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Still Caring. Still Effective. Still BRC.

BRC is still providing more than 3,000 New Yorkers with life saving services around the clock every day. 

Still Caring. Still Effective. Still BRC.

While the COVID-19 pandemic has brought dual health and economic crises to the doorsteps of our city, BRC has never stopped providing essential care to New Yorkers experiencing homelessness. 

BRC is still present in the lives of our clients and community, providing over 3,000 New Yorkers with life saving services around the clock every day. 

BRC is still caring, providing support for isolated and vulnerable clients, adapting substance abuse treatment and mental health services to socially distanced and Telehealth models.

BRC is still effective, helping hundreds of unsheltered New Yorkers depart the subways for safety and shelter during the overnight subway closures.

Join us here as we share stories of resilience, strength, and innovation from the frontlines of BRC's work 

Still Sober: Mary's Story

SASC Client Mary Magdelene

"My name is Mary, I’m a Cancer, and I’ve been on drugs since I was 14. Things started to get really serious for me when I was 23, and I started smoking crack cocaine for the first time. Eventually, I got arrested. I was in jail for two years and when I came out on parole I came to BRC’s Fred Cooper Substance Abuse Services Center (SASC) for the drug treatment program.

Sometimes it takes something that serious for someone to start to understand what they want in life, and to ask for the help that they need. I’d been in a couple of drug programs before, but until I came here I never thought that it would be possible to stay clean for as long as I have – a year and eight months. In other programs, I would  listen to the counselors and, man, I wanted that sobriety. But I didn’t know how to get to that place, how to survive like that.

With my counselor Miss Renee, now I’m getting it. I’m learning how to function in the real world without being high, step by step. Since the coronavirus began, Miss Renee has been leading our groups on Zoom. To me, the way that she runs the sessions it feels like I am there in person with everyone. She is sharp and on point – the groups are still perfect.

She’s helped me to understand my own reasons for not wanting to use. I don’t want to feel the pain, or the embarrassment, or the guilt. I think about my mother a lot. Before she passed nine years ago, I tried to hide from her that I was smoking. But she knew somehow, and I know that it wasn’t what she wanted for me.

Losing her still hurts so much. But when I think about the reasons to not get high, I think about my mother – I don’t want all the people who care about me to see me using and not taking care of myself. The people that love me are happy that I am keeping the sobriety that I have. Over and over again, every time I fell down, they have watched me get back up and are still cheering for me.

I want to be a singer and a performer. I like to sing gospel and love songs – things that are true. I want to get married to the man I love, have a big beautiful wedding, and live happily ever after with him. These are the goals that inspire me to keep my sobriety, and it feels good."

Still Providing: Renee's Story

Renee Profile Picture

"Substance abuse counseling, like I do at SASC, is my passion and I love doing it. I help clients understand for themselves that the substances they have used, drugs and alcohol, have created obstacles in their lives that are preventing them from moving forward to be whatever they want to be. Many of my clients want to go back to school, want to be working, and to have better relationship with their families. I help them to understand how drugs got in the way of that through counseling, mental health and early recovery groups, and coordination with their doctors.

The majority of our clients at Fred Cooper are men, and I noticed that sometimes our female clients would lose their voice in group sessions. So I started a woman’s group in our program to offer a platform for them to focus on self-esteem, self-care, and emotional maturity in uncomfortable situations. I try to guide them in understanding that they have the ability to manage pain and trauma, and that they are worthy of good things in their lives. It’s a safe space for them to open up where they don’t have to push their needs aside to care for other people– what happens in Women’s Group stays in Women’s Group.

The pandemic may have changed some of the ways that we do our work, but at SASC we are doing the damned thing. COVID-19 has put a lot of pressure on our clients, many of whom are afraid to spend time outside or ride the trains, but also suffer from anxiety and depression while being isolated at home. The possibility of relapse hangs over it all. But we continue to do what we have always done – we work with the clients to bring them back into the fold and empower them to address situations that may have triggered them.  

A lot of times that means bringing them back to their basics – we offer the counseling and groups virtually, so I’ll ask that they attend more groups, meet with me more often, and just let them know that they have support. I’m not here to judge them. I know that addiction is strong and powerful, that it is cunning and baffling. But they don’t need to feel shame. In me, they have someone who believes that they can succeed at sobriety and build the lives they want for themselves."

Still Sustaining: Fernando's Story

Fernando Navarro

"Sometimes something good can come out of something bad – if not for the pandemic I don’t know if I would have found myself here with BRC. When the subways were shut down over night, I got caught out of a place to sleep. Since the start of the pandemic, I had been bouncing between staying with relatives and sleeping on the streets, and a couple of times I ended up spending the night in Central Park.

I had always had BRC in the back of my mind from when I saw them at the end of the line subway stations. But back in August – on one of the days where it was so hot that you’d start sweating as soon as you got outside– I saw two BRC outreach staff on 34th Street speaking with a lady sleeping on the sidewalk. They were calling her by her name like they took the time to get to know her, and I decided then and there to see if BRC could actually help me.

I went up to them, and within about two weeks BRC was able to get me a placement here in a stabilization room*, and I’ve been here for about three months. I feel like I’m one of the chosen ones. Before I came here, it was a full time job just to find food, a place to sleep, and try to keep clean. Now I know that I have a place to stay, so I can focus on getting myself right and on moving forward with my life.

I have qualifications. I have a driver’s license. I’ve been working my whole life, and have all kinds of experience. I had my own apartment for fifteen years before things started to fall apart for me. So I know that I can have a better life, and that this situation is temporary. BRC is helping me to get there.

There’s more to life than just surviving. We need other people. Even with COVID-19, we can take care of each other. I wear my mask out of respect for others, and out of love. We’re all in the same boat." 

*Stabilization beds are short-term, low-demand units that provide an effective tool in helping particularly entrenched unsheltered homeless individuals come in from a life in the subway system. Learn more >>

Still Reaching Out: Chantelle's Story

Outreach Staff 53rd Street

"New York City has not stopped, when it comes to providing outreach to individuals experiencing homelessness. We haven’t shut our doors, and there are still options for clients who want to come inside.

The most important thing to do as an Outreach Specialist is to create trust and build rapport with an individual who is going through homelessness. They may have had traumatic experiences and have a hard time trusting, so we help and coach that person and help provide them with resources to get out of their current situation, into something that’s more suitable for their goals. We offer hope, and that hasn’t changed during the pandemic.

My first client after the start of the pandemic had been on the street for more than 8 years, and had never made contact with any agency because he told us that he wanted to do it on his own. But when the pandemic came he was afraid, he wanted to go into shelter but was concerned about COVID-19. Because of the trust and rapport we’ve built with him over time, our team was able to support him with a placement in a stabilization bed.

We have reached a balance as the pandemic has continued to go along, but like all New Yorkers we are now facing the “what if” of the coming winter months. While we don’t know what exactly to expect, we’ve been here and have been doing the work, so we know we will continue to do that.

For me, the reasons I do this haven’t changed. I enjoy meeting the clients, having empowering conversations with them, and then watching the clients take the next step. You’re working with someone who may have lost all their hope, and to see them regain their life from the moment of meeting them on- to see them get placed, and thank me, and let me know where they’re at - that’s my motivation."

*Stabilization beds are short-term, low-demand units that provide an effective tool in helping particularly entrenched unsheltered homeless individuals come in from a life in the subway system. Learn more >>

Still Building Stability: Quincy and Kimberly's StoriesClient Quincy Napoleon with his Care Coordinator, Kimberly Henry

Quincy's Story

"I was born in Mt. Vernon and I was raised in the Bronx. After my Mom passed in 2002, I had a rough time. I didn’t quite have the family support I needed, and had to go out on my own and eventually went into a shelter. It was an up and down experience, but about two years ago  I met Miss Kimberly from BRC. She helps me with everything, from figuring out how to budget my money all the way to learning how to communicate and express myself.

When I met her, I was in a place where I was starting not to care about anything, about life itself. I had a lot of anger. One day, I was talking with Miss Kimberly and she told me she could help me with my anger problems. I didn’t believe it. But after a few months of seeing her, and having her come to see me, I realized that she was definitely for real. She’s came with respect and love. Now I look at her like she’s another mother. I trust Miss Kimberly 100%, no questions asked.

Since the coronavirus, they moved our shelter from Brooklyn to a hotel. It's okay, but it's hard not to be able to interact with people sometimes. I read my bible. I watch some tv. I take little walks. It's been good that I can still meet with Miss Kimberly while everything is going on.

The coronavirus has slowed everything down. I want to get back in school, to get my GED and work on math, science, and art. I make collages. But I’m working at one thing at a time, and housing is the first thing for me.

My housing application was just approved, so hopefully I can move into my own place soon. Miss Kimberly is still helping me, so I still have a positive outlook. I keep faith, and try to have understanding and respect. I’m not giving up."

Kimberly's Story

"I'm a Care Coordinator with BRC's Care Coordination Program. When I first met Quincy, he was having was having trouble managing his anger and staying calm around his peers. But once I started to get to know him and to learn what was really going on, it became clear that he was really frustrated and felt like no one was listening to him. His way of getting people to pay attention to his needs was to act out and destroy things. 

So that was the first thing I knew I had to do: listen. That’s how we were able to create a profession bond, by allowing him to talk, allowing him to express himself, being nonjudgemental and reassuring. Living in shelter is not easy, and I knew I needed to take special time and energy to help Quincy understand his actions, to make sure he was going to all his appointments, and to work with his other service providers to help hm continue to push forward.

For example, I was able to connect him to BRC’s Fred Cooper Substance Abuse Services Center (SASC) and build a relationship with his substance abuse counselor, which helped him to get out of the shelter each day and be in a supportive environment. Quincy was very motivated, which is helpful. A lot of times clients want to help themselves, but they don’t know how to go about it. That’s something I can work with them on – I can guide them from “I don’t know how” to understanding how their actions can help them reach their goals. 

We are here to do this work, even though the pandemic has had a significant impact on how we do the work. Because I can no longer do as much face-to-face interaction, I have to find other ways to stay connected to my clients. Before the pandemic I would do a home visit once or twice a month, but we’ve adapted and are doing check-ins over the phone or video call. It can be difficult because you can’t read facial cues, or assess the safety of their environments, over the phone.
 
But no matter what, I have to keep that one-on-one engagement. About 90% of my clients have pre-existing conditions, so we have to keep them as safe as possible. Our clients are still here, they still need our support, and they still matter. The work that we do It’s a calling, and a calling that we answer. This is not just a job for us, this is our passion."

Still Housed: Carmen's Story

Carmen De Rosa

"I moved into my apartment at Liberty Homes while I was 8 months pregnant, in the middle of a snowstorm that brought 24 inches of snow. I have three sons: twenty-one, fourteen, and nine years old. The youngest has grown up here. All of us have been isolating at home together since the start of the pandemic, and we have to be extra careful because the oldest and youngest are both high on the autistic spectrum and need special care.

Even though I haven't been able to work as a substitute special education teacher since the schools closed, BRC has been here to support me and to help my children with remote learning. It's been a challenge to help my fourteen year old with his online school work, but BRC has provided help with internet access and printing. 

I help him, and he helps me to take care of his brothers. We are finding ways to stay safe and motivated. We spend a lot of time outside in the parks and community where we can stay distanced from people. 

I love BRC because they give me the opportunity to make good choices. If you want to go to school, or take on some work that you like to do, they will help you. I have a degree in psychology and am working on my MA in special education so that I can get back to working with kids.
 
Life is all about choices. Every choice you make today is going to impact you three and five years from now. We all make mistakes, but you have to take responsibility and care for yourself. BRC makes sure that I have what I need to succeed, even now, so that I don't have to put off my goals. If we keep making good choices, we will get through this together."

 

Learn more about BRC's work during the COVID-19 Pandemic

From the Desk of Muzzy

Rather than create wealth for private developers, could we use the same shelter contract to create housing for low-income people?

Muzzy Rosenblatt,
CEO & President