Housing and Services

Spearheading the next generation of supportive housing

An HSI tenant stands before the Narragansett Hotel in Manhattan. Since its inception in 1987, HSI has added more than 2,000 apartments in over 17 projects throughout New York City, leveraging $200 million in public and private financing for itself and other nonprofits. Photo: Jessica Simkovic, courtesy of HSI.

One of supportive housing’s earliest pioneers, Housing and Services, Inc. (HSI) transformed the Cecil Hotel into a supportive housing residence in 1988. Now, decades later, HSI has become a leader in supportive housing preservation.

Starting in 2008, the organization launched the rehabilitation construction of 190 units of housing in Manhattan for two of the original supportive housing residences for formerly homeless individuals: the Narragansett and the Cecil.

This work has benefitted both the building’s tenants and the surrounding communities.

“Back in the ’80s and ’90s, our rehabilitations of the Kenmore, Narragansett and Cecil transformed neglected properties into community resources for people living on the fringes due to lack of decent, affordable housing,” says HSI Executive Director Jim Dill. “The City’s Department of Housing Preservation & Development re-affirmed its commitment to addressing ongoing capital needs by funding the recent renovation of Cecil and Narragansett.”

Completed in 2011, the rehabs included rewiring, new ceilings and roofs, upgraded fire safety and sprinkler systems, boilers, additional community room and program space, upgraded security systems and repair work to the buildings’ exteriors.

Narragansett, a beautiful, circa-1900 residential hotel, was developed by HSI in 1993 and was one of the first congregate, mixed-population developments dedicated to serving people living with HIV/AIDS.  Cecil, developed by HSI in 1987, is an historic landmark, located at 118th Street and Saint Nicholas Avenue, and home to Minton’s Playhouse, the legendary jazz club credited as the cradle of bebop jazz.

While the work of securing the financing and managing the construction was significant for the administrators, neighbors and the day-to-day operations at each program, social services within the walls remained innovative. Both Narragansett and Cecil are home to HSI’s new RISE program, Realizing Independence through Supportive Education.  This lifelong learning program includes a diverse curriculum -- courses in computer training, job readiness, art and drawing, yoga, cooking and other life skills -- aimed at encouraging tenants’ frequent use of services.

The program is a qualitative and quantitative success. 

“[RISE] keeps my mind going,” says Kenmore tenant Ms. J. “I used to stay up in that room or I would start thinking negative things. Now, first thing that comes to my mind when I get up is the computer room. It keeps me focused.”

RISE fosters a strong sense of community. HSI’s internal analysis has shown that RISE increases participation in formerly-isolated tenants, accelerates early participation from new tenants and increases the average number of services used per tenant.

The rehabilitation construction of Narragansett and Cecil and the integration of original concepts in social services combine to ensure the next generation of supportive housing.

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