President and CEO
This opinion article originally appeared on Apolitical.co and is co-authored by our CEO, Brenda Rosen, and Jamie Rubin, CEO of Meridiam NA, an infrastructure development firm, and former Commissioner of the New York Division of Homes and Community Renewal.
Today in New York City, about 3,500 people are sleeping on the streets, according to the latest HOPE Count, the federally mandated Homeless Outreach Population Estimate annual survey.
Living on the streets of New York is gruelling, with hot summers, freezing cold winters, and the physical, emotional, and financial cost of just trying to get by in one of the largest and most expensive cities in the world.
One might assume that the offer of a home and services to get off the streets would be accepted immediately, but the reality is that the majority of those experiencing long-term homelessness are afraid to come inside.
Focused on survival and how they are going to make it through the next week, day, or hour, many vulnerable people on the street find it impossible to think about their long-term health and stability.
For some, they know that the promise of housing comes with requirements — such as going on medication or getting sober — and while someone is still on the streets, these barriers can be overwhelming, causing many to give up and resist offers of help.
Over the last two decades however, a revolutionary approach called Housing First coupled with the supportive housing movement has changed that.
Meeting the homeless where they are
Housing First is the philosophy that the first and primary need for a person experiencing long-term homelessness is to obtain a stable home, and that other issues can best be addressed once inside.
Asking someone to go through treatment in order to become stable and then get access to housing is a recipe for failure. With the anchor of supportive housing that has wrap-around on-site services, each person is empowered and chooses to address the challenges that were keeping them homeless in the first place.
The Housing First approach is tremendously successful and effective.
We have seen it over and over again across thousands of units of supportive housing in New York City: sobriety, improved health, and lives of dignity and security are within the reach for even those homeless individuals who have struggled for decades with debilitating illness and substance use disorders.
It has changed the lives of so many, including Daniel Broome, a resident at a Breaking Ground home in the Bronx, one of New York City’s five boroughs. Daniel Broome struggled with addiction for decades, and after years of chronic homelessness he worked with an outreach team to move directly from the streets to his Breaking Ground apartment.