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Supportive Housing & Faith-Based Organizations Forum: Shared Mission to Care for New Yorkers in Need

05.22.2017

A forum for leaders of faith institutions who may want to either develop or champion supportive housing.


Sharing a blessing at the forum for leaders of faith institutions. Photo credit: Chris Lowry.

On May 12, the Network, in partnership with the Mayor’s Center for Faith and Community Partnerships, and the NYC Department of Housing Preservation and Development, hosted a forum for leaders of faith institutions who may want to either develop or champion supportive housing. Generously donated by Breaking Ground, the ballroom of their beautifully-restored supportive housing residence, The Prince George, served as a perfect setting for the event.

Jonathan Soto, Executive Director of the Mayor’s Center for Faith and Community Partnerships, welcomed the crowd of 100. Network Executive Director Laura Mascuch, introduced attendees to supportive housing and its history, noting its strong roots in the faith community.

Jessica Katz, Associate Commissioner of NYC Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD), encouraged attendees to lead their communities in advocating for supportive housing when nonprofits come to communities seeking support for new residences,

Breaking Ground’s David Beer talked about two projects completed in partnership with faith-based organizations. In one, Breaking Ground worked with a church to both buy property and air rights, allowing Breaking Ground to develop 115 units of supportive housing while allowing the church to pay off its mortgage and renovate its worship space. In another example, Breaking Ground worked with South Bronx Churches who helped champion plans for the Brook residence in the South Bronx. 

Yvonne Stennett, of Community League of the Heights, eloquently described how important it is to get to know people who live and work in supportive housing, saying, “Many of the naysayers just don't understand and are afraid."  She also observed that “creating housing with supportive services for our most vulnerable people is God's work."

Reverend Laura Jervis, who founded West Side Federation for Senior and Supportive Housing, made comments that resonated deeply with the audience: “The faith community has advocated for people who are homeless since time immemorial. We have more in common than we have differences.”

She continued, “If you are considering sharing your property and resources – as people of faith, we know we are just stewards, of the property we occupy, I’d like to leave you with four ideas:

  • It takes some spiritual strength to develop housing. I would suggest that you draw deeply upon the resources in your faith tradition. That you really dig into your sacred texts. That you pray, you meditate, you ask your worship leaders to preach on what it means to be a member of your faith and to care for others. What are you being called to do in the face of this crisis.
  • The second thing is to get to know a supportive housing building in your neighborhood. Get to know the staff, but also the folks who live there. There are many ways to do that. They will remind you of people in your family, people you already know. You can drop off magazines, stop in, volunteer to help with the garden, lead a group.
  • The third thing is to step up when a nonprofit group is siting a building in your neighborhood. Understand what the development is going to be, what it’s going to look like, and support it even when it goes against the opinions of your neighbors. Dig deep to do the right thing and welcome these new neighbors into your community.
  • And the fourth thing is to follow up about today’s event. The nonprofit partner organizations would love to come and talk with you about what it means to share your property with supportive housing. You’ll find yourself being a prophetic voice and a moral voice.”

Our deep thanks to our speakers, to the leaders of faith institutions who joined us for the event, to our partners at the Mayor’s Center for Faith and Community Partnerships, and the NYC Department of Housing Preservation and Development. Our hope that this is the first step in a fruitful journey together!

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