HARLEM — A new community resource center hopes to ease the burden for a section of East Harlem's population.
The Bowery Mission, a faith-based homeless services group, launched the Community Hope Resource Center in East Harlem at 315 E. 115th St., a pilot program that will provide free legal, medical and career services for any community resident who needs it.
It's being extended from a current program that works with previously homeless men.
David Jones, the organization’s CEO and president, said the area is ripe for the types of services Hope Resource Center provides because it has a high rate of poverty, according to the U.S. Census.
“We surveyed the neighborhood and tested to see what the needs are here,” he said. “So that validated it.”
For the past year, the center has been housing previously homeless men and placing them in a program, which includes vocational training, classes, mental health counseling, meals and legal services. Those services will now be offered to the wider community.
The men stay in the program for nine to 15 months and 80 percent of its participants join the workforce, the organization said.
Lawrence A. Saunders, 70, who was previously homeless and undocumented, has been in the residential program for a year and said it helped turn his life around.
“It’s a mission and a sanctuary, that’s what attracted me,” he said.
There is also an area for after-school and enrichment programs for children, ages 6 to 17, which has long been a part of the organization’s outreach.
There are strict security features in the building, Jones said, with different areas where residents enter and where the general community and children will enter.
The Bank of America Charitable Foundation awarded the organization a $200,000 grant through its Neighborhood Builders program, which allowed the organization to add a number of the services.
Jones said more centers like these that provide all-in-one resources for the community could become more common under the organization, which has shelters and other social services program across the city.
“We’re not hoping to be Starbucks," he said. "We’re hoping to open a few."
The organization is planning a block party to introduce the community to its services on Sunday, Sept. 18 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at 315 E. 115th St.