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BRC's Ongoing COVID-19 Response

BRC continues to serve over 3,000 of New York City’s most vulnerable individuals each day

BRC continues to serve over 3,000 of New York City’s most vulnerable individuals each day. BRC’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic supports the health and immediate needs of our clients, staff, and communities, while simultaneously preparing for the long-term economic displacement that will significantly impact the people we serve.


BRC remains on the frontlines, providing life-saving services through our outreach, treatment, shelter and housing operations. Despite the many challenges of this extraordinary time, our clients continue to move forward on their pathway to stability and home:

  • BRC’s residential programs remain fully operational, housing on average more than 2,300 people per night; having served more than 5,000 New Yorkers in the past six months.

  • More than 350 individuals continue to receive treatment through BRC’s substance abuse treatment programs; and

  • Since the start of the pandemic, more than 250 clients have moved into more independent housing.


BRC’s team of more than 200 outreach workers have been operating 24/7/365 throughout the pandemic, providing targeted outreach to New York's unsheltered in the transit system. With the overnight closure of NYC's subway system, beginning on April 30, BRC staff have led the way in providing coordinated, enhanced overnight and end-of-line outreach services to those in need. The outreach teams have worked closely with the NYC Department of Homeless Services, the MTA, law enforcement and other providers in this herculean effort, making more than 1,700 referrals for placements in May and June, with an average nightly placement rate 70% higher than the rate prior to the subway closures.


Throughout the pandemic, BRC has created nearly 500 new stabilization beds. 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. These beds offer a safer location for clients to live while also serving as a clinical tool to help staff build trust with clients and encourage clients to transition to a more permanent living situation. Clients come in from a life in the subway and on the streets, and are greeted with food, showers, and a safe and comfortable place to sleep. For some clients, it is the first time they have slept in a bed for years.


BRC operates 1,500 shelter and Safe Haven/stabilization beds across 13 programs. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the City mandated that shelter residents be moved to hotels in order to reduce density, allow for social distancing, and protect the health of clients and staff. Often with less than a week's notice, BRC staff successfully relocated five shelter programs with a total capacity of 721 beds, as well as 50% of a 200-bed assessment center for newly homeless men. The new hotel-based model required many programmatic changes, including but not limited to enhanced security and operational support for the more decentralized programs, and additional logistics related to food provision.


BRC’s Chemical Dependency Crisis Center (CDCC), ) which provides inpatient detoxification, rehabilitation and stabilization services that help those with chemical addiction safely withdraw from substance use and take the next step toward long-term stability, and the Fred Cooper Substance Abuse Services Center (SASC), which offers outpatient substance abuse treatment for substance abusers with complicated treatment histories, continue to admit and serve clients. Nearly all services are now provided via telehealth technology. Clients are able to attend counseling and group sessions, participate in weekly wellness checks with a physician, and more. The utilization of telehealth in these programs facilitates critical continuity of care, providing the necessary support for clients with complicated treatment histories to attain long-term recovery and stability.


BRC’s 684-person permanent housing network comprises 366 scattered-site supported apartments for formerly homeless individuals with a history of mental illness and/or substance abuse, and six congregate supportive housing programs with a total of 318 units for formerly homeless individuals, including those struggling with mental illness and persons with HIV/AIDS. To support client stability in the pandemic, BRC’s has shifted to ensuring that clients’ immediate needs are met during this challenging time. Staff are focused on ensuring clients have access to food and medication, and that they are maintaining good hygiene, and other supportive services are provided via teleconferencing when at all possible. BRC’s permanent housing programs are also home to approximately 40 children, and staff at these locations have worked to help ensure that children have access to necessary technology and printing, and are able to continue effectively engaging in remote learning.


BRC’s senior clients face disproportionate medical impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, due to the unique and complex medical and mental health challenges that they face. Fully one-quarter of our clients are aged 60 or older, including nearly 700 individuals at our shelter, housing, treatment and workforce programs; almost 250 active clients at BRC’s Senior Center; and roughly 300 clients on our outreach caseload. Recognizing the extreme vulnerability of these individuals, BRC’s COVID-19 emergency response efforts include targeted and enhanced clinical services for seniors. Case management and health care coordination staff at our permanent housing programs – which serve the greatest number of seniors – and BRC’s Senior Center are in daily contact with all clients aged 60 and older. This close communication ensures that clients remain actively engaged, and enables staff to quickly identify and address emerging challenges, thereby helping clients better maintain their health and wellness. In addition, it provides clients with a much needed opportunity for human connection during this time of isolation.

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