Urban Pathways Points Way for Housing Homeless

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New push by NY State and City has much to learn from agency's pioneering "Housing First" model

The announcement Wednesday by Governor Andrew Cuomo of a $20 billion effort to provide housing and services to New York City’s burgeoning homeless population, and similar moves by Mayor Bill de Blasio, have thrust Urban Pathways (UP) into the spotlight. With the recent appointment of Urban Pathways Chief Executive Officer Frederick Shack to the city’s new Supportive Housing Task Force, both Albany and New York City will have successful paradigms to draw upon, especially the “Housing First" model that has been a cornerstone of the non-profit social services agency for many years.

“It is an honor to receive this appointment and I welcome the opportunity to work directly with the city on solutions to the homeless crisis,” says Mr. Shack. “The Urban Pathways model has provided an alternative to shelters for more than four decades. Our graduated programs have enabled thousands of people to safely leave the streets, and always with a goal of returning to society with dignity and purpose.”

In addition to providing individual and shared apartments to formerly homeless adults, Urban Pathways runs the Antonio G. Olivieri Drop-In Center at 257 West 30th Street, the first-ever in New York City. Opened in 1975 for homeless women, only, it currently provides a safe and warm refuge to 70 women and men at anytime during the day or night, seven days a week. Olivieri is one of only four drop-in centers servicing the entire city today.

UP also operates two "safe havens" in Manhattan and Brooklyn. Based upon a “no-questions-asked” model, the residences cater to people struggling with mental and/or substance abuse issues and provide individual and two-person rooms with bathrooms and bedding. The safe havens offer a secure venue, along with access to social workers to assist with entitlement, healthcare and mental health services.

Urban Pathways is especially recognized for its pioneering supportive housing programs, such as the recently opened Boston Road Veterans’ Residence in the Bronx and Cluster House on the Upper West Side. Both residences represent a new stage for formerly homeless people who now have their own studio apartments, fully furnished with private kitchens and baths. Geared towards helping this transitional population return to society, the supervised residences have on-site staff able to provide a wide range of living skills guidance such as money management, meal preparation, community integration and management of symptoms and medications.

Since its founding in Manhattan in 1975, Urban Pathways has grown into a leading nonprofit working to provide people living on the streets, in subways and other areas unfit for habitation all around the city with "a way home." It does so by providing everything from outreach programs, to counseling, to permanent housing in residences in four boroughs. By 2017, UP's bed count will top 1,000 as it continues expansion efforts. With funding from the city, state and federal government, as well as from an array of foundations and private individuals, UP continues to play an important role not just in addressing homelessness but in pioneering better, more cost effective ways to do so.

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Linda Alexander
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