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Transitional Homeless Shelter Planned for West 105th St.

By Emily Frost | October 2, 2015 9:14am | Updated on October 5, 2015 9:00am
 Urban Pathways wants to bring a new homeless shelter to 54 W. 105th St.
Urban Pathways wants to bring a new homeless shelter to 54 W. 105th St.
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DNAinfo/Emily Frost

UPPER WEST SIDE — A nonprofit group is planning to open a new shelter on West 105th Street to help chronically homeless adults transition between the streets and permanent housing, it announced Wednesday.

The services and housing provider Urban Pathways is negotiating a contract with the Department of Homeless Services to operate the "safe haven" shelter at 54 W. 105th St., between Manhattan and Columbus avenues.

"We are in the process of opening up a small safe haven on 105th street with 36 beds," said Deputy Executive Director Lisa Lombardi, noting the group hasn't yet received the official green light from DHS. The site is currently a single-room occupancy (SRO) facility run by DHS, an Urban Pathways spokesman said.

Safe havens emerged in New York City in the early 2000s as a way of providing housing and services for people with mental illnesses who've been resistant to the traditional shelter system, said Nicole Bramstedt, an urban policy analyst at Urban Pathways.

Urban Pathways runs two other safe havens, in Midtown and in East New York, and reps say the model works in getting people off the streets and preparing them for more permanent housing.

The nonprofit operates under the now-popular "housing first" model of combating homelessness, in which service providers offer a place to stay before they make any requirements of a client, such as sobriety or being enrolled in treatment.

"The idea is to stabilize clients first through housing," explained spokesman Ron Abad of the "low-threshold [for entry] model."

The group's safe havens are intentionally small and offer medical and psychiatric services, as well as access to entitlements and benefits on site, he said. Caseworkers manage between 13 and 15 clients, and the site features 24-hour security.

Street outreach teams working for Urban Pathways and DHS find the clients, who must have spent at least nine of the past 24 months on the streets, and then bring them to the safe haven, Abad said.

The two safe havens the nonprofit currently manages are “safe and secure,” he said, adding, “you never hear about them [being problematic.]”

The West 105th Street building would need some light remodeling but no major construction, and all of the current SRO tenants could stay and would not be pushed out, Abad said.

However, he could give no estimate as to when the contract with DHS would be signed.

Urban Pathways has for decades run a supportive housing complex just a block south on Amsterdam Avenue called Cluster House, which recently underwent a $13.2 million renovation.

Cluster House is meant to act as a stepping stone for people learning how to be even more self-sufficient and independent before moving on to regular housing. A safe haven is considered the first step in this process.

Not only does this type of supportive housing lead to less of a revolving door of people in and out of the shelter system, it’s also cheaper, Bramstedt said.

“It costs $78 a night for an adult in a shelter. Supportive housing costs $55 a night,” she noted.

By bringing a slew of services to people previously unreachable, “we think we would add a vast improvement to the site,” Abad added.

DHS did not respond to a request for comment.

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