Network and our nonprofit providers.
Our 2017 Gala Committee will be co-chaired by Hercules Argyriou of Mega Contracting and Ralph Fasano of Concern for Independent Living. This year’s Gala Committee includes Oliver Chase of Hirschen, Singer & Epstein, Mark Fuller of DePaul, Brenda Rosen of Breaking Ground, and William Traylor of Richman Housing Resources.
As usual, we will once again be honoring outstanding supportive housing tenants and residences and have just extended the nomination deadline for both to August 15th. Click here to nominate a residence, and here to nominate a tenant.
We look forward to seeing you and celebrating your achievements this October!
Hope you can join us!