For 38 years Brooklyn Housing & Family Services has focused its attention on housing change throughout Brooklyn — eliminating unfair, unsafe and inhuman housing – building by building. Deterioration has been reversed in countless distressed, privately-owned buildings which have been restored to structural soundness and sound fiscal solvency.
Three years ago we established our predatory lending/foreclosure prevention program to help residents find ways to modify the terms of their mortgages and retain their homes. Our program also offers assistance to families unable to retain their homes; helping them to relocate to affordable housing in their neighborhood avoiding homelessness and total family upheaval. These efforts are funded by the National Foreclosure Counseling Mitigation Program, the New York State Housing Trust Fund and the Center for New York City Neighborhoods.
Brooklyn Housing & Family Services is funded by the City of New York Housing Preservation Department under its Fair Housing, Lead Poisoning Prevention, Community and Neighborhood Preservation Consultant Program; the New York State Division of Housing and Community Renewal Neighborhood Preservation Program and Legislative Grant Program; and the City of New York Department of Youth and Community Development. Through this funding Brooklyn Housing & Family Services has been instrumental in the stabilization of hundreds of threatened multiple-dwellings and the preservation of the scarce housing stock of Brooklyn. The rights of minority, elderly, low-income and immigrant tenants have been successfully defended preventing the creation of homelessness. The combination of poverty with immigrant/minority status produces a vulnerable population often intimidated by the system and unprepared to work independently to find solutions to mitigate the building conditions that they live under. Our experience complemented by the bilingual abilities of our staff make it possible for us to assist these people in improving their living conditions. Almost reluctantly, owners and managers come to appreciate our assistance as their property values increase, their rents are collected and they are again able to meet the financial responsibilities related to their property.
Over the past 38 years Brooklyn Housing & Family Services has assisted the residents of more than 10,000 buildings with individual housing problems, has assisted more than 15,000 tenants in the completion of applications for JIGGETTS, SCRIE and other assistance, has counseled the tenants of more than 500 buildings on MCI’s, has held workshops in over 1,000 buildings, has represented more than nine hundred buildings and their tenants in housing court, has helped organize more than one thousand new tenant associations and more than fifty block and neighborhood associations, has presented its housing workshop at 125 senior centers, day care centers, PTA’s and colleges and to more than thirty thousand children in five school districts. We have provided panelists for housing seminars hosted by the Brooklyn Borough President and other community organizations and have been appointed to the advisory panel to the Commissioner of Housing of the State of New York. Most recently our director has been appointed to serve on the Advisory Council for the Housing Part of the Civil Court of the City of New York for a three year term.
Our staff delivers all services in English, Russian, French/Creole, Cantonese, Mandarin and Spanish. Our staff has combined experience of nearly one hundred years in dealing with senior, social, housing and community issues. Our network of more than six hundred building chair people throughout Brooklyn keep us aware of events as they happen throughout the communities we serve. These six hundred people are active volunteers and assist us greatly in developing programs to address the various problems of the communities. We deliver our Fair Housing and Human Rights programs in the Civil Courts of the Staten Island, Queens, and Brooklyn. We assist people facing foreclosure in courts in Queens, the Bronx and Staten Island.
We work with local law enforcement, elected officials and representatives of various city departments to ensure that services needed are delivered. Brooklyn Housing & Family Services makes owners and residents aware of the housing rights of all residents with some emphasis on senior citizens and the handicapped and their responsibilities with respect to them. Brooklyn Housing & Family Services provides information, referral and assistance to landlords with single parents, the handicapped and senior residents with regard to entitlement programs available to these groups.
Our latest effort in community outreach and education has been the creation of the Good Homes! Good Health! expositions which we have held at Kings Plaza, Brooklyn College, Medgar Evers College and the Atlantic Center. Through the coordination of efforts of nearly one-hundred banks, utilities, medical care providers, educational resources and city, state and federal departments, we provided a day of education to the residents of Brooklyn regarding programs that exist to insure fair housing and to improve every facet of their lives. We will continue to present these expositions twice each year the Borough of Brooklyn.
The program and services described have been targeted to the low-income, multiple-dwelling minority and immigrant/refugee population residing in Brooklyn. Outreach includes but has not limited to the distribution of program literature in several languages at the courts, in libraries, community board offices, senior citizen centers, immigration offices, police stations, social services offices, offices of elected officials, public schools and community centers. Periodically we publish an agency newsletter discussing our programs and benefits that are available to the target population. We visit each community board and school board served to discuss in depth the programs offered, the willingness and professionalism of our staff and our ability to deal with problems in several languages.
Brooklyn Housing & Family Services is unique in that we show people how to help themselves. We insist on the total involvement of each person being assisted. The population served by our organization learns about programs that are available to help with their individual needs and fully participate in the process of securing assistance under such programs. Brooklyn Housing & Family Services seeks to empower each person served. We help Brooklyn residents overcome barriers – be they educational, language, or social. We assist with solving problems that are compromising the quality of life of Brooklyn residents. The population served by our organization learns how to insist on the delivery of services by their landlords and from the various City of New York Departments that serve their neighborhoods. Brooklyn Housing & Family Services also coordinates its activities with the City of New York Police Department, the District Attorney’s Office, the New York State Division of Housing and Community Renewal, The State of New York Anti-drug Abuse Council, The State of New York Division of Criminal Justice Services and the City of New York Department of Housing Preservation and Development and Youth and Community Development Agency.
Our staff is well versed in assisting with application for benefits such as food stamps, Jiggetts, FEPS. SCRIE and have each has several years experience in advocacy for low-income residents of Brooklyn. Our housing program is more than 38 years old and constantly evolving. Our senior citizen program was first developed in 1982 and has been evolving ever since into a program that delivers a full range of services in many languages in a variety of locations.
Through our efforts rights are protected, the maintenance of affordable housing is encouraged, human rights abuses are discouraged, homelessness is prevented and neighborhood stability is promoted. Clients are assigned to staff members based on language needs and/or the type of initial problem. Each case file is analyzed and each counselor receives recommendations on how to possibly enhance the services provided to each client. Periodically our program coordinator meets with each counselor to discuss the improvement of coordination of cases and ways to improve our response to the individual client needs. We discuss needs that we have not met and for which we have not been able to identify other resources. We evaluate the effectiveness of our programs both quantitatively and qualitatively. We accumulate data on the number of residents assisted and more importantly on the range of services we have been able to involve them in. A case study manual is being compiled for use by new staff as hired and as a source document for programs that have worked under exceptional circumstances. Many residents come with only one definable problem. Through working together out staff learn not to stop at that problem but to offer assistance and suggestions to each family worked with to identify other areas where assistance will enhance the life of each family member. We continually perform self-evaluation and to share our experiences in order to develop the working knowledge of each counselor with regard to community resources.
Community outreach at Brooklyn Housing & Family Services takes many forms. Regularly, mailings are sent to community centers, churches, schools, the community boards, senior centers and the offices of elected officials, describing our programs and the problems we are equipped to assist with. Flyers are distributed to the multiple-dwellings throughout Brooklyn describing our services and encouraging residents to take advantage of them. Flyers promote confidence in tenants by explaining their rights and describing the many types of assistance available to them to obtain their rights to fair and decent housing. Workshops we present in senior service centers and public schools make residents aware of our services and the protections available to them under the law. Our C-span program has acquainted the home-bound and those who fail to participate in community activities with our programs. Residents are made aware of the remedies available in specific circumstances and of the penalties which the law can impose on landlords who persist in unlawful housing activities. Because of the burgeoning immigrant population in Brooklyn, we have produced many of our publications in Spanish, Creole, French and in Russian. We have published articles in the neighborhood English press in Brooklyn as well as in the Russian, Spanish and Caribbean newspapers. We present a fair housing series on Russian, Haitian and Spanish radio and television.
Through individual counseling Brooklyn Housing & Family Services becomes aware of landlords who are engaged in wholesale abuse of the fair housing laws and housing code. When this becomes apparent, Brooklyn Housing & Family Services attempts to form a committee within the identified building to assist in the creation of a tenants’ organization. Brooklyn Housing & Family Services holds an organization meeting at the building in order that all residents have an opportunity to be made aware of their rights under the housing code. All residents are given an opportunity to participate in activities leading to the correction of building-wide and localized building problems. Additional meeting are held as necessary. Contact is made with the landlord making him aware of the problems identified and requesting immediate correction. Follow-up meetings are held with the landlords who cooperate in order to devise a timetable for the implementation of the corrections. When contacts and meetings are non-productive, Brooklyn Housing & Family Services assists the tenants in the restoration of their rights and services through all methods available under the code including court appearances, rent reduction applications and rent actions.
Brooklyn Housing & Family Services fosters the linkage of the tenant associations formed into Block Associations and Neighborhood Associations. The Block and Neighborhood Associations formed acquaint residents of other multiple-dwellings in their neighborhoods with their housing rights and remedies available. This type of outreach within the neighborhoods fosters neighborhood stability and a general improvement in the housing stock and the reduction of unfair housing practices. Brooklyn Housing & Family Services has assisted in the organization of nearly one hundred block associations and thirty neighborhood associations.
Each month Brooklyn Housing & Family Services counsels at least 1,000 tenant clients. Each year Brooklyn Housing & Family Services holds more than 600 workshops. Workshops are held at colleges, childcare centers, at PTA meetings, senior centers, neighborhood associations and at a variety of other venues guaranteeing the widest distribution of information relating to housing, neighborhood preservation and other housing issues.
Brooklyn Housing & Family Services will assist any resident of Brooklyn or greater New York as requested in its offices, by telephone, in court as necessary to deliver required services. Outreach activities reach all of Brooklyn but will continue to be toward the low-income, minority, aged and immigrant, multiple-dwelling residents of the borough. The residents we serve are predominantly low and moderate income families with a large percentage of minority and immigrant families and a large percentage of female headed households. Fearful of the loss of their scarce housing, these groups are being victimized by unscrupulous landlords and are in need of our services. The addition of Chinese, Haitian, Russian and Hispanic Housing Counselors and attorneys to our staff has greatly enhanced the success of our current outreach efforts.