We sat down with Mary Tobin, newly appointed director of the Brownsville Partnership, to discuss her vision for helping Brownsville address key issues identified by the community, like health, employment and safety. Mary, a West Point graduate and former Army officer, joined Community Solutions after working for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
Julia Orlando is not interested in your excuses.
Talking on speaker phone from her office at the Bergen County Housing, Health and Human Services Center, she walks me through the work she and her team have undertaken over the last several years to tackle homelessness locally, first among veterans and more recently among those experiencing chronic— or long-term— homelessness.
Increased coordination: check. A countywide commitment to Housing First: check. Clear monthly performance targets: check. Real-time, person-specific data: check.
We are living through a moment of profound social disruption. As information becomes increasingly fragmented and faith in traditional institutions declines, more and more people are sensing the unraveling of the shared fabric that has traditionally connected communities. Electoral trends around the world seem to reinforce this notion.
This week, we officially announced that Riverside County, CA had become the first large community in the country to reach Functional Zero, our rigorous definition of a clear and measurable end to veteran homelessness. Our team has worked with Riverside since 2015 as part of our Built for Zero initiative.
This week, we officially cut the ribbon on the John and Jill Ker Conway Residence in Washington, D.C., giving 60 homeless veterans a permanent place to call home and creating an additional 64 units of affordable housing. The building has a fitness room, two outdoor terraces, and onsite supportive services provided by social workers from the Department of Veterans Affairs.
We were joined for the ribbon cutting by the Secretaries of HUD and VA, as well as the Mayor of Washington, D.C. What a way to start 2017!
My interactions with communities, partners and funders in the work to end homelessness are typically energizing. I hear conversations that inspire and challenge me on a regular basis.
Residents of Brownsville face joblessness at crisis levels, even as the rest of New York City’s unemployment levels have fallen to pre-recession rates. Our partners in workforce development have been working with us to examine and retool their own processes and understand why, when, and how often Brownsville residents are able and unable to complete their programs.
There are some social problems that, unfortunate as they are, just need to be accepted. They will always exist to one degree or another. One of those problems most people have resigned themselves to is homelessness.
Rosanne Haggerty is not most people.
CS: When did A Wider Circle start and how did you get connected to the John and Jill Ker Conway Residence?
Lidisis Mejia immigrated to Brownsville, Brooklyn from the Dominican Republic last year. Today, she she says her move was “the best decision I’ve ever made.”
Lidisis wanted to build a brighter future for herself and her two children, but once she arrived, she quickly saw that it would not be easy. Though Lidisis is a college graduate and worked as an ESL teacher in the Dominican Republic, her experience did not help her land even entry level positions in the United States. “I was nothing,” she says.