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HUD renews local homeless assistance program grants

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has awarded $2.5 billion to renew support to thousands of homeless assistance programs nationwide, including more than $13 million in the Rochester area.

HUD’s Continuum of Care grants will provide critically needed support to nearly 6,600 programs on the front lines of serving individuals and families experiencing homelessness. In New York state, local homeless assistance programs were awarded nearly $246 million.

“HUD wants to ensure that thousands of local homeless assistance providers continue to receive federal funds needed to provide stable housing for people experiencing homelessness during these trying times,” said Acting HUD Secretary Matt Ammon. “Renewing these grants not only offers relief to our local partners but it allows Continuums of Care to continue their work to end homelessness and help keep our most vulnerable neighbors off the streets.”

In Monroe County, dozens of agencies’ grants were renewed, including Person Centered Housing Options Inc., Rochester Housing Authority, the Center for Youth Services Inc., Providence Housing Development Corp., Volunteers of America of Western New York Inc. and others. A number of agencies in other counties in the Finger Lakes Region also received funding.

“Today, HUD is renewing its support to critical homeless assistance programs throughout New York state by providing nearly $246 million for 521 projects assisting individuals experiencing homelessness as well as those at imminent risk of becoming homeless. This support is especially crucial during the COVID-19 pandemic when so many of our neighbors in New York state are in need of emergency shelter and permanent housing,” said HUD Deputy Regional Administrator for New York and New Jersey Stephen Murphy. “Today’s renewal funding for organizations such as Bailey House in New York City, Catholic Charities in Syracuse, Unity House in Troy, Person Centered Housing Options in Rochester and the Matt Urban Center in Buffalo provides an invaluable lifeline to the most vulnerable members of our communities.”

HUD’s Continuum of Care grant funding supports an array of interventions designed to assist individuals and families experiencing homelessness, particularly those living in places not meant for habitation, located in sheltering programs or at imminent risk of experiencing homelessness. HUD services more than 1 million people through emergency shelter, transitional and permanent housing programs each year.

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YWCA to take over Sojourner Home programs

The YWCA of Rochester & Monroe County is in the final stages of absorbing many of the services of Sojourner Home, a nonprofit that has provided homeless women and children with housing, self-sufficiency skills, and education programs for more than four decades.

Angela Panzarella
Angela Panzarella

“This is a terrific opportunity to enhance and expand the services that we can offer to our community’s most vulnerable women and children,” said YWCA CEO Angela Panzarella. “We believe that our mission aligns very well with that of Sojourner and we’re honored that Sojourner is working to partner with us to carry on its legacy.”

Under the proposal, YWCA will assume certain of Sojourners’ permanent housing programs and enhance YWCA’s current programs to carry on Sojourner’s legacy of providing intensive training and support as an essential element in helping women and families recover from trauma and rebuild their lives. YWCA plans to dedicate its emergency housing program for women and families as the “Sojourner House of Strength at the YWCA.”

The partnership with the YWCA is a key element of a comprehensive plan by Sojourner Home to realign its resources and services to better serve the Rochester community.

Since 2009, Sojourner Home has been affiliated with PathStone Corp., a Rochester-based not-for-profit community development and human service organization. Four years ago, PathStone brought Sojourner’s programs and services together with those of Wilson Commencement Park, which shared Sojourner’s mission of serving women and families in the Rochester community, under a new organization, Sojourner Home. Now that Sojourner Home is again an independent organization, Wilson Commencement Park will continue to operate as an affiliate of PathStone.

Shelby Stenson
Shelby Stenson

“From Sojourner’s perspective this is something that we started looking at last summer in our affiliation with PathStone and our future,” said Sojourner board Chair Shelby Stenson. “The mission of both organizations are so well aligned it makes sense, and we’re just fortunate that the YWCA can help us continue on with the Sojourner legacy.”

Under the plan, Sojourner Home will close its Millbank Street location and is working with the city to determine the best use for that property. Proceeds from the sale of the property will be added to Sojourner’s endowment fund to enhance the programming offered at the YWCA. Sojourner Home had 10 to 15 staffers that either moved to other positions within PathStone or at other organizations, Stenson said.

“We and the board of Sojourner Home looked at many options to make sure the services offered by Sojourner could be maintained and expanded,” said PathStone CEO Alex Castro. “The YWCA was an obvious partner who could support these critical needs of women and children, and who could evolve the services offered as well.”

With Sojourner under its umbrella, the YWCA will be able to help an additional 100 families, Panzarella said.

“What we’re exploring with them when we can finalize all the pieces will be an opportunity for us to expand our portfolio of services, and with some of the resources that Sojourner can provide from their endowments and the like, we also have the opportunity to enhance some of the skills training, some of the children’s programs, some other services we hope to be able to expand and enhance for our clients,” she said. “Throughout the community, we serve at any one time probably a few hundred families in the Rochester community, and we’re very excited about the opportunity to expand our portfolio and to bring some additional services to our clients.”

During Sojourner’s 40 years in Rochester, more than 2,700 families have been served, making it one of the most impactful and longest-running poverty interruption and women/children support programs in Rochester. Its mission and purpose are to give women and families the tools they need to recover from trauma and build stable, self-sufficient lives.

The YWCA helps women and girls who are faced with personal crises, including experiencing homelessness and young adult pregnancy. It also works to dispel stereotypes and promote racial equity. The organization has served the needs of the Rochester community for nearly 140 years.

“This is a strong example of local nonprofits playing to their strengths and ensuring the mission is at the center of decision-making,” says Jaime Saunders, president and CEO of United Way of Greater Rochester Inc., an organization that supports a broad network of human service organizations. “This partnership builds on the foundation of Sojourner and the services at the YWCA to serve women and children. United Way’s Synergy Fund is a key resource to support such thoughtful and strategic partnerships to improve efficiency and better serve their clients and our community.”

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Rochester area to receive nearly $4 million to battle homelessness

The Rochester area will receive nearly $4 million in U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development funding to help its homeless population during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Emergency Solutions Grants are part of a $4 billion funding allocation nationwide targeted toward communities with high homeless populations or individuals at risk of becoming homeless. Some $1 billion was made available shortly after the signing of the CARES Act, while the remainder was announced this week.

“Homelessness was a major issue in some cities across our nation long before this pandemic occurred, and unfortunately the dire living conditions of our most vulnerable Americans left many without a home to isolate in or proper medical and health care resources to defend themselves against this invisible enemy,” said HUD Secretary Ben Carson in a statement. “As we continued to monitor the effects of COVID-19 in at-risk communities, the department and our partners worked quickly to respond to outbreaks and minimize the spread from hotspots to other locations. This increased funding to help provide for our homeless will make a difference now as we combat the coronavirus and inform long-term, innovative solutions for addressing homelessness in the future.”

To date, HUD has distributed $3.96 billion in grants, with the remaining $40 million being used to provide technical assistance to build capacity of grantees in those communities that have received ESG funding, officials said.

Rochester will receive $2.86 million in this round of funding, while the county of Monroe will receive roughly $935,000. The state of New York has been allocated roughly $400 million in ESG funds in this round. The state has received nearly $1 billion total in ESG funding, officials noted.

ESG funds can be used to make more emergency shelters available; operate emergency shelters by providing food, rent, security, maintenance, utilities, furnishings and more; provide hotel or motel vouchers for homeless families and individuals; provide essential services to homeless individuals including childcare, education services, employment assistance, substance abuse treatment and more; and prevent individuals from becoming homeless and rapidly rehouse homeless people.

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Organizations collaborate to fill homelessness funding gap

Three area organizations will collaborate this winter to solve a $370,700 shelter funding crisis caused by the redirection of federal and state funding.

ESL Federal Credit Union, the United Way of Greater Rochester Inc. and Rochester Area Community Foundation said Thursday they will support short-term funding gaps anticipated by the Salvation Army of Greater Rochester, Spiritus Christi Mental Health Center, Volunteers of America of Western New York Inc. and the YWCA of Rochester & Monroe County.

“This is collaboration in its truest form,” United Way President and CEO Jaime Saunders said in a statement Thursday. “We are proud to work with ESL and the Community Foundation to invest in supporting those who are struggling this winter season. The work being done by the four shelter providers to address a more sustainable solution for the future speaks to the strength of the network and the drive to overcome challenges in our community.”

The four providers are working with Partners Ending Homelessness to develop a comprehensive evaluation and strategy for continued services, including advocacy and community investments necessary to replace the lost funding.

“This investment will assure those who need housing have access to it,” said Ajamu Kitwana, vice president/director of community impact at ESL. “We at ESL are inspired by the work being done by the four shelters, United Way of Greater Rochester and the Community Foundation to rally support for our community’s most vulnerable citizens. The collaboration taking place—from funding critical needs to working on long-term planning—is the type of action our community needs in order to address our most critical issues.”

Together the four agencies serve some 2,000 homeless adults and children. The Solutions to End Homelessness Program (STEHP), which uses federal funds allocated from the Department of Housing and Urban Development, combined with the New York State homeless assistance funds to help people obtain permanent housing and improve the quality of emergency shelters and drop-in centers, chopped funding for the four local agencies by $550,000 in October.

The Community Foundation reached out to donors who previously supported the shelter providers and asked for their help.

“When there is a crisis in our community, our donors respond quickly and generously—and they did that once again,” said Jennifer Leonard, the foundation’s president and CEO. “We are so fortunate that the needs of those who have little is of great concern to many.

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Annual homelessness event scheduled for Tuesday

Blue Cross Arena on Tuesday, Oct. 15 will again host the 10th annual Project Homeless Connect Rochester, an event that helps bring services to Rochester’s homeless population.

PHCR will serve as a one-stop-shop event, featuring services that include legal assistance, health and medical screenings, mental health assessments, veterans services, housing services, haircuts, services for youth, substance use recovery services and education and employment information.

The event will serve both homeless individuals and those at risk of becoming homeless.

“A major goal for this event is to reduce barriers for individuals to access necessary services,” said Kathryn Bryan, PathStone Corp.’s senior vice president of property management. “Having numerous agencies under one roof, participants are able to complete many steps toward self-sufficiency, which would otherwise take weeks to accomplish.”

The event is a necessity in the Rochester area, Bryan added.

“At the end of the day, everyone leaves the event feeling a sense of accomplishment,” she said. “This goes for participants, service providers, volunteers and organizers.”

More than 2,500 volunteers have donated their time and effort to PHCR since its inaugural event in 2009. Last year’s event helped more than 1,050 individuals seek services, officials said. At each event, the goal is to provide as many services as possible in one location, so that people can get done in one day what it otherwise might take many to accomplish.

YourCare Health Plan, a Monroe Plan Co., is the all-day event’s premium sponsor.

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Four local nonprofits lose homelessness funding

As winter approaches, four local homeless service providers have lost more than half a million dollars in federal and state funding.

Together, the Salvation Army of Greater Rochester, YWCA of Rochester & Monroe County, Volunteers of America – Rochester and Spiritus Christi directly serve 2,000 homeless adults and children.

“Homelessness continues to be a critical issue in our community,” said  Angela Panzarella, CEO of the YWCA. Monroe County reported that just last year, it made more than 11,000 placements of families and individuals to local homeless shelters, a figure that was up 19 percent from the prior year. The YWCA provides shelter to more than 600 people each yearmore than half of them children. “Without immediate financial support to offset the loss of STEHP funding, the YWCA and other providers may well need to reduce our emergency housing services to the most vulnerable members of our community,” Panzarella said.

STEHP funding refers to the Solutions to End Homelessness Program, which uses federal funds allocated from the Department of Housing and Urban Development combined with the New York State homeless assistance funds to help people obtain permanent housing and improve the quality of emergency shelters and drop-in centers.

The four Monroe County agencies will lose $550,000 in STEHP funding, officials said.

“Emergency shelter for local clients will be heavily impacted as more than half of the funding that the Salvation Army has received from the STEHP program in previous years has gone towards supporting this vulnerable population here across Monroe County,” said Major Douglas Hart, director of Monroe County Operations for the Salvation Army.” This funding loss will be especially impactful when temperatures drop to deadly depths during the winter months.”

The lack of money will force Spiritus Christi Prison Outreach to lay off staff at its programs for homeless ex-offenders.

“On any given night, there are more than 800 peopleincluding childrenwho are homeless in Monroe County,” said Lynn Sullivan, president and CEO of Volunteers of America of Upstate New York. “Without adequate funding, we cannot provide… support services, let alone the basic necessities of food and shelter, which will lead to people experiencing longer and multiple episodes of homelessness as well as lack of shelter for those in need.”

Homelessness tackled by hundreds at symposium

More than 6,100 people experience homelessness annually in Monroe County, and on any given day, 850 people are without a home to call their own.

Speakers and organizers of the 15th Western New York Homeless Symposium (Photo by Velvet Spicer)
Speakers and organizers of the 15th Western New York Homeless Symposium (Photo by Velvet Spicer)

“While these numbers are staggering, they do not include all the people who are experiencing housing instability: people who are doubled up, people who are paying well in excess of 30 percent of their income for housing,” said Connie Sanderson, executive director of Partners Ending Homelessness, formerly Continuum of Care. “We need to work as partners to reduce barriers to accessing housing. We need to support efforts to create additional affordable housing resources in the community, and support other community initiatives that are addressing poverty, living wages, timely access to healthcare and treatment, just to name a few.”

Sanderson’s message was delivered Tuesday to hundreds of business and organizational leaders, and those on the front lines of the homelessness crisis in the area during the 15th annual Western New York Homeless Symposium – Bridges: From Barriers to Solutions. Hosted by the Homeless Services Network—a 60-member network composed of providers and agencies that offer services to homeless individuals—and held at Rochester’s Hyatt Regency downtown, attendees at the full-day event heard from a number of speakers on topics ranging from coordinating programs and services to end homelessness to opiate trends and serving those who served our country.

“At the center, we say it’s not how you stand, it’s the stand you take,” said Elaine Spaull, executive director of the Center for Youth and city councilwoman. “Remember, you may be the only person who believes in a homeless person. You may be the only person who looks at them and says you matter to me. You are a human being and you matter to me. That’s what it takes.”

Channeling noted author and Economic Policy Institute Fellow Richard Rothstein—who spoke in Rochester this summer on how government practices, including redlining, created and continue to maintain segregated neighborhoods—PathStone Corp. CEO Stuart Mitchell noted the importance of learning about Rochester’s historic segregation when confronting homelessness.

“As we think about what we’re working on today, I think we also have to think about how it is that we became the segregated communities we are today,” Mitchell said in his welcome speech. “Let’s also take time to think about those structures, those systems, the ways in which we have created barriers.”

“This problem stares us in the face. It transcends bricks and mortar. It defies easy solutions and requires a comprehensive approach,” keynote speaker Richard Dollinger said. “Only with this approach can we begin to restore in the minds of individuals a sense that they too have a place to call home.” (Photo by Velvet Spicer)
“This problem stares us in the face. It transcends bricks and mortar. It defies easy solutions and requires a comprehensive approach,” keynote speaker Richard Dollinger said. “Only with this approach can we begin to restore in the minds of individuals a sense that they too have a place to call home.”
(Photo by Velvet Spicer)

The event’s keynote speaker, Judge Richard Dollinger, pointed to our long history of recognizing the importance of home: from stories in the Bible to literature to Dorothy’s credo in “The Wizard of Oz” that “there’s no place like home.”

“In short, home is among the most powerful images in our culture and who we consider ourselves. And regardless of our race, creed, color, national origin or any other factor, we all recognize that home is where your heart is,” Dollinger told the audience. “With all of these powerful, life-sustaining images, how is it that we, the culture that celebrates home, tolerate homelessness?”

Homelessness, Dollinger said, is not just about place, a shelter, a roof over someone’s head, a meal in the morning and a smile before going to bed.

“All of these gestures are critically important and they are part of shaping our response to this national tragedy. But the real issue is that homelessness, in my view, is about identity, and how individuals from all walks of life can find that identity ebbing away in their lives until they no longer recall, remember or even envision what a home is all about,” he explained.

Tuesday’s event was sponsored by several local organizations including Partners Ending Homelessness, the Center for Youth, Coordinated Care Services Inc., PathStone and others. Some 20 workshops were offered for program staff, management and consumers.

Dollinger said more families experience homelessness nationwide than in any other industrialized nation, by some estimates 500,000 annually. A typical homeless family is composed of a single mother and her two young children, he noted. One in 30 American children experience homelessness annually, and 51 percent are under the age of five.

“This problem stares us in the face. It transcends bricks and mortar. It defies easy solutions and requires a comprehensive approach,” Dollinger said. “Only with this approach can we begin to restore in the minds of individuals a sense that they too have a place to call home.”

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Homelessness agency changes name to better emphasize mission

A decision to bring more attention to Rochester’s homelessness has led to an organizational rebranding for one area nonprofit.

Connie Sanderson
Connie Sanderson

Rochester-Monroe County Homeless Continuum of Care has changed its name to Partners Ending Homelessness. The name change and new logo were revealed Wednesday at a gathering of more than 100 supporters.

The Continuum, often referred to as the acronym CoC, is the local agency that handles the primary planning and coordinating of homeless housing and services, said agency executive director Connie Sanderson ahead of the event.

“We manage the allocation and the oversight of more than $12 million in HUD funding,” Sanderson explained. “We monitor those programs on an annual basis to ensure they’re operating at capacity, using the funds appropriately.”

The vast majority of Partners Ending Homelessness’ programs provide rental assistance in the community, Sanderson added, so roughly 85 percent of the funding goes directly to community-based landlords that are providing housing for people in the community.

The organization, which was founded in 2013 but became an independent not-for-profit last year, is responsible for maintaining the Homeless Management Information System database, as well as for a rather new model called Coordinated Entry, which helps prioritize people that have the highest needs to ensure they have access to the most appropriate programs enabling them to stay stable in housing, Sanderson said.

CoC worked with Causewave Community Partners on its rebranding strategy. Formerly known as the Ad Council of Rochester, Causewave is an agency that helps nonprofits with community impact work, marketing plans and leadership training, among other things.

Sanderson said the name change from a cumbersome moniker was critical to ensuring the community knows and understands what the small agency does. With seven staffers, Partners Ending Homelessness works with roughly 15 organizations and 47 programs. Its major stakeholders are the more than 60 private-sector, public-sector and faith-based organizations that comprise the Homeless Services Network.

“Sometimes the issue of homelessness is hidden in this community. It’s not like some of the more major cities in the country that have really obvious street homeless populations,” Sanderson said of the need for Partners Ending Homelessness’ services. “On any given day there are 849 people in this community who are literally homeless, and that doesn’t count the hundreds of people who are precariously housed, people who are doubling up with others, staying with a family member or a friend.”

Annually, more than 6,100 people are homeless in Monroe County. It is a number that is stable; it hasn’t grown tremendously in the last several years, but it hasn’t improved either, she said.

“I think the lack of affordable housing in the community drives that number even higher of people that are on the ‘cliff,’” Sanderson explained. “It’s one car repair, one illness that will cause them to become literally homeless.”

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Delphi Rise receives funding to combat homelessness

Delphi Rise has been named one of 16 nonprofit agencies statewide to receive part of an $8.5 million award to expand supportive housing for homeless individuals with mental illness.

delphiriseclear-logoDelphi, formerly known as Delphi Drug & Alcohol Council Inc., is the only agency in the Rochester metro area to receive a grant from the state Office of Mental Health. The funding is part of a $20 billion state plan to combat homelessness by creating 100,000 affordable and 6,000 supportive housing units.

The awards are funded by the Empire State Supportive Housing Initiative, a component of the $20 billion, five-year plan.

“Stable housing with integrated services is one of the most significant resources we can give to people who are working towards recovery from mental illness,” OMH Commissioner Ann Sullivan said in a statement. “Gov. Cuomo’s Empire State Supportive Housing Initiative is providing thousands of individuals and families with the opportunity to live safely and productively in their own community.”

The awards are in response to two requests for proposals issued in January and will use uncommitted funding from previous rounds of ESSHI grants, officials said. The awards will provide scattered site supportive housing for individuals with a serious mental illness who are homeless or cannot secure and maintain permanent housing without special assistance.

Some of the units will be dedicated specifically for individuals with mental illness who are being released from the state prison system and who would otherwise be homeless.

“This funding is critical to ensuring that individuals suffering from mental illness not only have a safe place to live when they are released from incarceration, but access to supportive services needed to help achieve stability,” said Michael Hein, acting commissioner of the Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance.

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Report: More than 800 homeless in Monroe County

On any given night in Monroe County, 835 people are homeless, many of them doubling up with friends or relatives, staying in shelters or sleeping in their cars.

Source: National Alliance to End Homelessness
Source: National Alliance to End Homelessness

A new report from the National Alliance to End Homelessness shows that for every 10,000 people in Monroe County, 11.2 were homeless in 2018. That compares with a rate of 7.5 per 10,000 residents in the Western New York region of Buffalo, Niagara, Erie, Orleans, Genesee and Wyoming counties. The homeless rate in Ontario, Wayne, Seneca and Yates counties was 7.

Statewide, 91,897 people are homeless on a given night, equating to 46 homeless individuals per 10,000 people in the general population. New York ranked second, behind California, in terms of the number of people homeless statewide, but tied with Hawaii for the ratio of homeless people per 10,000 people. Washington, D.C., led the pack with 99 people homeless per 10,000 residents last year.

Nationally, a total of 552,830 people were experiencing homelessness on a single night in 2018. This number represents 17 out of every 10,000 people in the United States. The “The State of Homelessness in America” uses annual data from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Among individual homeless adults nationwide, 70 percent are men. White Americans are the largest racial grouping, accounting for 49 percent of those experiencing homelessness. However, African Americans and American Indians are dramatically over-represented in HUD’s Point-in-Time Count, compared with their numbers in the general population.

Between 2017 and 2018, homelessness increased slightly by 0.3 percent or 1,834 people, the report shows.

However, national counts have for the most part trended downward in the last decade. Since 2007, the year HUD began collecting the data, homelessness decreased by 15 percent. Further, veterans’ homelessness has dropped by 38 percent since 2007. Veterans experiencing homelessness in New York State last year numbered 1,224; California had 10,836 homeless veterans in 2018.

Nationally, the most prevalent homeless assistance intervention is permanent supportive housing. The number of beds in this category has grown by 92 percent since 2007, according to the report. Emergency shelter beds, the second most common intervention, have increased 35 percent since 2007.

Rapid rehousing, the newest type of permanent housing intervention, has quickly grown by 450 percent nationwide over the last five years.

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Stand down event to provide services for homeless vets

Homeless and at-risk veterans will have an opportunity to connect with essential services in Rochester at Tuesday’s annual Veterans Stand Down. The County of Monroe and Veterans Outreach Center will work with the federal Department of Veterans Affairs and other local service providers to present the one-day event.

“Here in Monroe County we believe it is our distinct honor and solemn responsibility to give back to the men and women who have sacrificed so much for our great nation,” Monroe County Executive Cheryl Dinolfo said in a statement. “It is especially important that we are able to connect with veterans who may feel like they’ve fallen through the cracks so we can offer them the support services they’ve earned and deserve.”

Veterans Stand Down will connect homeless or at-risk veterans with services in areas such as housing, health care, legal assistance, food sources and more. Nearly 40 local service providers will be at the Harro East Ballroom Feb. 26 from 9 a.m. until 2 p.m. to address the needs of veterans.

“Stand down was terminology originally used during the Vietnam War era, which meant to provide a safe retreat for units returning from combat operations,” VOC Director Laura Stradley said. “We utilize that phrase today not only symbolically to honor our roots, but because we’re still providing a safe place for homeless veterans to find assistance, services and perhaps some respite from the daily challenges they confront.”

The event is the 18th annual stand down for homeless veterans in Rochester. More than 200 local veterans were served at last year’s event.

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Trillium Health receives $20 million grant to help stem chronic homelessness

A rendering of Union Square, a $19.3 million mixed-use development headed by Trillium Health.
A rendering of Union Square, a $19.3 million mixed-use development headed by Trillium Health.

Trillium Health Inc. has received the largest grant in its history, enabling the organization to construct a $19.3 million mixed-use development.

The state’s Empire State Supportive Housing Initiative (ESSHI) grant totals $20 million over 40 years, with $500,000 distributed annually in five-year increments. The funds will support a housing program at Union Square on Site 3 of the former Inner Loop that will serve individuals who are chronically homeless and 55 or older, as well as chronically homeless individuals living with HIV.

Trillium Health is partnering with Home Leasing LLC, the City of Rochester, Lifespan of Greater Rochester Inc. and the Out Alliance on the initiative. The project has been in the works since 2017 and is expected to break ground next year. Occupancy is expected to begin in early 2020, with full occupancy by June 2020.

“We are incredibly grateful to Gov. Cuomo for this investment in improving the lives of our most vulnerable community members,” Trillium Health President and CEO Andrea DeMeo said in a statement. “Together with Home Leasing, the City of Rochester, Lifespan and the Out Alliance, we will help individuals who suffer from chronic homelessness and work to make a positive and enduring impact on our community.”

The ESSHI grant funding will support rent subsidies and the delivery of supportive services to program participants who will reside in 20 apartments at the site. Trillium officials said that by providing holistic support, chronically homeless people are better able to lead healthier lives independently, increase vocational skills and get jobs, which equates to lower health care and social support costs overall, as well as a lower likelihood of repeated homelessness.

“At Trillium Health, we believe that housing is health care, and I applaud Gov. Cuomo’s office and the City of Rochester for recognizing the need for additional stable housing in our community,” DeMeo said.

Trillium plans to provide individualized services and linkages to care and community resources to the residents, and support and services also will be provided by community-based organizations including Lifespan and the Out Alliance. A Trillium Health spokeswoman said some 50 families are expected to be helped throughout the course of the grant.

“As a community champion for LGBTQ+ quality of life and access to much-needed services, we are encouraged that this resource is being made available to our community,” Out Alliance Executive Director Jeff Myers said. “It is collaborations like these that are so powerful in the fight to empower and address the needs of not only the Rochester community but the Rochester queer community.”

The ESSHI funding depends on the successful development of the mixed-use housing project by Home Leasing. Home Leasing plans to build the LGBTQ-welcoming, mixed-use development with 66 one- and two-bedroom affordable apartments, a pharmaceutical health emporium operated by Trillium Health and additional space for commercial use.

Twenty apartments will be set aside for Trillium’s supportive housing programs for chronically homeless individuals from the community. Tompkins Realty also serves as a partner in the Union Square development.

“We build communities that improve the lives of our residents,” Home Leasing’s Chairman and CEO Nelson Leenhouts said. “We’re thrilled to partner with Trillium Health in the development of apartments that will become home to individuals who have experienced homelessness and offer support to their health and wellbeing.”

Trillium Health is a Federally Qualified Health Center Look-Alike community health center, which means the agency provides primary care services in underserved areas, care on a sliding fee scale based on ability to pay and operates under a governing board that includes patients. An FQHC-Look-Alike meets all of the eligibility requirements of an organization that receives a Public Health Service Section 330 grant, but does not receive grant funding.

“Trillium Health and Home Leasing are among our community’s most treasured resources, and it’s gratifying to see them form a partnership to bring supportive housing to the Inner Loop East Revitalization Project,” Mayor Lovely Warren said. “The award of this grant is a testament to their great work and will allow them to provide much-needed care and assistance to people dealing with challenging circumstances, especially those relating to housing and health care.

“Their innovative solutions to break the cycle of chronic homelessness in our city are invaluable in our efforts to create more jobs, safer and more vibrant neighborhoods and better educational opportunities,” Warren said.

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Action for a Better Community plans event to help those in poverty

action-for-a-better-community-logoAction for a Better Community Inc. and the House of Mercy on Saturday will host an event to help homeless individuals and families in poverty. ABC’s teen leaders organized the event to serve the guests who reside at or eat meals at House of Mercy.

The event will consist of resource tables, barbers, nail painting, foot services, games and a live band. ABC and Salvatore’s will provide a pizza dinner for guests. ABC, Youth as Resources and Salvatore’s funded the event.

Teen leaders have delivered hygiene kits with invitations to the patrons at House of Mercy, as well as blankets they made. Guests of the event will receive backpacks with supplies and reusable water bottles.

ABC is a federally and state designated Community Action Agency serving Monroe and Ontario counties. The agency is one of nearly 1,000 CAAs nationwide and was incorporated in 1964. The organizations has more than 400 employees who provide services to assist people to become more self-sufficient.

house-of-mercy-logoHouse of Mercy is a grassroots homeless shelter and advocacy center that also provides food and clothing to those in need. The organization was opened by Sister Grace Miller, with help from Sisters of Mercy, in 1985.

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Christ for Kids Ministries raises up the down-and-out

Tiana Goodwine fell through the cracks.

Kicked out of her house at the age of 13, Goodwine was sent to live with her godfather’s mother in what she calls “the ‘hood.” The woman caring for her did the best she could but it wasn’t enough for a child who needed decent clothing, nutritional food, school supplies and parental guidance. Three years later she found herself on the streets, choosing what she thought at the time would be a better life.

It wasn’t.

Tianna Goodwine is trying to find an apartment and applying for jobs working with animals. (Velvet Spicer)
Tianna Goodwine is trying to find an apartment and applying for jobs working with animals. (Velvet Spicer)

“I left this lady’s house when I was 16 because it was horrible for me,” Goodwine, now 26, said through tears. “I was doing a lot of things I wasn’t supposed to do. I even trafficked myself just to make a living for myself.”

Homeless and alone, Goodwine at 16 was raped, an experience that prepared her for years of abuse and exploitation on the street, she said.

“When it happened it opened up a whole new world to me,” she said. “I was able to sleep with people for money to be able to eat and have a place to stay.”

Goodwine fell in with the wrong crowd, and at 17 went to Pennsylvania, where she lived with others under Heinz Stadium, the home of the Pittsburgh Steelers.

“I was in the cold. I remember being in this tent community underneath Steelers’ stadium,” Goodwine recalled. “We would build little tent houses with crates and we would put a whole bunch of blankets over them to keep the rats out. Because at night, they wanted to be warm too.”

The individual who took Goodwine to Pennsylvania left her there but eventually she made her way back to Rochester, where she joined the many other young boys and girls who were being subjected to sex trafficking and other abuses.

“You get used to being in a tent community where we stick together because all we have is one another,” Goodwine said of the various locations around the city where the homeless set up makeshift sleeping arrangements using tents and other items to shield themselves from the weather and prying eyes. “And if we didn’t stick together there was nothing for us.”

In 2011, Goodwine was diagnosed with a rare condition that causes muscle inflammation and loss of mobility. She was hospitalized with paralysis from the neck down, but eventually recovered and has regained most of her mobility.

Despite years of living on the streets, not knowing when her next meal would be or who she’d have to please for a warm place to sleep at night, Goodwine does not wallow in self-pity.

“I used to feel bad for myself,” she explained. “I don’t feel bad for myself anymore because if I hadn’t gone through the things I went through I wouldn’t be here. I’ve been through so many miracles.”

Goodwine is holding her own now, off the streets, trying to find an apartment and applying for jobs working with animals. Help came for her in the form of a classmate at beauty school.

“I was really in a bad place and this lady came up to me and she was like, ‘Hi. I just want to tell you I love you, Jesus loves you,’” Goodwine recalled. “She didn’t even know me and she gave me a hug and it was like everything that I needed.”

When Goodwine tells the story of how she met Julie Chapus in September 2016, and what that chance meeting has done for her, she chokes up.

“It’s been an amazing journey—very emotional,” Goodwine said. “I was really broken.”

Julie Chapus, right, works on Tianna Goodwine during Goodwine’s Model Day makeover in Janaury. (Velvet Spicer)
Julie Chapus, right, works on Tianna Goodwine during Goodwine’s Model Day makeover in Janaury. (Velvet Spicer)

Chapus, 41, is the director of Christ for Kids Ministries, a nonprofit organization she founded shortly after writing her first book, “Your Feelings and What God Says about Them,” in 2012. She said she was called on to help youngsters better understand the word of God in a fun, creative way.

Chapus wrote two more books: “The Blame Game” and “Thankful.” Each of the books helps kids understand emotions, overcome problems and be thankful for what they have. In 2015, Chapus again was called on to make a difference, this time by going to beauty school in order to open a school of her own for young women who have been victims of human trafficking.

Chapus’ excitement over the project is contagious.

“When you’re in the beauty industry you’re making other people feel good, and that’s going to make you feel great about yourself,” Chapus said with enthusiasm. “It’s going to be a cycle, in a good way.”

Until Miss Julie’s School of Beauty is fully up and running, however, Chapus has thrown herself into another project, an endeavor that has helped Goodwine come out of her shell. Miss Julie’s Hair Studio LLC was born of an idea Chapus had after practicing her new hair and makeup talents on her daughter and her daughter’s friends, as well as her prayer partner, Amasharay McDonald.

Model Days are designed to help young women—some of whom are victims of trafficking, others just heading down the wrong path in life—feel beautiful and confident. Chapus does hair and makeup for the women and a professional photographer takes photos of the girls.

“It just kind of organically happened. We never expected it to grow into its own program, but it definitely has,” Chapus said of the Model Days. “When I started to realize this is helping girls who are going down the wrong path, that’s when me and my ministry partner got together with our photographer, and we’re like, this is really some serious work and I think we should contact some programs around the area (to find clients), especially ones that deal with the human trafficked victims. Because who needs a makeover more than them, just coming off the street?”

Held monthly, Model Days are free to the women who participate. While in the studio, girls are served a variety of refreshments, and the photos, taken by volunteer Mary Winseman, have scripture or encouraging words attached to them. A mix of encouraging and uplifting music plays softly in the background as the women are transformed.

Goodwine first participated in Model Days in October 2017 and again in January. Because of her dire circumstances, Chapus also arranged a fundraiser for her through Christ for Kids to help with a security deposit, and has helped her with her resume and apartment hunting. And she has taken Goodwine on field trips, including to see the monks at the Abbey of the Genesee.

Prior to her most recent Model Day, Goodwine and Chapus visited Angels of Mercy Inc., a nonprofit organization run by Mary Jo Colligan, whose mission and focus is to help women and girls achieve freedom, dignity and restoration through coordinated efforts and faith in God.

The Christ-centered organization offers a number of programs, but of special interest to Goodwine was its Butterfly Boutique, which provides free clothing to women survivors who are attempting to re-enter the work force and need professional clothing.

“It’s like a metamorphosis. From a little caterpillar to a beautiful butterfly,” Colligan said of the transformation that occurs when women choose their clothing. “It not only changes your outside, but your inside.”

At the end of the Model Days, girls are encouraged to listen to Christ for Kids’ podcasts and read Chapus’ books for encouragement and continued success.

“Afterward we don’t like to just leave the girls on their own, feeling good for one day,” Chapus said. “We feel like we really want the girls to know you’re beautiful, God made you, God loves you continuously.”

Chapus is working with a nonprofit lawyer to put the salon under the umbrella of Christ for Kids. She is hoping that will help with donations and volunteers because, she noted, the organization currently is operating on her husband’s salary. At that point she also can begin work on the school she has planned, which will be designed to help women who are high school graduates or have their general equivalency diploma to find a career.

“The thing that I noticed with some of the programs that we have out there is there are shelters that will take the girls in, they’ll help them get their G.E.D., they’ll help them try to do job placement. However, if they’ve been on the street for any length of time and have been arrested, those background checks kill their jobs,” Chapus said. “I give them a model day, work with them the way I do, help them know that they’re loved, feeling good about themselves and be like, listen, that place had you get your G.E.D., let us take it one step further and train you. Let’s get you that cosmetology license so you never have to go back to the street again.”

Through Chapus’ help and the Model Days, Goodwine has learned to love everything, she said, including herself.

“I used to hate, when I was young, birds chirping in the morning. It used to irritate me so bad— ‘could y’all just be quiet,’” Goodwine joked. “I happened to be in the bathroom this morning and it had been a while since I heard the birds chirping. I heard one chirping and I was like, ‘Well, good morning to you too.’ It’s amazing.”

Adds Chapus: “I think what’s changed the most is she wakes up every morning knowing she’s loved. And I think that’s the whole world of difference right there. When you truly know that you’re loved, things just don’t affect you the way they would.”

[email protected] / 585-653-4021

Local Salvation Army Red Kettle Campaign raises more than $406,000

The Salvation Army Red Kettle Campaign began in 1891 when Salvation Army Captain Joseph McFee resolved to find a way to provide a free Christmas dinner for every poverty-stricken individual in San Francisco.
The Salvation Army Red Kettle Campaign began in 1891 when Salvation Army Captain Joseph McFee resolved to find a way to provide a free Christmas dinner for every poverty-stricken individual in San Francisco.

The Salvation Army of Greater Rochester’s Red Kettle Campaign exceeded its 2017 goal.

The annual campaign raised more than $406,000, exceeding its goal of $400,000.

“Whether it was through a donation to a Red Kettle or volunteering for a couple of hours, our community came together this Christmas to help ensure that the Salvation Army can provide essential services to our neighbors in need throughout the year,” said Douglas Hart, director of Monroe County operations for the organization.

Donations to the Red Kettle Campaign are used throughout the year to help provide vital services such as food for needy families, after school and summer programs for children and shelter for the homeless.

Radec Corp. President Mark Shortino served as 2017’s Red Kettle Campaign chairperson.

“His caring exemplifies the mission of the Salvation Army in more ways than we can express,” Hart said.

During the Christmas season, the Salvation Army helped more than 1,400 families through its Christmas Distribution program, which provided families with toys and knitted clothing items for their children, as well as food baskets with ingredients to prepare holiday meals.

More than 7,800 knitted clothing items and toys were provided to children this past Christmas.

Separately, Salvation Army officials noted that the group’s four homeless shelters were at full capacity Friday during the season’s cold snap. The four shelters provide emergency housing, food, clothing and support to roughly 1,500 homeless persons each year.

[email protected] / 585-653-4021
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