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Who We Are

Who We Are

Mission and Model

In 1990, a small group of people came together to bring to scale a new model of housing for people who were experiencing or at risk of homelessness - permanent supportive housing. The result was Breaking Ground's Times Square residence.

Nearly 30 years later, the Times Square remains the largest supportive residence in the country, and thousands of people have been able to escape or avoid life on the streets by finding a home in one of its 652 apartments.

Today, Breaking Ground operates more than 3,500 units of housing across New York City, along with housing in upstate New York and Connecticut. Supportive housing - affordable housing paired with wraparound services designed to help people maintain their homes for the long-term - is widely recognized as a proven and cost-effective solution to chronic homelessness. 

But we didn't stop at providing housing. Breaking Ground's programs and services help people experiencing street homelessness - especially those who have been on the streets the longest - to come indoors. Through our Street to Home outreach program and transitional housing resources, we help people get, and stay, on the path to a permanent home.

The Right Resources

People experiencing homelessness on the streets face many challenges. We provide a variety of solutions and work with each person to determine what is best for them. Some individuals are able to move directly into permanent housing. Others utilize the intensive supports in transitional housing to overcome a life on the streets.

Meeting People Where They Are

Whether that means conducting a psychiatric evaluation on a street corner, sending an outreach worker who speaks a client's native language, or tracking down a birth certificate from another state, we find creative ways to help people get on the path to permanent housing.

Housing First

Housing is an important social determinant of health. Once a person is stably housed, they are vastly more likely to achieve sobriety and address other important needs for healthier living. We believe in providing housing without preconditions or barriers to entry. Everyone deserves a home.

Building Communities

We foster strong communities by creating beautiful spaces and offering life-enriching workshops and social events. People who have experienced chronic homelessness have often lost important social connections - we help people re-engage with society and maintain housing for the long term.

Compassion, Patience, Persistence

Above all, we do our work with compassion, patience, and persistence. This pays off in the form of both high long-term stability rates and a strong sense of trust in the communities in which we work. We even have an excellent reputation among those still living on the streets who know of others who are today in housing because of Breaking Ground.

History

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Breaking Ground began with a simple idea - that providing affordable housing paired with onsite supports could help people escape and avoid homelessness. Our first project was to renovate the historic Times Square Hotel into the largest supportive residence in the country, and it quickly became a model for sustainable supportive housing that has been replicated around the world.

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Times Square residence opens after extensive renovations – with 652 units it remains today the largest permanent supportive housing site in the nation

Breaking Ground begins property management services for other nonprofits by operating the Dorothy Ross Friedman Residence owned by The Actors Fund

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The Prince George residence opens in Manhattan after extensive renovations (and is subsequently listed on the National Register of Historic Places). With 416 units, it is Breaking Ground's second-largest supportive residence.

Breaking Ground pilots a new model of outreach to individuals experiencing homelessness on the streets of New York City. The model is so successful - reducing street homelessness in the Times Square neighborhood by 87% - that parts of it would later be adopted citywide.

The Christopher residence opens in Manhattan, our third renovation, this time of the historic McBurney YMCA building. The Christopher is home to our first Foyer program serving youth who have aged out of foster care or experienced homelessness (through a program operated by our partner, Good Shepherd Services).

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The Prince George Ballroom opens, following a painstaking, years-long restoration to its former glory. Proceeds from rentals of the Ballroom support Breaking Ground's programs serving homeless and vulnerable New Yorkers.

New York City adopts the core features of Breaking Ground's street outreach pilot - Street to Home - as a five-borough strategy to help chronically homeless individuals come indoors.

Breaking Ground opens the Veterans Transitional Residence on the Montrose, NY campus of the VA's Hudson Valley Healthcare system. Its 96 beds offer short term homes to veterans experiencing homelessness in Westchester County, offering supportive services designed to help them stabilize and find permanent housing in the community.

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The Andrews, our Safe Haven transitional housing residence on the Bowery, opens its doors to homeless New Yorkers.  Designed specifically to serve people who have been homeless on the streets for long periods and are unlikely to use the shelter system, The Andrews is the largest Safe Haven in the city.

Breaking Ground expands our permanent housing to Brooklyn with the opening of The Schermerhorn residence in collaboration with The Actors Fund. 

The Lee residence opens on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, and is home to our second Foyer program (operated in partnership with The Door).

Breaking Ground expands to the Bronx with the opening of our first supportive residence in the borough - The Brook.

The Domenech, Breaking Ground's first permanent supportive residence designed exclusively for seniors who have experience or are at risk of homelessness, opens in Brownsville, Brooklyn.

Breaking Ground begins operating permanent supportive family housing through managing The Lenniger Residence with our close partner, the Center for Urban Community Services (CUCS).

Breaking Ground houses its 5,000th tenant.

A busy year, 2012 saw the opening of three supportive housing residences: The Hegeman (Brownsville, Brooklyn) along with Eastman Commons (Rochester, NY) and Cedarwoods (Willimantic, CT).

Breaking Ground doubles its Street to Home outreach responsibilities in Midtown Manhattan.

Breaking Ground establishes a formal fee-for-service initiative to help other real estate entities lease up and provide regulatory compliance for the affordable portions of 80/20 residential projects.

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Breaking Ground celebrates our 25th anniversary (and we official change our name from Common Ground to Breaking Ground). By the end of 2015, we had helped more than 12,000 people overcome or avoid homelessness since 1990.

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Breaking Ground opens Boston Road, a new supportive residence in the Bronx, and it promptly receives several accolades for its interior and exterior design. Later that year, we begin managing The Sydelle, another permanent supportive residence in the Bronx, for our partners the Center for Urban Community Services.

Through New York City's HOME-STAT initiative, Breaking Ground triples outreach staff in Brooklyn and Queens, and doubles outreach staff in Manhattan to help more New Yorkers experiencing homelessness on the city's streets.

Today, we are doing more than ever, on multiple fronts, to address homelessness and the need for affordable housing in New York City. 

Our Staff

Brenda Rosen

President and CEO

President and CEO Brenda E. Rosen has devoted her career to the issue of homelessness, first as an attorney in New York City’s Department of Homeless Services. She joined Breaking Ground in 1999 as Director of the Prince George, where she helped to establish a model of sustainable affordable supportive housing for New York City. In 2006, she was promoted to Director of Housing Operations and Programs. In the role of President and CEO since 2011, Brenda leads Breaking Ground in its mission to address homelessness in New York.

Our Board of Directors

Michael J. Franco, Chair

​Executive Vice President - Chief Investment Officer
Vornado Realty Trust

Michael Franco was appointed Chair of Breaking Ground in June 2015 and has served on the agency’s Board of Directors since 2012. In his first three years on our leadership committee, Michael helped foster an active supportive housing agenda to create more than 800 new units of permanent supportive housing for the most vulnerable New Yorkers. He comes to this role with exceptional qualifications and capabilities. Michael is Executive Vice President - Chief Investment Officer of Vornado Realty Trust, overseeing acquisitions, dispositions, and capital markets activity. He joined Vornado in 2010 from Morgan Stanley, where he was a Managing Director and served as Head of the Morgan Stanley Real Estate Funds in the U.S., its flagship real estate investment opportunity fund. Mr. Franco is also a Trustee of the Urban Land Institute.

Support Service Partners

We are proud to partner with social service organizations that are top performers in their fields. The following organizations provide individually tailored case management services and links to health, mental health, education, employment, and recreational resources:

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Corporate Funders

The following corporate and institutional donors supported our mission in 2017 with financial gifts and in-kind donations greater than $5,000.

Annual Reports & Financials