Offering the Homeless Help and Hope, On Their Own Terms

(CHELSEANOW.COM)  Dusica Sue Malesevic, May 8, 2017 — Robert’s brown eyes smiled when he talked about his home of around two and a half years. After living on the street, the apartment “saved my life,” Robert said. “I was so happy I didn’t know what to do.”

The only downside: He couldn’t bring his cats.

An outreach team from Breaking Ground — a nonprofit that works to bring the homeless inside and get them housed — talked with Robert when he was living on the street in Bedford-Stuyvesant, got him into transitional housing at a YMCA, and eventually placed him at a new development in the Bronx, Robert, 53, told Chelsea Now.

On Thurs., April 27, the sun decided to make an appearance after a day of rain, and Robert was near the entrance of the Chelsea Waterside Park at W. 23rd St. and 11th Ave. He said he had walked from the Bronx — in the rain — to Chelsea with his two carts that brimmed with bottles and cans.

Breaking Ground Assistant VP for Housing Operations and Programs, Doug Becht, along with Breaking Ground Operations Manager Bryan Tarabochia, had approached Robert as part of their outreach that afternoon, and this newspaper tagged along as they worked. Becht, who is also a licensed master social worker, gave Robert his cellphone number as they talked.

Robert spoke about being a loner before, and living at the building has given him a sense of community as he is “trying not to be alone.” He declined to say how long he had been homeless, but Becht said that it was at least a year.

Becht pointed out that there might be the assumption that Robert is homeless, but said, “The perception doesn’t meet the reality as workers.” As part of doing outreach, it is important not to make assumptions, and he said it was good that they checked in with Robert. “There’s a value in coming out here,” he said.

Department of Homeless Services (DHS) Outreach Program Administrator Heather Frey — of the department’s Street Homelessness Solutions division — also came out that Thursday afternoon. “There is such a misconception that everyone you see outside is homeless,” said Frey, who noted people are creatures of habit, and for someone who had been on the streets for years, they understand the rhythms of it. “It’s not a crime to be homeless,” she said. “And perception is not always reality.”

Tarabochia said, “Housing is a big adjustment for people who have been on the street.” Becht concurred, saying it takes a lot of courage to get services and to be housed. But, “When people go into supportive housing, they stay,” Becht said, noting that there is a retention rate of 95 percent for those in permanent housing.

Source: Offering the Homeless Help and Hope, On Their Own Terms |