There’s a lot to be positive about the new home for 173 homeless vets with “mild” PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) at 330 West 95th Street. The building was formerly part of a 400-person homeless shelter. N90s, community and political leaders were able to close the half of the shelter (200) based in this building.
Two weeks ago, the Veterans facility operated jointly by Harlem United Community AIDS Center Inc. and Bailey House hosted an onsite tour, and the first quarterly meeting of the facility’s Community Advisory Board (CAB). Among those attending were Council Member Helen Rosenthal, Harlem United CEO Jacquelyn Kilmer, Madge Rosenberg from Community Board 7, community members Renee Warshofsky-Altholz, and Neighborhood In The Nineties president Aaron Biller.
The building has undergone some basic improvements. Each vet will be living in their own, small former SRO room with shared bathrooms. Shared kitchen areas are being updated for residents’ food preparation. Each room will have a mini refrigerator. The basement’s spacious recreation room features a flat screen television and a pool table. Unlike the rest of the property, the rec room is air conditioned.
While the vets’ rooms have been nicely painted, and there are modest, new furnishings, there are concerns about the sub-micro size of the vets’ quarters. Some neighbors have questioned how long the new residents can be expected to live here. Or why these veterans, who have made a substantial sacrifice in the service of their country can’t be given real apartments, which may be found in many of the City-subsidized supportive housing facilities.
Harlem United and Bailey House announced that not only will the vets’ rooms be retrofitted with a/c, the 47 legacy SRO tenants will be upgraded to a/c – a kind, voluntary gesture by the two providers. Standing in the way of this a/c promise is Con Edison, which must add 1200 amps, quadrupling the building’s present electric capacity.
VETERANS’ HEALTH CARE
While the two social services providers will have case management personnel onsite, almost all of the health care and mental health services (this population has PTSD and did fall into the homeless net – lingering health issues may be expected), will require taking buses to other neighborhoods, which may discourage vets from using them. The challenge in caring for veterans considered medically and emotionally at risk is figuring out how to coordinate routine and emergent care. An agenda item at the CAB meeting was whether it should form subcommittees. N90s would welcome a subcommittee on health.
The neighborhood is also awaiting a response from the City’s Human Resources Administration to a false and misleading “Fair Share” letter from HRA Commissioner Steven Banks, in connection with 330 West 95th Street.
The Banks’ document falsely claims there are no other facilities in the neighborhood, when there are many, including a 200-person shelter in the adjoining building, and the St. Louis-Rustin facility facing the back of the building. N90s issued a rebuttal, and demanded a retraction. The UWS community does not wish the City to base future siting decisions on these lies.Fact s
Fact Summary on Veterans Facility:
Operators: Bailey House and the Harlem United Community AIDS Center, Inc. (“Harlem United”)
Responsibilities: Bailey House will provide services for 80 veterans and Harlem United will provide services for 93 veterans
Property Manager: Harlem United. The building has 220 units, with 47 SRO tenants
Staffing: 30 staff positions (15 are building maintenance), including:
7 full time case managers
2 program directors
1 associate VP for housing operations
1 managing director
1 housing specialist
1 vocational education counselor
1 benefits specialist
1 recreation counselor
0 staff living onsite
They will provide onsite intensive case management services, including referrals for health care, mental health, and other supportive services as well as care coordination with other providers.
The program contract calls for the providers to secure and maintain entitlements, offering veterans “meaningful employment and training opportunities.” Harlem United and Baily House will provide individual and group counseling services and workshops “geared toward strengthening adult daily living skills and in obtaining independent housing.”
The reference to independent housing revisits the question about the true nature of this facility: is it intended to be permanent housing, or is this temporary, transitional housing? The ten-year lease between the City and the property owner, although renewable, means the property can be used for other purposes in the future.
The community must now do its part to ensure that it is a success for the veterans and the neighborhood.