Community League of the Heights

Committed to helping the young adults of Manhattan

Community League of the Heights (CLOTH) has a single guiding principle: to assist New Yorkers in need. Since its inception in 1952, the organization has helped hundreds of individuals and families receive affordable and supportive housing in the Manhattan neighborhood of Washington Heights. In 2009 and 2010, CLOTH continued its mission with its first-ever supportive housing venture — the Dorothy McGowan Project.

The project offers 52 units of supportive housing spread across three buildings. Roughly half of its tenants are young adults, many of whom recently aged out of foster care. This population has particular significance for CLOTH’s executive director, Yvonne Stennett. Stennet carries with her the photograph of a young woman from the neighborhood who aged out of foster care with no skills, no home, and no one to turn to for guidance.

“She was ill-prepared for life,” Stennett says simply. The young woman wound up pregnant, moving from one bad situation to an even worse one until she took her own life.  "Stories like that just make you know that you have a responsibility to do something.”

The Dorothy McGowan Project is all about preventing such tragedies. Working with Community Access, CLOTH offers housing and a range of services for its tenants, including job training, job placement and technology education. Tenants learn the basic skills needed to transition from foster care and into adulthood.

CLOTH has always placed a special emphasis on young people. In its earliest days, the organization rallied to provide children with the recreational and educational resources they so lacked. Lead by Lucille Bulger, its executive director for over 40 years, CLOTH offered after-school and summer programs to keep young people learning, safe and healthy. The Dorothy McGowan Project is only the latest manifestation of CLOTH’s mission to care for those who have less.

“We have a responsibility as a society to figure out how to help young people,” Stennett says. “Both the foster care system and how it operates reflects how we conduct ourselves as a society.”

The Dorothy McGowan Project was named after CLOTH’s former director of special services, a woman who, in addition to her work for CLOTH, served as a foster parent to over 20 children.

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