Project Renewal Board Leaders Team Up to Run Half Marathon and Raise Funds for Homeless New Yorkers

NewYork-Presbyterian VP Claudia Rosen and Morgan Stanley Executive Director Geoffrey Proulx will be the first Project Renewal Board leadership duo to run the NYC Half on the organization’s behalf

The two leaders of Project Renewal’s Board of Trustees—Chair Claudia Rosen and Vice Chair Geoffrey Proulx—will run in the New York City Half Marathon on March 18, 2018, to raise funds for the organization. Project Renewal, one of the nation’s largest homeless services nonprofits, has provided health care, housing, and job training and placement services to New Yorkers in need for more than 50 years.

half mar.jpg

Rosen is Vice President for Financial Planning at NewYork-Presbyterian, and Proulx is an Executive Director at Morgan Stanley. Collectively, they have served on Project Renewal’s Board of Trustees for nearly two decades and each has served in their leadership role for the past three and a half years.

To support Claudia Rosen, Chair, in her race, click here. To support Geoff Proulx, Vice Chair, in his race, click here. All of the funds they raise will support Project Renewal’s pioneering programs, including emergency, transitional, and permanent housing programs throughout the city; substance use disorder treatment; mobile medical vans; an award-winning culinary arts training program; unique services for seniors and for LGBTQI young adults; and much more.

“Running as an official charity partner of the NYC Half is yet another way to raise awareness of Project Renewal,” says Chair Claudia Rosen. “We hope that running as Trustees also shows the passionate commitment our entire Board has for our homeless neighbors and the amazing staff who serve them, and inspires others to get involved.”

“It has been a privilege to serve over the past eight years as a member of Project Renewal’s volunteer Board, and I look forward to spreading the word about Project Renewal and its incredible programs by running in the NYC half marathon this Sunday,” says Vice Chair Geoffrey Proulx.

Project Renewal Celebrates Renovations and Renaming of Historic Supportive Housing Near Times Square

Project Renewal hosted a ribbon-cutting ceremony at its 307-unit supportive housing building at 351 West 42nd Street in Manhattan, to celebrate a $15 million renovation and the official naming of the building—which was once the historic Holland Hotel—as Geffner House, after former Project Renewal CEO Ed Geffner. The project was funded by the New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD).


“Thanks to Ed Geffner’s extraordinary vision and leadership, Project Renewal turned this run-down building into one of the nation’s first and largest supportive housing sites in the 1990s,” said Project Renewal President and CEO Mitchell Netburn. “Ever since, we have been privileged to provide quality permanent housing and comprehensive support services to formerly homeless and low-income New Yorkers. We are thrilled to unveil this latest renovation project and to honor Ed’s legacy with the renaming. We are also grateful for the support of HPD and Commissioner Maria Torres-Springer.”

The renovation project includes:

  • A new plumbing system

  • New bathrooms, kitchenettes, and floors in the apartment units

  • Renovations to the commercial kitchen where Project Renewal’s social purpose catering company, City Beet Kitchens, operates and is staffed by formerly homeless adults

  • A renovated the lobby with new flooring, a new entryway vestibule, and a new layout to makes the building more welcoming and safer

  • New flooring in the hallways

  • A new railing on the rooftop

  • A custom steel “Geffner House” sign on the front door, designed and fabricated by local artist Linda Cunningham

Geffner, who served as CEO of Project Renewal from 1977 to 2010, also attended the event. In the 1990s, Geffner put together the financing for Project Renewal’s purchase of the Holland Hotel from the city and its initial renovation. In 1996, Project Renewal reopened the building under the name Holland House, as supportive housing for formerly homeless adults—including those with mental illness, substance use disorder, and HIV/AIDS—as well as low-income individuals.

 A custom steel “Geffner House” sign on the front door, designed and fabricated by local artist Linda Cunningham

A custom steel “Geffner House” sign on the front door, designed and fabricated by local artist Linda Cunningham

Prior to that, the building was a so-called “welfare hotel”—a dilapidated single-room occupancy residence for homeless New Yorkers—until it was closed by the city for health and housing violations in 1988. Originally constructed in 1918, the building is now 100 years old.

Today, on-site services provided by Project Renewal to Geffner House tenants include occupational therapy, group and individual counseling, substance use disorder treatment, medical treatment, psychiatric care, crisis intervention, job training and placement, and art classes.

How Mr. Bailey Got Back to Work

Mr. Bailey shows that it is possible to overcome adversity to secure employment, especially through hard work and with the right kind of support.

Born in Guyana, Mr. Bailey immigrated to the United States as a child. He grew up in Brownsville, Brooklyn, where he got caught up in crime as a teenager. At 17, he was incarcerated for 9.5 years for robbery. He also lost his leg to a gunshot wound.

After his release from prison, Mr. Bailey  was determined to turn his life around. He got a job at a condo company and enrolled in classes to attain his associate degree in information systems. Juggling work and school became a challenge, so he left his position to focus on completing his degree.


Upon graduation, he found that employers overlooked or rejected him due his disability and history of incarceration. Unable to secure a job, he became homeless. When he arrived at Project Renewal’s Third Street shelter, “the first thing I said was I wanted to get back into the workforce,” Mr. Bailey recalls. His case manager connected him with our Next Step employment program.

Through Next Step, Mr. Bailey attended workshops, received help with his cover letter and resume, practiced interviewing, and brushed up on his typing skills. Next Step identified employers that would accommodate his disability and look past his history of incarceration.

With support from Next Step staff, Mr. Bailey  secured a position at the Metropolitan Transit Authority’s Call Center, where he has worked for the past two months. “It feels wonderful to be able to get up and go to work, and to interact with like-minded individuals and professionals,” he shares. “I see opportunities for growth, and I feel hopeful about my future.”

Project Renewal Names Jody Rudin Chief Operating Officer

Jody Rudin was named Chief Operating Officer of nonprofit Project Renewal. Ms. Rudin will be responsible for the operations of the organization, including overseeing its 16 shelters, transitional, and permanent housing developments and its medical, behavioral health, and employment services. Fifty-year-old Project Renewal is a leading homeless services provider. The organization provides individuals and families with the comprehensive homes, health and jobs services they need to renew their lives and reclaim hope.

Prior to joining Project Renewal, Ms. Rudin served as Senior Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of Damian Family Care Services, a Federally Qualified Health Center with 15 locations, where Ms. Rudin led an unprecedented expansion that resulted in 40 percent growth in a number of health centers. From 2003 to 2016 Ms. Rudin worked at the New York City Department of Homeless Services, first as Director, Entitlements and last as Deputy Commissioner, Adult Services.

“Jody is a great addition to the Project Renewal team. Her experience and expertise will enable us to serve more New Yorkers in more effective and impactful ways,” said Project Renewal President and CEO Mitchell Netburn. “While we are in the midst of an expansion, there are even more New Yorkers who could benefit from our comprehensive services. Jody will help us make sure we can provide the highest quality services to those who need them.”

In the past year, Project Renewal opened two new shelters, including the city’s first shelter for LGBTQI young adults and a shelter for seniors.  Additionally, the organization recently broke ground for its fifth supportive and affordable housing development, which includes 130 units for formerly homeless and low-income New Yorkers and an innovative aquaponics greenhouse. The organization was also selected to run New York City’s first diversion center, which will provide the police with an alternative to sending individuals experiencing mental health and substance use disorder issues to jail. 

"I am thrilled to join Project Renewal. The organization is highly respected and is known for creating innovative and effective programs that push the sector to provide homeless individuals with services and supports that move them to independence. I look forward to working with the Project Renewal team to help the organization achieve its goal of helping individuals renew their lives with health, homes and jobs."

Project Renewal has a long track record of developing innovative and effective programs.  It was the first organization to open a voluntary medical detox program in 1967. Since then, the organization has developed over a dozen other pioneering, award-winning programs that have changed the way homeless individuals are served. 

Federal, State, and City Officials Join Project Renewal to Break Ground on Bronx Supportive and Affordable Housing Development Featuring Rooftop Fish and Produce Garden and Living Green Façade

Bedford Green House will house more than 160 residents and include an aquaponics greenhouse, along with other innovative features

 Renderings of the Bedford Green House rooftop, including the aquaponics greenhouse

Renderings of the Bedford Green House rooftop, including the aquaponics greenhouse

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), the New York State Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance (OTDA), the New York City Housing Development Corporation (HDC), New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD), the Corporation for Supportive Housing (CSH), Bank of America, Deutsche Bank, and TD Bank today joined Project Renewal at a groundbreaking ceremony to mark the start of construction on Bedford Green House in the Bedford Park section of the Bronx. The $58.8 million, 118-unit development will provide supportive and affordable housing for more than 160 residents, including families, singles, and seniors.  

The project will feature a number of unique and innovative elements including a rooftop aquaponics greenhouse, a living green façade, a community playground, and custom artwork from the Bronx community. Located at 2865 Creston Avenue, the 13-story, block-and-plank building will meet or exceed LEED Gold standards for energy efficiency and environmentally friendly design.

Bedford Green House -- Rendering of 2865 Creston Avenue.jpg

“We are thrilled to break ground on Bedford Green House, a development that will provide high-quality affordable and supportive housing for hundreds of individuals and families. Throughout our 50-year history, Project Renewal has provided innovative programs to help New Yorkers in need. We will continue to do that at Bedford Green House with comprehensive services and cutting-edge features like aquaponics to ensure that residents can lead healthy, stable lives,” said Mitchell Netburn, President & CEO Project Renewal.

The rooftop greenhouse will be filled with nutritious produce in an innovative vertical farming system called aquaponics, in which residents will raise delicious, nutritious fish and vegetables in a symbiotic ecosystem. Edible tilapia fish will live in large tanks connected to a bio-filter that breaks down fish waste and carries nutrients to the plant roots; meanwhile the plants will clean the water for the fish. Because the aquaponics growing platforms can be stacked vertically, produce yields per square foot will be many times higher than with traditional soil-based farming.

Project Renewal will use the rooftop space outside the greenhouse for organic farming in planter boxes to grow vegetables that are less suited to aquaponics. Residents will work with Project Renewal’s horticultural therapist to grow their own food in the airy and light-filled greenhouse, year-round, alongside their friends and neighbors. Horticultural therapy in the greenhouse will be especially beneficial to elderly residents who can often be isolated at home, and for residents who suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder, which is common during winter months.

The rooftop will also feature a demonstration kitchen with healthy cooking classes for residents and community members, taught by professional chefs from Project Renewal’s Culinary Arts Training Program.

Bedford Green House’s active design was influenced by the theory of biophilia—the innately emotional affiliation of human beings to other living organisms. Scientific studies have supported biophilia, showing that exposure to the natural world reduces stress levels, shortens recovery times for hospital patients, lowers blood pressure, reduces depression, and increases insulin sensitivity among diabetics.  

In light of these findings, Bedford Green House will feature an interior green wall in the lobby and an exterior living green façade at the building frontage, featuring plants and vines cascading from planters. In addition to transforming the visual character of the neighborhood, the vines will reduce the building’s energy usage by absorbing solar radiation during the hot summer months when the vines have leaves. During winter months, the vines will shed their leaves and allow solar radiation to warm the building, bringing in heat and light when it is most needed. The vines will also remove airborne pollutants, which is especially important in the Bronx where children are hospitalized by asthma at a rate that is 21 times higher than more affluent areas of New York City.

Bedford Green House will create an inviting streetscape through landscaping along the sidewalk frontage, seats at the setbacks, and public art that will encourage residents and neighbors to engage with the building. Highlighting the front yard will be a colorful community playground—with two slides, jungle gym, musical instruments, and a water fountain to play in during summer months—that will be accessible to children of families who live in the building, as well as community residents. The rear courtyard and front setbacks will also include extensive landscaping and space for yoga, group exercise, and mindfulness classes.

The project is the first phase of the Project Renewal’s larger plan to create 90 additional affordable homes through the redevelopment of a neighboring site.

Bedford Green House’s development team is led by Mitchell Netburn and Sam Wells at Project Renewal, and by Jonathan Rose and Dale White at The Jonathan Rose Companies. Hollister Construction Services is serving as the general contractor. Architectural design services are provided by Edelman Sultan Knox Wood Architects, with structural engineering by Robert Silman Associates, MEP engineering by Allen Rosenthal, geotechnical engineering by Mueser Rutledge, landscape design by Billie Cohen, Ltd., waterproofing and façade design by The Façade Group, lighting by Jim Conti, aquaponics by A&A Epiphany, LEED design by Steven Winter Associates, cost estimating by SBI Consultants, environmental consulting by The Hillmann Group, Sam Schwartz Engineering, Genesis Environmental, surveying by Montrose Surveying, title search by Chicago Title Company, and expediting by Design 2147.

Bedford Green House was financed under HDC’s Extremely Low- and Low-Income Affordability (ELLA) program and HPD’s Supportive Housing New Construction program. The total development cost for the project is over $58.8 million. HDC provided more than $28.2 million in tax-exempt volume cap bonds, $1.7 million in recycled tax-exempt bonds, and nearly $7 million in corporate reserves. HPD provided $8.85 million in City subsidy, inclusive of $2 million in HOME funds. HPD also provided an allocation of annual Low-Income Housing Tax Credits (LIHTC), which generated nearly $24 million in tax credit equity. Bank of America served as tax credit investor and provided the construction letter of credit.   NYS OTDA provided $6.22 million under the Homeless Housing and Assistance Program (HHAP). Additional grant funding was provided TD Bank and Deutsche Bank Foundation.

“Healthy homes lead to healthy residents, a principle that Secretary Carson knows from experience to be true and one that will prove itself for the formerly homeless families and individuals that will call Bedford Green home. Financed in part through $2 million in HUD HOME funds, this extraordinarily designed project will nurture the minds, bodies, and spirits of its clients, helping set them on the path to economic recovery and self-sufficiency,” said Lynne Patton, HUD Regional Administrator for New York and New Jersey. 

“We are proud to be contributing $6.2 million through our Homeless Housing and Assistance Program. Projects like this highlight Governor Cuomo’s ongoing commitment to increase the number of affordable and supportive housing units available in New York City and throughout the state,” said Samuel D. Roberts, Commissioner, Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance.

“A critical pillar of the Jerome Avenue Neighborhood Plan is creating sustainable, high-quality, affordable housing.  The start of construction of Bedford Green House – a LEED designed supportive housing development that will provide 118 homes and a rooftop garden and vertical farm to foster healthy living – represents a significant milestone towards that commitment. Through HNY 2.0, our accelerated and expanded housing plan, we will continue to build on the policies and programs already set in motion to ensure that neighborhoods like those surrounding Jerome Avenue are anchored by affordability and opportunity for generations to come," said HPD Commissioner Maria Torres-Springer. “I want to thank Project Renewal and our many government and private partners for their creativity and hard work to advance this dynamic project for the community.”

“Bedford Green House will bring 118 low-income and formerly homeless households into safe, high-quality affordable housing, with a built-in network of critical social services and amenities. This project underscores how vital all our government, private, and non-profit resources are to creating new affordable and supportive housing,” said HDC President Eric Enderlin. “I congratulate Project Renewal and all our partners, including many agencies across federal, state and city government, for their commitments to this project and their dedication to building a more affordable New York.”

"Project Renewal is an exceptional partner committed to solving the homelessness crisis here in New York City. CSH is investing $5.3 million in loans in Bedford Green Phases 1 & 2 because these new affordable, supportive housing units will go a long way toward providing real homes to New Yorkers who have struggled through homelessness on our streets," said Jennifer Trepinski, Director of Loan Originations, CSH.

“In addition to delivering much needed affordable and supportive housing options to the residents of the Bronx, Bedford Green House brings innovative, sustainable design elements that will advance healthy living in the Bedford Park neighborhood. Bank of America Merrill Lynch is excited to have provided over $54MM of debt and equity investments to support Project Renewal’s vision for transforming lives in the communities that it serves,” said Todd A. Gomez, Market Executive - North Region, Bank of America Merrill Lynch.

"We take our commitment to our communities seriously, and the Housing for Everyone campaign enables us to enhance our economic support for the neighborhoods we serve. We are honored to partner with organizations that are providing individuals with a chance to live in their own home and build a future," said Mike Rayder, Donation and Foundation Manager, TD Charitable Foundation. 

“Deutsche Bank is proud to support Project Renewal in the development of the Bedford Green House. This will provide critically needed affordable and supportive homes to hundreds of residents, many of whom have experienced homelessness, as well as facilities shared with the local community. Bedford Green House will be a true asset to the neighborhood and city,” said John Kimble, Vice President / Philanthropic Initiatives, Deutsche Bank.

“Architecture at its most fundamental is an expression of societies’ aspirations. In that context Bedford Green House is a statement that we take care of the people of our community who are disadvantaged. These individuals are deserving of an exceptional building that has the capacity to make their lives better, through the choice of layout, materials, amenities, and greenhouse for teaching healthy living. And we extend that aspiration into the community, making a building with a neighborhood play area, a 24-hour doorman watching the street, green infrastructure that will help clean the air and brighten lives, and by leaving exposed the bedrock of the site, which is the history of the Bronx. In this way the building contributes to the neighborhood, making it greener, healthier, and more connected. Bedford Green House is an embodiment of the best that New York City, New York State and the Bronx has to offer its community,” said Andrew B. Knox, Partner, Edelman Sultan Knox Wood / Architects LLP.

“Hollister is very proud to be part of this team bringing to life such a unique building in the Bronx. Knowing that this facility will change the lives of many people makes the project even more special. Since our inception, we’ve made a constant effort to involve ourselves with projects that benefit and transform communities and Bedford Green House is a great example. We are all looking forward to seeing many happy faces when the facility makes its grand opening,” said Christopher Johnson, CEO, Hollister.  


The ScanVan Saves Lives: Janet's Story

Janet started coming to the ScanVan in 1997 because she didn’t have insurance to cover her mammogram. Our professional, compassionate service has kept her coming back ever since.

Originally from St. Lucia, she has lived in New York City for 37 years, managing homes until she retired a few years ago.

 The ScanVan nurses and staff provide knowledgeable and compassionate care

The ScanVan nurses and staff provide knowledgeable and compassionate care

Even when Janet became eligible for Medicare, she continued to get mammograms at the ScanVan because the staff “are very knowledgeable. They are very careful to explain everything and make me comfortable,” says Janet.

“The nurses assured me they would call immediately if anything happened,” she says. After her most recent appointment, Janet did receive a call —a small abnormal growth was found on her left breast.

Fortunately, her cancer has been detected early. The staff quickly set up appointments on her behalf with a highly-recommended doctor who takes her Medicare plan.

Every year, the ScanVan serves more than 4,600 women at 240 sites citywide, including immigrant communities and homeless shelters with unique healthcare barriers. Hundreds of early cancers, like Janet’s, have been detected at the ScanVan —and hundreds of lives have been saved.

Despite her diagnosis, Janet is optimistic about the future. “Although I am apprehensive about the results, because of the care and support I receive at the ScanVan, I am confident that everything will work out.”

Mural at Marsha's House reflects diversity and inclusivity

Project Renewal unveiled a new mural in the courtyard of Marsha's House, our shelter serving LGBTQ young adults ages 18 to 30. The project was spearheaded by Council Member Ritchie Torres, who advocated for the shelter to open in his district. A resident of the shelter designed the mural, which was hand painted with help from Groundswell, a group of artists and activists.

 The new mural at marsha's house

The new mural at marsha's house

The artwork shows Marsha P. Johnson, the late LGBTQ activist for whom the shelter is named, embracing the residents below. Diverse residents are shown interacting with and supporting one another, representing the inclusivity of the space. The crumbling buildings below depict the challenges that can come with instability in New York City, but the residents are striving to reach stable ground. 

Learn more about life at Marsha's House in this excerpt from our latest newsletter:

Kristian is a 25-year-old trans man who became homeless during his transition. Kristian found safety and security at Marsha’s House, the City’s first shelter for LGBTQ young adults. “Being surrounded by like-minded people has been really helpful. The staff at Marsha’s House are allies and are respectful of pronouns,” Kristian says. Kristian has been using the support services at Marsha’s House to secure personal identification that reflects his gender identity and to look for a second job to supplement his part-time work. “If I weren’t at Marsha’s House, I would be struggling a whole lot more,” he reflects. “I feel stable and I have faith in the future.”

 Kristian is featured in our latest print newsletter, available  here .

Kristian is featured in our latest print newsletter, available here.

Hope for LGBTQ Young Adults

LGBTQ young adults who are homeless in New York City have never had housing resources tailored to their needs. But that changed in February, when we proudly opened Marsha’s House, the City’s first shelter to fill this gap and serve LGBTQ individuals ages 18 to 30.

Named for local LGBTQ activist Marsha P. Johnson who died in 1992, Marsha’s House has 81 beds and a wide array of programs to help clients overcome the unique vulnerabilities and discrimination that homeless LGBTQ individuals face. Services include referrals to education and employment programs, group counseling, and healthcare including HIV and transgender care.

 Residents of Marsha’s House have access to support services tailored to their needs.

Residents of Marsha’s House have access to support services tailored to their needs.

Our staff is committed to ensuring that each person who comes through our shelter, regardless of their sexual identity or gender, has the full opportunity to renew their life and reclaim hope for the future. If you are interested in getting involved, contact us at

Marsha's House is being embraced in the Bronx, and Council Member Ritchie Torres partnered with Project Renewal and the Department of Homeless Services to bring the shelter to his district. “It is well-documented that LGBT homeless youth face extraordinary challenges without many resources available at their disposable," says Torres.  "I’m proud to have partnered with Project Renewal and the City’s Department of Homeless Services to open the City’s first LGBT youth shelter, Marsha’s House, in my district in the Central Bronx. This shelter addresses the need for a safe space for homeless LGBTQ young adults in New York City, a group that experiences homelessness at much higher rates than their straight peers. This shelter can mean the difference between life and death for homeless LGBTQ young adults, who frequently face discrimination and violence. I am grateful that Project Renewal is running Marsha’s House and providing targeted support services for this vulnerable population.”

The Next Step for Michael: Giving Back

Michael has a full-time job, a home, and he looks forward to the future—but that wasn’t always the case.

When he was younger, drug addiction led the Bronx native to homelessness and incarceration. Seven years into his 10-year prison term, optimism gradually overcame his hopelessness. “I started taking it one day at a time, kept myself busy, and got my associate degree.”

After his release in 2016, struggling to find permanent employment, he attended a workforce development workshop. There he learned about Project Renewal’s Next Step Internship Program (NSIP), which provides on-the-job training for unemployed adults interested in homeless services work. The opportunity for a career helping others resonated with him.

 Michael found hope through Project Renewal's Next Step Internship Program

Michael found hope through Project Renewal's Next Step Internship Program

Through NSIP, Michael received intensive vocational and life skills training, plus a six-week paid internship at a Project Renewal shelter. “I learned so much in the program and got certifications like Mental Health First Aid, Nonviolent Crisis Intervention, and the F80 Fire Guard Certification,” he says. “I also learned that what you give, you get back.”

Today, he is a Residential Aide at our new Bronx shelter for LGBTQ young adults, the first of its kind in the City. “I make sure our clients get the support they need,” he says proudly. “I tell them their situation is only temporary. Believe me, I know.” In a few years, Michael wants to be an assistant shelter director at Project Renewal—his future is indeed looking bright.

50 Years of Project Renewal: A Conversation with Betty Kiernan

To celebrate the 50th Anniversary of Project Renewal, we are speaking with clients and staff who have been part of the history of the organization. Read on for our conversation with Betty Kiernan, a founding member of Project Renewal and a staff nurse for nearly 45 years, shares her memories from her time at the organization.

How did Project Renewal get started?

We opened our doors to the detoxification clinic in November of 1967. We would admit men on the Bowery for a five-day medical detox. At that time, it was a full-fledged 24-hour medical unit, with doctors, nurses and social workers.

 Men who were living on the Bowery received medical detox treatment at Project Renewal, starting in 1967

Men who were living on the Bowery received medical detox treatment at Project Renewal, starting in 1967

Where did it go from there?

We discovered those who participated in medical detox still needed support after getting sober. Our psychiatrist diagnosed one-third of patients with schizophrenia, so the men who we were working with were very vulnerable. Eventually, we opened an outpatient clinic and provided skill-building workshops. After clients got sober, we would help them get a job.

How did Project Renewal change during your time there?

In 1967, alcoholism had only recently been recognized as a disease, and there was a joint effort across the city to manage public intoxication in a more humane way, rather than with jail time. The programs we offered were voluntary and truly innovative, and we gradually expanded into a big agency. We started doing street outreach, managing shelters, working with women, and more. What has always made Project Renewal special is that we reach so many people who have nowhere else to get help. Project Renewal has adapted to the changing needs of the homeless across the city, and it is a million miles from where we started. The impact that Project Renewal has on the lives of so many New Yorkers is such a tribute to the dedicated people who have been involved over the past 50 years.

Project Renewal Celebrates 50th Anniversary and Raises Over $1.5 Million for Homeless Services at Annual Gala Benefit & Auction

Project Renewal raised over $1.5 million at our 27th Annual Gala Benefit and Auction held June 8 at Spring Studios. The event was a celebration of the 50 years of empowering homeless New Yorkers to renew their lives through comprehensive medical, housing and job programs

 Board Member Alan Belzer with honoree Deanna Mulligan

Board Member Alan Belzer with honoree Deanna Mulligan

More than 600 guests—a record for Project Renewal galas—celebrated the 50th anniversary of the organization, which started as the city’s first medical detox clinic on the Bowery in 1967, and has since expanded to serve over 16,000 men, women, and children annually with a wide range of innovative programs. The evening included cocktails, dinner and a live auction. 

“We are delighted to celebrate Project Renewal’s pioneering role in helping homeless New Yorkers renew their lives and reclaim hope over the last 50 years,” said Project Renewal President and CEO Mitchell Netburn. “We are extremely grateful for the generosity of our board members, donors and volunteers. Their support will enable us to expand our work to break the cycle of homelessness for the 16,000 men, women and children we help each year.”

At the event, Project Renewal also honored Deanna Mulligan, President and CEO of Guardian and former member of Project Renewal’s Board of Trustees, who has demonstrated her dedication to ending homelessness in New York City through her generous support of the organization.

“The scope of Project Renewal's programs is unparalleled in New York City, helping hundreds of thousands find housing, healthcare and jobs over the past 50 years,” stated Ms. Mulligan. "I'm honored to be part of the Project Renewal community."

Ms. Mulligan was instrumental in developing a strategic plan for Project Renewal in 1996 that led to the creation of two of the organization’s signature programs: Renewal Farm, a residential addiction treatment program in Garrison, New York; and City Beet Kitchens, a social-purpose catering company that employs formerly homeless, unemployed, and at-risk men and women.

During the gala’s seated program, guests viewed a new film that illustrates the impact Project Renewal has had on the lives of homeless New Yorkers over the last five decades, featuring the stories of three of the organization’s former clients. The film is now available here on Project Renewal’s YouTube channel.

 President and CEO Mitchell Netburn with Board chair Claudia Rosen

President and CEO Mitchell Netburn with Board chair Claudia Rosen

The gala’s co-chairs were Thomas and Megan Brodsky. Many organizations generously sponsored the evening, including The Guardian Life Insurance Company of America, Morgan Stanley, Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP, The Johnson Company, BlackRock, Inc., The Brodsky Organization, Capital One Bank, Fisher Brothers, Gerner Kronick + Valcarcel, Architects, Goldberg Lindsay & Co. LLC, Icon Interiors, Lane Office, NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital, Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP, Pershing Square Capital Management, LP, Quality Protection Services and SterlingRisk Insurance.


50 Years of Project Renewal: A Conversation with Tedd Leibovitz

Tedd Leibovitz has long struggled with clinical depression, and as a result, he became homeless for a time. Fortunately, Tedd has found safety and security at Project Renewal, as well as a space to display his art photography. Learn more about Tedd’s story in his own words.

 Photography by tedd leibovitz

Photography by tedd leibovitz

What problems and struggles were you facing before you came to Project Renewal?

Well, we can start with clinical depression. Undiagnosed and untreated. I was born in 1935. Back then, they couldn't spell it, let alone treat it. The short story is that after 26 years of marriage, it led to divorce, break of my family, loss of friends (sides were taken). I was unable to function and running out of money (economic hard times), which eventually led to eviction from my co-op apartment, and with no safety net left, I went straight into homelessness. 

This lasted approximately 10 months of 1995 into 1996. Eventually, I was found by a social worker, and on Thanksgiving Day, too! He recognized a real case of need in me. He took me to his place of employment on Webster Avenue in the Bronx, a half-way and three-quarter house, until they could put me back together, at least health and food-wise.

After some time there, they hooked me up with Jewish Family Services, where I was able to get the credentials to apply and get into Project Renewal’s Geffner House (then Holland House). These credentials (poverty, homelessness, near suicide), were like what you would need for the Harvard or Yale Club, just 180 degrees the other way.

What kind of support did Project Renewal provide for you? How are they helping you now?

Well, of course, they provided housing. They call it a “Single Room Occupancy.” I call it an apartment. There is definitely a difference for me. One is a dingy room with a 25-watt bulb, broken furniture and cockroaches. The other is a 'warm and welcoming' place of refuge and safety. I've known both and I'll take the latter, which is what I have found at Project Renewal.

The physical space is small, but like Dr. Who's British telephone booth, there’s an infinite universe behind it. I chose Geffner House because they have a social worker and medical backup, which are very important when you have no other safety net. Of course, there are rules and regulations to be followed, some people never get used to it, but still way above the 'great outdoors!'. It's an old building and has just undergone a complete renovation. It's pretty much all done, and it's nice, with new and up-to-date everything. The building is as old as I am and, I think, we're both in pretty good shape.

 Tedd Leibovitz

Tedd Leibovitz

I have a small space, but it represents everything I value and need. A/C in summer, new double glazed windows, new bathroom with modern fixtures. As for me, I have an excellent stereo to play the music I need and love, a complete desk top publishing empire for my art photography, and a nice selection of cameras and lenses to go along with it. Although I am on a very limited income, I'm able to parse it out pretty nicely (being a Depression baby does help).

How would you describe your experience with Project Renewal?

The 'worst of times' has now turned into, perhaps, the 'best of times,’ to paraphrase Charles Dickens. I was in a situation of almost near disaster - homeless, from a winter into a summer and into a new winter, with no way out that I could see. When Shakespeare said, the world is a stage and we're all actors in a great play, I don't know if he meant my situation. Actors get to read scripts and eat a good dinner afterwards, and sleep under covers. I didn't have those choices, so my life was much grimmer and perhaps fatal. I would question myself, what would be the final outcome of this disaster that was my life. I had no answer. I finally had some good luck and I grabbed it and held on for dear life, literally. 

Project Renewal and Geffner House were a major player in that desperate time of my life. Because if the social worker had not come upon me and realized I was a real case of despair and near extinction, well, you wouldn't be reading this right now. Maybe somebody else's story. My story still has a ways to go, hopefully, mostly for the good. 

What is your life like now?

In a strange way, I seem to have walked into a life that I always sort of dreamed of (maybe all of us!). I do what I want, when I want and how I want. No obligations, no duties, no outside demands.

I can sleep well and eat pretty much what I want and am in very good health. As a person who has lived most of my aware life with the glass half empty, completely empty or just broken, this is a whole new take for me. Kind of awesome in a way. Live it just pretty much a day at a time. Tomorrow, tomorrow is just 24 hours away! I think I'll just leave it at that.

Can you describe your art and photography? What does your art mean to you and how has it changed your life?

I have been into art all my life. From the time my mother took to drawing lessons in the Cleveland museum of art as a small child. Art has always been a solace and a defense against an often unfriendly world.

The digital camera has become my medium and means of aesthetic expression. It is a wonderful and super toy for the little boy side of me. It takes me out on long walks to seek out new photos to be used on my computer to turn into aesthetic pictures. Then I work on the craft of digital printing; a whole study in itself. These pictures go up wherever I have free wall space. They are even on my floor. This tends to make me all open and friendly and I talk to all kinds of people very easily.

This is an almost complete change in my personality from the earlier and greater part of my life, where I could and would use my tongue like a whip if someone irritated me, and it didn't take much to do that. This whole process, from talk therapy, to having anti-depressive and mood stabilizing drugs, to taking leave of most stressful relationships and becoming my own man, perhaps for the first time in my life, has really done wonders for me, inside and out. I would just like it to continue as long as it can. Better late than never. Best of luck in your lives to all of you, Tedd Leibovitz.

50 Years of Project Renewal: A Conversation with Marc Moses

To celebrate the 50th Anniversary of Project Renewal, we are speaking with clients and staff who have been part of the history of the organization. Read on for our conversation with artist and former client, Marc Moses, who found hope at Project Renewal after his struggle with addiction.

 What problems were you facing before you came to Project Renewal?

 I had been evicted from my apartment, which was a direct result of my addiction to crack cocaine over the previous seven or eight years. I was initially sent to a shelter in Brooklyn. While I was there, I got help for my drug problem. I had managed to stay away from cocaine for two months prior, and I think the guy helping me could see I was quite serious about getting clean. He told me there was a space in a shelter on the Lower East Side, but it was hard to get in, so I'd better get there quickly. I didn't hesitate in the least. That’s how I ended up at Project Renewal’s Third Street Men’s Shelter in the late winter of 2003.

What type of support did you receive from Project Renewal?

The case managers supported me right away and were very hands-on, helping me acclimate to the shelter and access mental health care resources. I was able to get help for my depression. They really show a sincere concern for their clients. After about a year at the Third Street Shelter, they set me up with an apartment at In Homes Now.

The art resources at the Third Street had a lot to do with changing my feelings about myself and the future. It took me a little while before I began to explore the art room, both because I was deeply depressed but also because I had always been intimidated by the idea of working with color. I had always been reluctant to move beyond the simple binary world of black and white. Gradually, however, I began to challenge my inhibition and was surprised to discover that I had an entirely unexpected ability for using color and a talent mixing paints to match specific hues.

 By Marc Moses

By Marc Moses

How has support from Project Renewal changed your life?

Exploration in the art room and encouragement from the Project Renewal staff helped me to see that I could be successful. The case workers and mental health services gave me a different perspective on how things could be, and Project Renewal sent me on the path that I wouldn’t have found otherwise. In terms of my art, I was very lucky that I was able to get into shows, and I had number of pieces sell through the Project Renewal Gala, so they continued to support me in that way.

Next Generation of Project Renewal Supporters

When sisters Jasmine, 9, and Angelina, 11, noticed a homeless shelter in their neighborhood, they were moved to tears—and to take action. They held a holiday bake sale, raising $675 for Project Renewal.

“We looked it up, and learned there are thousands of homeless people and children in New York,” says Angelina. In response, the sisters held the bake sale in Bay Ridge to support Project Renewal. The sisters say they are proud of the money they raised to support the homeless in New York City, but no one is more proud than their mother, Jenn. “As a parent, it taught me a lesson,” says Jenn. “It taught me to pay more attention to the issue of homelessness, and to think about how we can all help.”

 Jasmine and Angelina deliver their check to Deputy Director, Stephanie Cowles

Jasmine and Angelina deliver their check to Deputy Director, Stephanie Cowles

Second graders from P.S. 59 in Manhattan also contributed to Project Renewal, creating ‘Renewal Kits’ with their classmates. The kits contained personal care items and snacks, as well as heartfelt cards, which lifted the spirits of mobile medical van clients over the holidays.

The generosity of these young supporters is truly inspiring to Project Renewal staff and clients. Keep up the good work!

City Beet Kitchens Offers Formerly Homeless New Yorkers Rewarding Careers and Purpose

CBK Final Logo converted jpg.jpg

Project Renewal runs City Beet Kitchens, a social enterprise catering business dedicated to preparing and serving delicious food while helping New York City’s homeless, low-income, and unemployed residents renew their lives.

Every order with City Beet Kitchens provides a life-changing opportunity — a career path with a living wage, benefits, and growth prospects — to a New Yorker in need. The company’s staff members are graduates of Project Renewal’s award-winning Culinary Arts Training Program which provides intensive training in the kitchen, followed by a six-week internship at a restaurant or corporate dining services company, and job placement.

“All of our staff members are passionate about what they do,” said Barbara Hughes, Director of Food Services at Project Renewal and Co-founder and Director of the Culinary Arts Training Program. “We’re not just a catering company; we help New Yorkers get back on their feet. Our food is prepared with love and appreciation, for New Yorkers by New Yorkers.”

City Beet Kitchens is focused on providing customers with fresh, high quality food and a personalized service. The thoughtfully designed menu includes dishes specifically tailored for every kind of New Yorker — from gluten-free, low-fat, and vegan options to one-of-a-kind dishes for foodies that love to experiment.

City Beet Kitchens caters to a wide variety of events in and around New York City, preparing continental breakfasts and lunches for office meetings and gourmet dinners for intimate gatherings, as well as catering for parties, cocktail receptions, and weddings.

Project Renewal’s Culinary Arts Training Program (CATP) places graduates in jobs at twice the rate of similar programs nationwide. “I fell in love with the program — it helped me a lot,” said Jamel Woods, a CATP graduate and Sous-Chef at City Beet Kitchens. “This job keeps my head straight; it keeps me focused and off the streets. I love being here. It gave me a whole new set of goals.”

Project Renewal’s social purpose catering company was previously named Comfort Foods. Since 1997, Comfort Foods prepared meals for New York City nonprofit institutions and catered to private parties, office meetings and corporate events for clients such as Capital One and Morgan Stanley.

“Capital One has enjoyed catering from Project Renewal for volunteer projects, boardroom meetings and associate events,” said Jessa Thomas, Community Affairs, Capital One. “Our associates believe in the mission of Project Renewal, and City Beet Kitchens is a true testament of life changing opportunity. All that aside, the food speaks for itself and always receives rave reviews.”

For more information about City Beet Kitchens, visit and follow @CityBeetNYC on Twitter. To learn about Project Renewal’s Culinary Arts Training Program, visit

Project Renewal's Next Step Internship Program Wins NYCETC Workforce Innovation Award

On November 16, Project Renewal's Next Step Internship Program (NSIP) received the Workforce Innovation Award from the NYC Employment and Training Coalition (NYCETC). The honor was part of NYCETC's 2016 Opportunity Awards, which recognize programs and services striving to ensure that every New Yorker has access to the skills, training, and education needed to thrive in the local economy.

NSIP provides on-the-job training for unemployed men and women interested in homeless services work. After intensive vocational and life skills classes, participants complete a six-week paid internship at a shelter. Successful interns are given a priority for competitive employment at their internship site and receive follow-up support services. Since many of our interns have overcome homelessness themselves, they are uniquely qualified to help and inspire the shelter residents they serve.

Click here to watch Fox 5 New York's story on NSIP.

“I see more now. I see the future.” - Jamel’s Story

 Jamel at city beet kitchens

Jamel at city beet kitchens

“I look back at my family. My son’s face. My baby mother’s face. I can’t do this to them again.”

Jamel is a large man with a broad smile. His voice has a lightness to it that is pleasant, almost intoxicating.

I ask him to share his story.

“When I was in my twenties, before I was with Project Renewal, I was incarcerated for criminal possession with a weapon. Hanging around with the wrong people. Making the wrong decisions.” He considers his own statement for a second. “Wrong decisions can feel like the fun decisions at the time.”

And then: “Five years, I was in there.”

          I ask him when things turned around for him.

“Pretty much first day I got out on bail.”

What happened then?

“I got to look back at my family. My son’s face. My baby mother’s face. I told myself, ‘I can’t do this to them again.’”

How’d you get through it?

“I did a lot of working out, lot of cooking. Got my LTCA (Limited Time Credit Allowance). They take 6 months off of your sentence for good behavior. It sounds easy but in jail anything can happen. If I was to go to jail again…” He didn’t finish his sentence.

“I ended up getting out in May 2014, instead of November 2014. Didn’t want to tell anyone. I wanted everyone to be surprised. I wanted them to be like, ‘Oh snap, you home?’”

           We both laugh. I ask him what was the next move.

    “I was working through a mandatory drug program and anger management classes. Got a job at a furniture store. Was working over there for six days straight. Lady fired me because I was too slow. She said, ‘I’ll call you.’  Whatever that means…

“After that, a friend I was locked up with told me about the organization.”

Project Renewal?

“Yeah. I met with them, told them I wanted to be an electrician.”

Why an electrician?

“Electricians make a lot of money.”

That’s a good enough reason.

“But we got talking and they asked me what I liked to do. I said, ‘I do a lot of cooking.’ They asked if I wanted to work in the kitchen. ‘I’ll give it a shot,’ I said.

“Working in the catering department? Best thing in my life. I’m the only guy who came everyday, so they hired me. I’m growing. I’m learning everyday. I’m a sous chef now, up on 42nd street.”

What do you like to make?

“I like platters, salads. I love hors d'oeuvres. They take a lot of time and patience, but they taste so good. And I love the environment. Working with Chef Anthony, Eddie, Isaac. Part of me loving my job is loving my coworkers. If things get hectic, we find a way to work it out together.

“When I went into jail, my son was one. He was six when I got back. That’s not something I want to go through again. I think we all have moments where we can change. I had a lot of moments to change and say ‘I’m not going back to that.’”

He smiles. “I see more, now. I see the future.”

- Dan Foley


Jamel is the sous-chef at City Beet Kitchens, Project Renewal’s social purpose catering company that employs formerly homeless and unemployed men and women who have graduated from our award-winning Culinary Arts Training Program.

Join us in the fight against homelessness and order from City Beet Kitchens for your next corporate meeting, cocktail reception, wedding, or special event.


"Why are you homeless" - Frank's story

“My life was a trainwreck. There was no love in my family. No father-son talk. No mother-son talk. So I would go out and find people who were like me.”

Renewal Farm needs your support to help more men like Frank. To donate, visit

Frank is a strong man with piercing blue eyes. When he speaks, he speaks in short sentences. Straightforward, clear, and without any illusions.  

“I’m Irish, from an Irish family,” he introduces himself. “Born and raised in Staten Island. Two brothers. Two sisters. I’m the oldest.”

I ask him what brought him to the farm.

He wipes the sweat from his forehead. He’s still wearing the gloves from gardening. “I was abused when I was a kid and all that stuff. Sexually abused. Mentally abused. Come from an alcoholic family they really didn’t care that much. Me being the oldest of my brothers and sister, I always looked after them, made sure they didn’t go through the things I went through.”

“I’m forty-one,” he continues, although he looks a lot younger. “Lost a lot of my childhood. That’s a lot of what I’ve been working on since I've been here.”

How did it start?

“I started using alcohol at an early age. Actually, my father introduced it to me. You get a toothache? Used to put alcohol on my teeth. Since then, I was attracted to it. It took away the pain, hid a lot of that pain.”

He takes off his gloves. “My life was a trainwreck. There was no love in my family. No father-son talk. No mother-son talk. So I would go out and find people who were like me. I was attracted to people using alcohol and doing drugs.”

What about your life now?

“I got two little boys, a little boy who’s twelve and one who’s eight. I always told myself I wouldn’t put them through what I went through. It comes down to the fact that I made those choices to choose alcohol over my life…”

He smiles. “But..I’ve learned a lot here. And it’s time to break that cycle.”

“I chose to come here. And it’s awesome. Just working on this farm is great. I take pride in what I do. Like I said, my history? I touch base on a lot of things in my history. These guys here are like my new family.”

“Working on the farm is great. When I plant the seed in the ground, it’s like new life, watching it grow. See what it comes out to. To me it’s beautiful.”

He looks around the farm. “I got God in my life today. I truly believe God works through other people, things, nature, whatever it is. When I go back out to society…”

He laughs. “Before this place, I was uncomfortable with myself. I’m a loner. I like to stay by myself. I saw you coming and I was like, ‘Oh no, he’s going to want to talk.’”

We both laugh.

“It’s an experience for me,” he continues. “If you don’t properly take care of the plants and vegetables, they’re going to wither away. I feel like it’s myself and my life. If I don’t constantly take care of my life and my things, I’ll wither away.”

“I always thought you had to have money, the nicest house. But just planting something, I take so much pride in it. I’m very grateful to be here. I’m actually thinking about staying out here. Once I fixed my attitude, the way I look at things…”

He doesn’t finish his sentence. He just smiles.

Frank has seen the radical change that Project Renewal can have on rehabilitation. And he’s not alone. Men of all walks of life pass through Renewal Farm on their road to recovery and a new life. However, due to recent budget cuts, Renewal Farm is losing funding. It’s our hope that, through the Why are You Homeless? campaign, more New Yorkers will come to understand that anyone can become homeless.

You can help support Project Renewal through donations. But we appreciate it just as much if you sign up to learn more about us or like us on Facebook. Check back next week for another eye-opening story about homelessness in the city. In the meantime, keep your eyes and hearts open.

- Dan Foley

"Why are you homeless?" - Tyler’s story

“I went to law school. That’s where my heroin problem got really bad. I almost finished. Had one class left.”

Renewal Farm needs your support to help more men like Tyler. To donate, visit

To say that Tyler is not my idea of the typical homeless man is an understatement. It’s not his age or race so much as it is his demeanor. He’s refined, charming, articulate. He reminds me of one of my college buddies.  

I ask him what he’s doing here.

“I grew up in Albany, went to college in Buffalo. That’s where I started doing drugs...I did well in school. Got into heroin over there. There’s a lot that comes through Toronto.” His eyes are squinting as he looks towards the sun.

“After college I worked as a case manager. Didn’t really like it. I went to law school. That’s where my heroin problem got really bad. I almost finished. Had one class yet.”

“I was using heroin every day—it’s not good, as it turns out.” He laughs. I smile, surprised at his candor. “The stress and being overwhelmed by it and 12 hours a day of work...I felt like I deserved to feel good.”

His face tightens up. “I kind of just collapsed at the end there. I became homeless...I didn’t have my apartment anymore. I stayed with friends, stayed at the shelter, I stayed with my girlfriend at the time, but I wasn’t getting any better. I didn’t know how to get better. She said you need to leave, you need to get help somewhere.”

So what did you do?

“I looked for a rehab, even though I did so begrudgingly. I wanted a therapy community, not a community that just yells at you, tells you that you screwed up.”

“I stayed with my uncle for a while. He’s a doctor and a professor at Dartmouth. He found out about this place, St. Christopher's and the Project Renewal Farm. He said this is your best bet.”

“I thought 90 days was an eternal amount of time. I was withdrawing from heroin and that wasn’t good.” His expression doesn’t change. “I didn’t know anything about addiction. I thought I was just screwed up and weak for doing it all. I learned a lot about addiction. I learned why I was doing what I was doing.”

“I have high blood pressure for a 26-year-old...the blood pressure of a 90-year-old...I don’t know what.” This time when he laughs, his mouth opens all the way. It’s contagious. I laugh too.

“They’re helping me finish school. I start my final class of law school next week. They help me with subway tickets and train tickets. I have a firm, sober foundation. Every day I’m going to come back here.”

His face firms up again. “I still have some problems, I don’t talk to my father.”

“But the farm’s been good. I’ve never really done this stuff before. At first I hated it because it’s repetitive. But now I find it meditative. I have to stay present. It’s what I needed.”

“When I got here, it was cold and I was planting seeds like...what’s the point? But now the plants are coming. It chills you out, being around plants that grow super slow. Plus,” he adds, cracking a smile. “Farming is a good thing to know. If there was a zombie apocalypse, and we had to start anew, I’d know what to do.”

Tyler has seen the radical change the Project Renewal can have on rehabilitation. And he’s not alone. Men of all walks of life pass through Renewal Farm on their road to recovery and a new life. However, due to recent budget cuts, Renewal Farm is losing funding. It’s our hope that, through the "Why Are You Homeless?" campaign, more New Yorkers will come to understand that anyone can become homeless.

You can help support Project Renewal through donations. But we appreciate it just as much if you just sign up to learn more about us or like us on Facebook. Check back next week for another eye-opening story about homelessness in the city. In the meantime, keep your eyes and heart open.

Dan Foley

"Why are you homeless?" - Fredly's story

  “As you learn to groom the earth, you’re learning to groom yourself. This whole experience, it saved my life.”

“As you learn to groom the earth, you’re learning to groom yourself. This whole experience, it saved my life.”

Renewal Farm needs your support to help more men like Fredly. To donate, visit

Fredly is tall, well over six feet, and strong. His presence would be intimidating if it weren’t for his voice. He sounds more like a scholar than a homeless man.

He’s watering the plants when I meet him. I come up and shake his hand. He starts to tell me about himself.

“I’m one of eleven, the youngest, I’m thirty-four now,” he begins. “From Rockland County. Father had me when he was fifty and my mother was forty.”

He takes off his gloves and dusts them off. “Father’s an alcoholic, and he was pretty abusive. My household was secretive. Strict religious on the outside. But inside? Very chaotic, lot of shame and guilt. Lot of ignorance...Everything was always fear based.

“I didn’t feel comfortable with my family,” he laughs. “I remember wishing I was adopted.

“My first time consuming anything was when I was six or seven, but in my culture, when you were sick, you put a little rum on your tongue. So alcohol and drugs always put me in a place of comfort.”

I ask when things started to turn.

“By the time I was thirteen, I was kicked out of the house. Completely rebelled, so I was able to do more alcohol and drugs.”

Even though it’s still early, the sun is beating down. Fredly is covered in sweat. He wipes his head. “My whole life was trying to portray one side of myself to society, while isolating myself and being in a real dark place in reality.”

“I dropped out of high school. I thought I was unworthy.” He accentuates the final word of the sentence. “I only surrounded myself with the same negative behaviors that I shared. I was very manipulative. I sold drugs, I used drugs, I’ve been convicted of a felony…”

I ask him if he ever tried to turn it around.

“I tried to go back to school, but I had to drop out. I was going to college for pharmacy. But you can’t have a felony in the healthcare profession.”

He sighs. “I have a nine-year-old daughter. I was in a ten-year relationship. Not being home with the family, not answering the phone, being out. Lot of stress, lot of confusion. Family couldn’t understand my addiction. When they seen me, they seen a kid that had potential, that was smart, but couldn’t see why my life was so unmanageable...I couldn’t see why my life was so unmanageable.”

I ask him about Project Renewal.

“Psychedelics and alcohol led me here, but I haven’t touched drugs and alcohol in some time. I’m on a whole spiritual trip.”

He smiles. “This place taught me to love and respect myself. Lack of faith...this place kind of gives me hope, showed me that life is beyond material. There’s more to life. You can’t isolate yourself. When you isolate yourself, that’s where you go to the dark, dark, place. That’s where the disease starts.

“I was raised on the streets, now I feel like I’m in tune with nature. I feel like it’s symbolic. As you learn to groom the earth, you’re learning to groom yourself. I love it, I love it, this whole experience. It saved my life.”

I ask him if he’s close to the guys in the program.

“We’re all brothers. It creates an overwhelming experience. Sometimes you have brothers who love you more than you love yourself...they love you until you learn to love yourself.

“Before, for me to have I fun, I used to think I just needed money, drugs, and women. I was lacking that spirituality...but when you start to feel it, that higher power, that spirituality, that start to feel that you’re feeding your spirit.

“Life is all about connections. The disease is all about isolation. It’s a daily struggle, but it’s also a daily blessing. So much has been given to me, I just want to give something back.”

Fredly has seen the radical change Project Renewal can have on rehabilitation. And he’s not alone. Men of all walks of life pass through the Renewal Farm on their road to recovery and a new life.  However, due to recent budget cuts, Renewal Farm is losing funding. It’s our hope that, through the "Why are you Homeless" campaign, more New Yorkers will come to understand that anyone can become homeless.

You can help support Project Renewal through donations. But we appreciate it just as much if you just sign up to learn more about us or like us on Facebook. Check back next week for another eye-opening story about homelessness in the city. In the meantime, keep your eyes and heart open.

- Dan Foley