"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 http://www.supportrenewalfarm.causevox.com.

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 http://www.supportrenewalfarm.causevox.com.

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 http://www.supportrenewalfarm.causevox.com.

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 love...you 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

 

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

  “Things are going to get better. Can’t get any worse. Dead or in jail. Other people got it worse...little by little, it gets better.”

“Things are going to get better. Can’t get any worse. Dead or in jail. Other people got it worse...little by little, it gets better.”

Mike stares down at the desk, gathering his thoughts. Then he raises his shaved head slightly and makes eye contact. 

“Just got back from Pennsylvania,” he tells me. “I was working there the last six months.”

Doing what?

“Factory jobs. I was in the carpenters’ union from 2003-2012 but since then I’ve just been working factory jobs. Stuff got tough in 2012. Been in and out of the shelter...and that was about it.”

His eyes return to the desk.

What about before that?

“Back after 9/11, I took training in a remedial hazardous waste remediation course. All that anthrax and asbestos. One of the instructors was a delegate and put me into the union. Just recently I was working at Amazon, as a seasonal employee, down in a Pennsylvania factory. But after the holiday season, they let me go.”

Then what’s next?

“Plan is to save up a little money, head out to Pennsylvania, rent out an apartment. They pay good, like $15 an hour. You can rent a place for like $600-$700 a month. House is $750.”

His eyes shift from the desk to mine, then back again.

“I’ve been in and out of the system since 2012. I’ll be in for a couple months, find a little place, lose a job, be back in for a bit. Had a few good years there, then it got tough.”

What happened back in 2012?

“Had a death in the family, got depressed. Got suspended from the union...I was between a rock and a hard place. I stayed at my grandma’s place, because she had just died. Stayed there for a year until the government came to repossess it.

“I wasn’t doing anything wrong, I wasn’t working non-union. I just wasn’t getting the work. It’s my fault for not going out and getting it, but if you’re not working 1,200 hours they suspend you.”

And what was life like after that?

He motions to his bag. “My bag weighs like sixty pounds. I’d start down on Broadway, go up to 40th street. Stop here, stop there. People telling you no. It gets tough.” He straightens out his back and says solemnly: “If it wasn’t for this, I’d be out on the street. God knows what you have to do. You have to break the law to survive. With this, at least you can wait for something good to happen.”

Why the shelter though. Do you have any family?

“I’m from Brooklyn...I have family around. But they’re living their own life. It wouldn’t be right for me to impose on them. They’re working hard every day. It was my own fault for feeling sorry for myself, for being lazy, being depressed. I should have went and found somebody to talk to, but I just inverted. I was a hermit.”

Do they know you’re here?

“I have an uncle I’m close with. He fixes cars. I help him, watch him. Clean up the tools. He knows my situation. He gave me an opportunity to come live with him, but I told him I’ll do it on my own. I’ll be alright.” A semblance of a one-sided smile forms on ‘alright.’ Then eyes back to the desk.

“My grandmother...she doesn’t want me to be sad, she don’t want me be a negative person. She wants me to do the right thing and make a happy life for myself.. So I just keep that in mind. My parents are in Florida, my little brother just bought a house. Once I get on my feet, I’ll get a house up the street.”

“Things are going to get better. Can’t get any worse. Little by little, it gets better.”

I nod. It can get better. That’s what we’re trying to help with Project Renewal.

There are tens of thousands of homeless people living in New York City. Many of them have stories just like his. 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 people like Mike. Project Renewal runs, in part, on 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.

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

  “I came into drug scene late, in my 20’s. I made a lot of mistakes. I just turned 46. As I look back, I wish i didn’t make those mistakes, but in helping others and giving back to the community, I feel good.”

“I came into drug scene late, in my 20’s. I made a lot of mistakes. I just turned 46. As I look back, I wish i didn’t make those mistakes, but in helping others and giving back to the community, I feel good.”

Jamie has wide eyes and an other-worldly smile. He speaks slowly.

“Originally from Newark,” he starts. His mouth hangs open during pauses while he thinks. “Things weren’t working out for me because I was heavily into drugs, sleeping in the streets...you know. Taking chances.”

He smiles. “I came up with a plan, hustled up enough money, came to NYC.”

How did you get here?

“Project Renewal gave me their card, they picked me up. I became a resident here, been here almost 15 months. I’m in the last stage, where they help you look for apartments.”

But why NYC?

“I tried in Jersey to see if they had anything, but they didn’t have any programs, I talked to my Mom, told her they have a lot of help in New York. Thank God I was able make that first move and come here blind,” Then, to further explain: “I used to have one jacket, now I have several.”

What about work?

“I’m not allowed to work, because I suffered an injury in my back, which is deteriorating. The bones never fused back together. I have osteoporosis in that area, 3 fractures in the lumbar region. They’re either going to put a plastic insert in or hope that my body doesn’t reject a cadaver donor...THEN I’LL BE ABLE TO WORK!” He nearly yells.

Then he goes quiet again. “Because of the therapy, I can’t lift anything over 10 pounds. Sometimes I bend over to pick up something and the sciatica kicks in.”

A wry smile forms.“I play handball even though I’m not supposed to.”

We laugh.

“I like to watch the soccer games that they play at the park - or the tai chi, it’s like a dance or karate or something. These men and women are older, way older, but they’re so lively…”

He stares off into the distance with his mouth partially open. His face shifts. He turns back to me.

“I came into drug scene late,” he reminisces. “In my 20’s, I made a lot of mistakes. I just turned 46. As I look back, I wish i didn’t make those mistakes, but in helping others and giving back to the community...I feel good.”

He smiles again. “It’s working out.”

How are you helping give back?

“I’m just a regular guy, trying to help out. I try to be the voice for them, be the voice for what they need.”

What do you mean?

“I’m Puerto Rican, so I help out with the Spanish translation around here. I help the staff out a lot. I’m probably the eighth person who’s been here the longest. I know everyone’s name. At outpatient care, I set up the chairs, get the coffee going, pick the morale up.”

He gives a final grin. “The guys look up to me as one of the older guys here.”

There are tens of thousands of homeless people living in New York City. Many of them have stories just like his. 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 people like Steve. Project Renewal runs, in part, on 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?" - Steve's story

Steve’s eyes are tired but focused. He tells me to open the drawer next to me. Inside sits a collection of skilled pencil sketches. I pull out the top one. It’s a profile of a nameless superhero.  

I tell him it’s pretty good.

“I was one of the first people of color to work for Marvel,” he says in a raspy voice.

Marvel Comics?

Steve doesn’t nod, but his eyes remain focused, looking past me. “I know Stan Lee personally—I went to Jack Kirby’s funeral. Back in those days, DC didn’t hire people of color.”

I look at the sketch again. You must have practiced a lot, I say.

“I never practice, I just put my brain to paper,” he says.

Steve is 83 years old, although I wouldn’t have put him a day over 60. In the first minute of our conversation, he runs through his life story like he’s checking boxes.

“Came here in 1936 from Cuba...graduated high school...joined the Navy, fought in the Korean War. Got married. My wife passed away from breast cancer in 1969. Got 7 Kids, 14 grandkids, great grandkids…”

I asked how he could be homeless with his background.

“It’s a series of events...some too personal to mention.” His expression doesn’t change, but the subject does.

“I believe in respect,” he says. “Respect rolls two ways. If you want it, demand it, you must give it. There’s rules you follow.”

He pauses. “I’ve spent some time in prison. It’s not a badge of courage, it’s a badge of stupidity...but you learn and you move on.”

I ask him about the shelter.

“It’s damn expensive to live in New York,” he says. “With these vampire landlords.”

I laugh.

“Homeless is at an all time high,” he continues. “We live in the greatest city...in the greatest country on earth, but there’s almost 60,000 homeless out there. It makes the the country look bad. It makes people not want to care...It used to be just people of color, now it’s everybody...you’ve got seniors out there like me, freezing to death.

“But the trick is to work with the system, not against it. If you feel you’re being trampled on, use this.” He points to his head.

“You come into the shelter system with hopes to be self-sufficient. It doesn’t always happen that way...but I’ll be out of here by spring. The goal is moving forward–-meet with the right people.

“Maybe my comments, my thoughts can motivate others.”

He collects himself. We’re silent for a few seconds.

What are you doing in the meantime?

“I’m doing art. If I’m not doing art, I’m reading.” He motions towards one of the posters he’s created for Project Renewal on the wall.

“Project Renewal’s one of the best organizations in the city, but it needs help

Like Steve said, there are tens of thousands of homeless people living in New York City. Many of them have stories just like his. 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 people like Steve. Project Renewal runs, in part, on 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

 

After 12 great years, “the face” of Project Renewal’s Recovery Center retires.

By: Lee Stringer

When she first arrived as a new counselor at the Outpatient Department (OPD) of our East 3rd Street Recovery Center, Madeline Pedraza came equipped with the kind of extra bona fides that Project Renewal has long recognized as primary in successfully reaching and treating people with long-term alcoholism and addiction issues: she’d been there herself.  Once a successful paralegal, Madeline--like so many others during the go-go ‘80s and ‘90s-- got caught up in the partying lifestyle. Drugs soon entered the picture. Addiction eventually followed, and from there things spiraled downhill.             

 Madeline Pedraza (center) with Denise Townes (left) and Thomas Ciriolia (right).

Madeline Pedraza (center) with Denise Townes (left) and Thomas Ciriolia (right).

Today she not only credits the treatment program she ultimately went through with saving her life, but with changing it as well.  “I looked around me,” she recalls of the moment in recovery when it hit her, “and I said to myself, ‘This is what I want to do!’”  It was a decision that would set her off, at the age of 55, on an entirely new career path. One that led her to East 3rd Street where, over the next dozen years, she would became one of the OPD’s most effective Intake Counselors--a post she held until her retirement in February. 

Addiction treatment is just one part of an integrated chain of comprehensive services Project Renewal’s various facilities provide in order to restore the health, employability, sustainable income and permanent residence of each client. The first and crucial link in that chain is to fully engage new clients in an assessment of their needs as well as cultivate their participation in a service plan to address those needs.  As Intake Counselor, this pivotal task fell, in part, upon Madeline Pedraza’s shoulders.

It’s a task that can at times prove elusive.

“Remember, these are at-risk people. Some of them are angry and hostile,” explains Recovery Center Director, Thomas Ciriolia. “Some don’t want to be here. They don’t think they need any treatment.”  

But for Madeline, having been there herself, a little empathy goes a long way. “The way I look at it, every person is someone’s child.  A lot of these guys didn’t have what I had growing up, and look what happened to me.  You listen. Try to get them to relax. Let them know you understand. Nine times out of ten, I could get them to do the entire intake.” 

“Madeline just seemed to have a knack with people. She was the face of OPD,” Cirolia declares. “She was totally sincere. No matter what mood someone walked in the door with, she could break down their defenses and make them feel that somebody truly cares about their wellbeing. When she announced her retirement I had mixed emotions.”

So too, her immediate supervisor, Avram Gleitsman, A musician at heart, he composed a song about Madeline and sang it to her during the retirement luncheon staff held in her honor. “Madeline was really appreciated by a lot of people.  She had such a positive attitude, and a lot of respect among the clients. Her absence will be felt.”

As for Madeline herself, leaving Project Renewal tugs at her heartstrings as well. “I loved my job,” she exclaimed.  “I saw it as a challenge.  You just don’t give up. I figured if I could do it, they could do it. I loved planting that seed and watching it grow.” 

 Madeline Pedraza's retirement party

Madeline Pedraza's retirement party

12 Must-Know Facts about Women and Homelessness

  1. Among industrial nations, the US has the largest number of homeless women and the highest number on record since the Great Depression. 1
  2. An estimated 50% of all homeless people are women. 2
  3. Up to 92% of homeless women have experienced severe sexual or physical assault at some point in their lives. 3
  4. 57% of homeless women cite sexual or domestic violence as the direct cause of their homelessness. 1
  5. 63% have been victims of violence from an intimate partner. 3
  6. 32% have been assaulted by their current or most recent partner. 3 

  7. 50% of homeless women experience a major depressive episode after becoming homeless. 1
  8. Homeless women have three times the normal rate of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. 1
  9. Homeless women are twice as likely to have drug and alcohol dependencies. 1
  10. Homeless women between 18 to 44 years old are 5 to 31 times more likely to die than women in the general population. 4
  11. Homeless women in their mid-fifties are as physiologically aged as housed women in their seventies. 1
  12. Victims of domestic violence experience major barriers in obtaining and maintaining housing and often return to their abusers because they cannot find long-term housing. 5

 

 



NOTES

1. Colorado Coalition for the Homeless: http://www.coloradocoalition.org/!userfiles/TheCharacteristicsofHomelessWomen_lores3.pdf

2. Homeless Women & Children: The Problem and the Solution http://voices.yahoo.com/homeless-women-children-problem-solution-368646.html

3. National Alliance to end Homelessness http://www.endhomelessness.org/pages/domestic_violence

4. Homelessness in the United States: History, Epidemiology, Health Issues, Women, and Public Policy Med Scape http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/481800 

5. A. Correia, Housing and Battered Women: A Case Study of Domestic Violence Programs in Iowa (Harrisburg: National Resource Center on Domestic Violence, 1999) accessed via "The Dangerous Shortage of Domestic Violence Services"




The best Valentine's Day gift ever

Tania Santiago wasn’t focused on getting something this Valentine’s Day. What she wanted was for this February 14th to be about giving. Tania called up Project Renewal and asked what she could do. She was put in touch with our Medical Van Outreach Coordinator, Jennie Mejia, who made a few suggestions as to how she could help. Thanks to Tania’s initiative there were plenty of warm winter coats to go around, Renewal  Kits with essential toiletries for patients on our medical vans, cookies, as well as a generous $200 donation—all collected from friends and family Tania had recruited to the cause!

tania for v day.jpg
 Top photo from right to left:  Bryce Breedyk, Tania Santiago, Katarzyna   Domagala,  Heather   Parisi     D'Andrade

Top photo from right to left:

Bryce Breedyk, Tania Santiago, Katarzyna Domagala, Heather Parisi D'Andrade

One in 5 Americans are, right now, living with a mental illness

As we approach the one year anniversary of Sandy Hook, Linda Rosenberg, president and CEO of the National Council for Behavioral Health, calls attention to the need for expanding access to mental health services America:

One in 5 Americans are, right now, living with a mental illness. Nearly half of them go without care, either because they can't afford it or, more often, because they don't know where to go or what to do. We must change that...

One year later, Congress is still debating two pieces of bi-partisan legislation that would go a long way toward ensuring more people get the mental health treatment they need.

The Excellence in Mental Health Act would improve the quality of mental health care and expand access to mental health treatment for hundreds of thousands of people served by community mental health centers.

The Mental Health First Aid Act would expand access to public education programs designed to help the teachers, first responders and others identify, understand and respond to signs of mental illnesses and substance use disorders.  People are hungry for these programs.  Since 2008, nearly 150,000 people have been trained in Mental Health First Aid – 40 percent of them in just the last year, since the Sandy Hook tragedy.


Read more here

 

Honoring Addiction Treatment Professionals

Geffner House celebrated National Recovery Month with the Addiction Professional's Day Community Celebration. 

We had over 60 attendees both professionals, consumers and community members. Presenters included Jewish Board of Family and Children's Services, MSOWS, Addictions Institute, HAI, Lantern Organization, Emerald Water and Huron Health Care.

Thank you to everyone who joined us for National Addiction Professionals Day on September 20 to recognize their important work in the field of recovery and treatment. Coinciding with National Recovery Month. NAADAC held its first Addiction Professionals’ Day on June 11, 1992 (originally called National Alcoholism and Drug Abuse Counselors Day). It was established to commemorate the hard work that addiction services professionals do on a daily basis

 

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Part I Q&A with Intern Ethan Balgley: Healthcare for the Homeless 101

We met with Ethan Balgley, an intern for the past year with our mobile medical vans. this is part one of a two part series from that interview.

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How did you come to Project Renewal?

As an AmeriCorps volunteer through the Avodah (the Jewish Service Corps) I wanted to get hands on front line work with clients and to be in a medical setting close to clinical work before going to medical school next year. Project Renewal was perfect for that.

The point of the AmeriCorps program is to develop leaders in urban poverty programs in the United States. I had focused on health disparities in urban poverty situations abroad so now I got to look at it in this country.

 

What is one thing you have learned this year?

Lack of housing and not actually a health problem at all because the lack of housing contributes to a host of problems. There is an idea in healthcare for the homeless of "housing as healthcare." This links urban policy at a more macro scale to micro level health problems that we see.

 
If you were telling a friend about what you do, how would you explain it?

I do outreach with homeless people at a non-profit called Project Renewal in their medical department where I work on mobile medical vans.

This is unique and exciting because it is an incredibly low barrier way to access care and the kind of care a lot of homeless people aren't going to get. Many people are familiar with the fact that they can walk into an emergency room and get care of a certain kind. Even though there is no barrier there in terms of insurance, often times people have to wait for hours and hours unless they are in danger of death.

At Project Renewal we go to the places where homeless people are--clinics in shelters (both our own shelters and others) as well as a mobile medical program that brings vans to where homeless people congregate such as soup kitchens and shelters without clinics inside. We don't require people to have health insurance, and we help them get signed up for Medicaid if they qualify.

 We give them kind of medical care that they can't find anywhere else. There are a very limited number of places where homeless people can get primary care at all, there are community health centers, New York City hospitals, and private doctors. Many private doctors will not accept Medicaid, and they certainly won't accept uninsured patients. City hospitals and community health centers by and large have incredibly long wait times to get an appointment with a primary care doctor. To have a service where patients can walk up to the medical van the day of and come in and see a primary care doctor is amazing.

 

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There are a few other organizations where a homeless person can do that but you can count them on one hand in a city the size of New York , so what we are doing is definitely unique and valuable.

 


 

 

How New York State is saving money and homeless people

Want to learn more about how Medicaid is going to help homeless New Yorkers AND save tax payer's money? 

For the idea in brief, read below, or check out this report from the Center for Health Care Strategies and the Corporation for Supportive Housing. 

Policy Brief PDF Download

Policy Brief online

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The Affordable Care Act redesigned the systems that deliver healthcare to the highest users of Medicaid—often homeless adults with chronic illnesses and serious mental illness that cause frequent emergency room visits.

But many of those men and women are unclear of how to access care now. For example,  41% of our shelter residents are eligible for Health Homes.

A Health Home is a network of caregivers that work in collaboration with one another to help men and women with chronic health conditions and serious mental illnesses.

This coordinated approach to healthcare is designed to improve health outcomes for the highest need patients and reduce costs for taxpayers.

We now have two staff members who work as Health Home Coordinators. By accessing a single network of caregivers, our Health Home Coordinators can refer homeless adults to every service they need – from an eye exam to mental health treatment.

Through participating in the Health Homes program, we’re making healthcare even more accessible for the homeless men and women who need it most.

4 Wins that would have been impossible without them

The nursing staff at Project Renewal has a lot to be proud of this year.

In the past 12 months Project Renewal has been:

Below are photos from the annual Nurse Appreciation Day celebrated this month. Please join us in honoring all their hard work!

Nurse Appreciation Day 2013
Nurse Appreciation Day 2013
Nurse Appreciation Day 2013
Nurse Appreciation Day 2013
Nurse Appreciation Day 2013

What NYU did

Over the past 30 years, the NYU Community Fund has awarded over 1,600 grants to local nonprofit organizations totaling more than $2.5M.

At an award ceremony earlier this month, New York University’s Office of Civic Engagement awarded more than $160,000 grants to 83 community-based non-profit organizations with money raised from hundreds of NYU employees, "each of whom believes in the important work being done by these organizations every day." said Bill Pfeiffer, director of the Office of Civic Engagement.

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Medical Administrator Pat Troy holds the plaque awarded by NYU Community Fund.

Of those 83 organizations, including the United Way of New York City, Project Renewal received the Thom Fluellen Award to support our groundbreaking Mobile Medical Program:

Since 2001, one outstanding organization each year has received a distinctive $5,000 grant in memory of the former Community Fund staff director, Thom Fluellen, whose spirit and enthusiasm for this community was an inspiration to countless others. This year, the award went to Project Renewal.

Founded in 1967, Project Renewal empowers homeless men and women struggling with addiction and/or mental illness to rebuild their lives with renewed health, homes, and jobs.  Project Renewal's comprehensive and innovative approach combines healthcare, addiction and mental health treatment, employment services, and housing to ensure clients remain in permanent homes and become productive members of their communities.

“The $5,000 Thom Fluellen Award will help support our groundbreaking mobile medical programs -  MedVan, StreetSmart, LifeLine and CareVan - which connect chronically homeless New Yorkers with ongoing health care,” said Mitchell Netburn, president & CEO of Project Renewal.  "The award is a wonderful endorsement of our mission to improve the health of homeless men and women with complex needs who face multiple barriers to accessing high quality health care."

“As of this year, the NYU Community Fund celebrates its 30th year of operation, proud to have awarded more than 1,600 grants totaling more than $2.5M to community groups since the program’s inception,” said Pfeiffer.  “We look forward to many more years to come.”

Read more about the award via the NYU press release

Meet Harry!

You might have seen Harry as a homeless man on the train years ago. Since childhood he has lived on the streets and spent almost 30 years in prison during his life. But now Harry is back! It is our honor to introduce you to Harry Dickerson, who gives us hope for New Yorkers still struggling to reclaim their lives.

Watch his story and be inspired!

Medical Department Receives National Award from SAMHSA for Excellence in Addiction Treatment

The Primary Care Department received a 2013 Science and Service Award for Office-Based Opiod Treatment in recognition of its innovative use of buprenorphine as an accessible option for homeless patients.  This model of care support SAMHSA’s priorities for addiction treatment including: recovery support services, integrated behavioral and primary health care services, hepatitis prevention and treatment services, practices that encourage patient choice in treatment planning, administrative practices that promote retention, access to care, and service/cost effectiveness and efficiency, and the use of electronic health records.

What does this mean?  With the primary care clinic at 3rd Street co-located with 2 detox programs and The Recovery Center, patients withdrawing from heroin and other opioids can find a “one-stop shop” of integrated health care and recovery support.  This means they are more likely to stay in care.  In 2012 the average treatment was 361 days which is impressive.  Medical Director Roslynnn Glicksman states: “As long as clients are in treatment, they are presumed to be free of illicit drug use and all that entails – overdose risk, illegal activity and risk of arrest, risk associated with intravenous drug use, and so on. So longer treatment is better.  In that time, patients are also improving their housing situation and working on health and recovery issues.  There is no limit to how long someone can be on buprenorphine maintenance. Addiction itself is a chronic condition with relapses likely and so treatment can and should continue.”

Congratulations to the Medical Department and all staff working with clients in this practice – another example of innovation in helping homeless men and women rebuild their lives!

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