Thursday, November 19, 2015

Summary of Nov. 18, 2015 General Tenants Meeting

Thanks to Joan Browne, Rich Jordan, Steve Koulish and Na’ava Ades for the coffee, tea, and goodies that we enjoy at every meeting.

HOMELESSNES:  We welcomed Marc Greenberg, Executive Director of theInterfaith Assembly on Homelessness and Housing, and Orisha Jordan (born and raised in this building), Assistant Facility Director for the Doe Fund, to talk about the causes of homelessness and what can be done to help.    In carts provided by Joan Browne and Brenda Marshall, we collected contributions of canned food that took Paul Fisher two trips to bring to St. Michael’s Church for distribution to those who need food this season.   THANK YOU!!

Marc Greenberg spoke about history, policy, and what his group does.  He noted that we haven't always had rampant homelessness.  While there have always been some individuals who struggled to survive, widespread homelessness really began in 1980. The main causes:
  •       Between 1940 and 1980, 70% of affordable housing funds came from the federal government.  But in 1980,  President Reagan said housing wasn't a national problem and cut national housing funds by 2/3.  States have never been able to make up the difference.
  •         Mentally ill people were released from inhumane institutions to the community, but there were no (or insufficient) community groups to help them.
  •          Owners prefer to convert poor housing into luxury housing.  So about 300,000 Single Room Occupancy units (SROs) in NYC were lost.  The NYS Court of Appeals (the State's highest court) ruled that barring the conversion of SROs to luxury units would be a deprivation of property.
  •      Rent laws have been weakened (with vacancy decontrol and the 20% vacancy bonus) yielding a net loss of some 300,000 formerly-affordable units, and many more are being lost now.

Although the number of homeless sheltered in NYC grew to 60,000, it has declined a bit to 57,000.  But 120,000 people ASKED for shelter.  The number of single men has grown, and the number of children is appalling.  (Remember Dasani?)

There has been some progress:
  •       Mayor de Blasio has reinstated the Advantage Program with new vouchers for 15,000 people (although not all those vouchers are being used). 
  •         On Nov. 18, 2015, the mayor promised the City will produce 15,000 units of SUPPORTIVE housing for the most vulnerable (mentally ill, emotionally and physically disabled).  7,500 of those 15,000 will be on top of the 200,000 units already promised by the mayor.  There have been several efforts to get a City-State agreement.  So far, the first 3 of those efforts have provided a total of 15,000 units.  The mayor and a coalition of groups (Campaign 4NY/NY) are looking for a 4th City-State agreement that will result in a total of 35,000 supportive units (15,000 from the City and another 20,000 from the state).  The mayor is willing to go it alone (there's a City Council hearing today on this), but we need the Governor to respond with more than the 5,000 he's offered.   About 132 of the 150 Assembly Members have signed on, as have some state Senators (even GOP Sen. Martin Golden in Bklyn).)  Supportive housing saves the government huge amounts of money that would otherwise be spent on courts, jails, hospitals, and shelters. 

The Interfaith Assembly on Homelessness and Housing's programs are a house of 4 walls:
1. Producing affordable housing
2. Preventing homelessness
3. Providing services
4. Promoting income for the homeless.

Included in the services to directly help the homeless:
  •      Assigning a mentor to each\
  •      Dinner twice a week with consistent group of other homeless people who begin to see each other as family over the 3-month period together
  •         Aid in providing IDs, government assistance, job training, practice and clothing for interviews, budgeting, relationships, etc.
IAHH's current campaigns are:
  •      Campaign 4NY/NY, 35,000 Supportive Housing Units for the Most Vulnerable New Yorkers
  •         Right to counsel:  Half of the 30,000 people evicted last yearcould have stayed in their homes if they’d had lawyers.  The mayor has tripled the amount for counsel in upzoned areas, but not elsewhere (yet).  Tenants in this building who are having trouble with Stellar should contact us (or our website, to find lawyers (free if the tenant qualifies by income.)
  •         Inclusionary zoning: While developers must include some affordable units, the question is "affordable to whom?" Low earners can’t afford most of it. Rezoning and must be a community conversation, not a declaration followed by community consent.  People in every neighborhood must be a part of the conversation.
Marc made available small packets that we can individually hand to homeless people we meet with resources for them. He noted that being homeless is the lowest point in any person's life, and they need acknowledgement as human beings.  So just looking at a homeless person in the eye and greeting them is important.   If you can, engage the person and earn some trust.  Then you can ask if they would like to be connected to a group that could help.  THEN call 311 and an outreach person will try to find the person. 

If you’d like to be on the email list for the Interfaith Assembly on Homelessness & Housing, please contact Marc at

Against the background that Marc provided, Orisha Jordan spoke about the Doe Fund, where she has worked for 19 years in various capacities.  She is now Assistant Facility Director in Brooklyn.  She described in detail how the Doe Fund helps homeless men get back on their feet – and stay there.

Named in honor of a homeless woman known only as “Mama Doe,” the Doe Fund takes men (women and children had other programs, and childcare was a constant problem) referred by City agencies, jails, and parole boards.  It does not take people who walk in off the street.

The men are given work assignments in the shelter for the first month, along with medical and other help.  About 125 out of 400 beds are reserved for the 18-26 age range, and they have a special youth program. 

Over the course of the next year or so, they are given a stipend (with some withheld as savings) for working outside - e.g. sweeping streets as we've seen in our neighborhood - and training in job hunting, along with education for GED or food handling or other licensed and non-licensed work.  They are assisted with interviews and often find work with employers that have agreed to hire, such as Whole Foods.  After they find regular jobs, they leave the shelter.  Those who remain employed and off previous addictions and in their homes get a stipend for an additional year.  There is about a 68% success rate during that additional year, and over 50% success rate after that.


Money:  Special thanks to Rosa Delgado, Debbie Gonzalez and Ron Alston for the Halloween table that raised about $2000 and distributed a fair amount of candy. 

Please pay your annual tenant association membership dues:  $10/year per apartment.  It ain’t much and it keeps us going as we print flyers, participate in city-wide tenant groups (membership costs money), and cover costs for coffee, cake, and other goodies that grace our meetings – open to all tenants.  

Contribute to the legal fund as well:  we’re never sure what’s coming down the road that we’re going to have to deal with.  In the past, we’ve kept the garage affordable for rent-regulated tenants, kept the Community Room available, ensured seating in the lobby and rails on the front steps, and kept rents affordable (by defeating “unique or peculiar circumstances increases” not only for our rent regulated tenants but also for those in 65 other buildings). 

What we’re up to: Stellar has made several promises – some kept (more heat, new chairs and tables for the Community Room, a new machine to clean hallways rugs), and some not yet:  new machines for the laundry rooms, a full elevator inspection and repair, repaired concrete on the side ramps, cleared junk from the backyard.  We’ll be on top of the “not yets.” 

Security: To ensure that you get called before anyone comes up to your apartment, please give all delivery people your intercom number, available on the board in the entry foyer.  When they call from the foyer, just hit “9” on your phone to let them in.


The Executive Committee : 
Sue Susman,  sue AT  janak  dot   org; 
Na’ava Ades,  naavaa  a  t  gmail DOTcom, 
Joan Browne, joanbrownefaison   [@sign] gmail [period] com; 
Denis Hayward, haydenis [@] nyc [ DOT[ rr   [Dot[ com; 
Rich Jordan, richj214  [A  T] aol (d o t) com; 
Steve Koulish, eskoolman (@  ) yahoo  [  d o t ] com; 
Ray von Dohren, vondohren (A T )  comcast d o t  net.