Categories: Member News
Coe led the field of mental health housing while serving as CEO for 40 years.
Supportive housing pioneer and Community Access CEO Steve Coe retired after four decades of leadership. He is succeeded by Cal Hedigan, who joined in 1999 and was previously Deputy CEO.
Steve’s vision for the organization earned him a reputation as an early innovator for mental health housing. He revolutionized public perceptions of people with mental health concerns with an approach that celebrated residents’ individual dignity and ability to determine their own life paths.
Steve was a student at The New School, writing a paper about Community Access before he joined as an intern in 1979. It was a critical moment in New York’s history with the closure of state psychiatric hospitals leading to an unprecedented homelessness crisis. Steve confronted the crisis by developing housing that integrated families, children, and people living with mental health concerns under one roof. This effective model of diverse community is now standard practice across the state. Community Access’ Avenue D and Gouverneur Court were also among the first residences for individuals with mental health concerns to incorporate Low Income Housing Tax Credits.
Starting in 1990, Steve was integrally involved in all four New York/New York campaigns, which resulted in the collective creation of 14,000 supportive housing units and the promise of 35,000 more. In 1994, Steve hired Howard Geld – affectionately known as “Howie the Harp” and the namesake of the nationally recognized Howie the Harp Advocacy Center. Now, the practice of hiring peers with lived experience is proven and promoted across the field as a particularly effective way to connect with residents.
Under Steve, Community Access also created NYC’s Crisis Respite Center, a peer-run alternative to hospitalization for people in distress. It also advocated for improved police responses to persons experiencing mental health crises; as a result, the NYPD implemented Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) program, which has trained over 10,000 NYPD officers.
View Community Access' video about Steve Coe below: