Voices Of Community Activists & Leaders (VOCAL-NY) is building a people’s movement of those most often marginalized by society: low-income, people of color, LGBTQ individuals, the formerly incarcerated, people who are living with HIV/AIDS, and people who are homeless or unstably housed. Though the organization was originally founded as the New York City AIDS Housing Network to fight housing insecurity among people living with HIV/AIDS, VOCAL-NY’s members now advocate for a host of interrelated issues of identity and social justice, including ending the hepatitis C epidemic, the war on drugs, and mass incarceration.
VOCAL-NY seeks to accomplish these goals through community organizing, leadership development, advocacy, participatory research, and direct services. The organization has a twenty-year history of concrete policy victories, while shifting the narrative around housing, homelessness, drugs and mental health. Over these twenty years, VOCAL-NY has amassed a proven track record of leading effective campaigns rooted in the lived experience of impacted people.
Due to the growing need for supportive housing in New York City during a time of federal funding cutbacks and rising homelessness, the van Ameringen Foundation began supporting VOCAL-NY with a two-year, $100,000 grant in 2017 to advocate for expanded supportive housing and to alleviate the illegal, unacceptable treatment of people living in three-quarter housing units and drug treatment facilities.
In 2019, the organization continues to fight for homeless and unstably housed New Yorkers living with mental illness by ensuring that New York’s Governor and the City’s Mayor make good on their commitment to build a total of 35,000 supportive housing units over the next 15 years. They also continue to advocate for improved housing conditions for New Yorkers currently living in three-quarter houses, residential drug treatment programs, and those returning from incarceration.
Above: VOCAL-NY members and advocates rally on the steps of City Hall for the House Our Future NY Campaign, an advocacy campaign calling for action to address the homelessness crisis by urging Mayor de Blasio to commit to 30,000 new units of permanent affordable housing by 2026.
THE JEWISH BOARD OF FAMILY AND CHILDREN'S SERVICES
The transition from youth to adulthood is challenging for anyone, but the difficulties are multiplied for those who must simultaneously transition out of the child welfare system. Research shows that young people transitioning from foster care lag their peers in completing high school and gaining employment, and are more likely to experience homelessness.
Kaplan House, a program of the Jewish Board of Family & Children’s Services currently supported by the van Ameringen Foundation, is a residential program for young men in the foster care system, aged 17-21, from across New York City. At any given time, 25 young men live at Kaplan House, many of whom have spent much of their lives in the child welfare system, and many have experienced significant trauma. Through evidence-based mental health interventions and strengths-based supports, The Jewish Board ensures that when a resident leaves Kaplan House, he does so with viable independent housing options, educational accomplishments, a path to meaningful employment, and permanent connections with trusting adults.
The van Ameringen Foundation began its relationship with The Jewish Board in 1969 with a $7,500 general operating support grant. Fifty years and almost $2 million later, the Foundation continues to fund The Jewish Board’s critical work delivering supportive housing and vocational services to New York City’s foster youth.
Above: Sidney, a 1960s Kaplan House alumnus, shares his experiences with current Kaplan House Residents at their annual Thanksgiving celebration.
PARTNERSHIP WITH CHILDREN
Partnership with Children has worked for over a century to help vulnerable children overcome the chronic stress of growing up in poverty. Partnership with Children works with 29 public schools in communities of New York City that face limited financial means and opportunities. The organization provides critical social-emotional learning programs and mental health services for the hardest-to-reach students and engages their families in the school community. Partnership with Children now has full-time social workers and community school directors placed across all five boroughs.
Partnership with Children takes advantage of schools as an ideal setting for meeting the social-emotional and mental health needs of students, where they can readily access students and capture a full picture of their functioning with adults and peers. Partnership with Children provides crisis intervention, trauma-informed counseling, and family and community outreach so that students can learn and thrive, resulting in increased student attendance and achievement, improved social-emotional health, and improved school climate and safety metrics.
Partnership with Children customizes their services for the specific school and community, starting with intense direct social work services to diffuse crisis and improve student mental health, and working toward building the capacity of the school leadership to build and sustain a school culture addressing students’ social-emotional needs and well-being. These programs at each school are a customized mix of individual counseling, small-group counseling, leveraging of community resources, family and parent engagement, and classroom-wide activities.
In 2018, the van Ameringen Foundation awarded Partnership with Children a three-year grant to support their efforts to systematically integrate mental health services into the fabric of Community Schools across New York City. The Foundation recognized that Partnership with Children, as one of the largest providers of mental health services in NYC community schools, is uniquely positioned to address the individual needs of the City’s most marginalized students, families and communities.
Above: Genesis Club of Worcester, MA is one of Clubhouse International's twelve global training bases. Their "Team Genesis" running group is part of their Wellness programming for Clubhouse members.
One in five adults will experience a mental illness at some point in their life. Yet, people with serious and persistent mental illness continue to be isolated, stigmatized and marginalized—but not where there is a Clubhouse.
Clubhouse International is a global non-profit organization working to end social and economic isolation for people with mental illness in the US and around the world. Founded in New York City, Clubhouse International grows and sustains a robust network of Clubhouses that offer a proven program model of psychosocial rehabilitation and community integration.
People who come to a Clubhouse aren’t a patient, or a client, rather they are members who are engaged in the daily operations and running of their Clubhouse. Working alongside others who have a mental illness, members are encouraged to invest in and leverage their personal strengths. Over time, this aids tremendously with their recovery and overall sense of purpose, acceptance and well-being.
The van Ameringen Foundation has been supporting Clubhouse International and its programs since 1995, beginning with a grant for start-up costs to advocate for, develop, and certify new clubhouses. Almost 25 years later, the Foundation is proud to have supported Clubhouse development and training around the world.
Clubhouse International represents nearly 300 Clubhouses in more than 30 countries on six continents. Each year, almost 100,000 people living with mental illness access Clubhouse services to increase their employment results, reduce hospital stays and incarcerations, and improve physical and mental health. This is all done at one-third to half the cost of other forms of community-based services.
CAMPAIGN FOR ALTERNATIVES TO ISOLATED CONFINEMENT (CAIC)
At its heart, solitary confinement is an unsafe, inhumane practice that significantly degrades the mental health and well-being of those forced into prolonged isolation. Led by people who have survived solitary confinement or had family members inside, the Campaign for Alternatives to Isolated Confinement (CAIC) aims to end the torture of solitary confinement, create more humane and effective alternatives, and build on these changes to dismantle the racial injustices and punishment paradigm that underpin the incarceration system.
Thousands of people – disproportionately Black, Latino and Latina – are in solitary in New York’s prisons each day. In 2018, after years of education, organizing, and advocacy with their many organizational supporters and allies, including the Correctional Association of New York, the National Religious Campaign Against Torture (NRCAT), the Urban Justice Center, Brooklyn Defender Services, and the Unitarian Universalist Congregation at Shelter Rock, CAIC successfully pushed the New York State Assembly to pass the Humane Alternatives to Long Term (HALT) Solitary Confinement Act. CAIC is now working to persuade the New York State Senate to pass HALT as well, and to have New York Governor Andrew Cuomo commit to signing it. Passage and implementation of the HALT legislation would make New York the first State in the U.S. to enshrine into law international standards banning solitary beyond 15 days for all people.*
In 2016, the van Ameringen Foundation made its first grant to CAIC, which enabled this unique Campaign to hire a full-time paid organizer with first-hand experience of incarceration and solitary confinement. This step has enabled CAIC and its allies to dramatically expand their statewide efforts to get the HALT bill passed. This grant to CAIC, which is fiscally sponsored by the NRCAT, builds on past van Ameringen support for the Correctional Association of New York and its decades long effort to improve the mental health care and rehabilitation of people who are incarcerated in the prison system.
* To its credit, the State of Colorado's Department of Corrections has instituted a 15-day limit. But as a policy directive, not a legislative requirement passed by Colorado's State Government, this reform could be reversed by the Colorado Department of Corrections in the future.
WEDIKO CHILDREN'S SERVICES
Wediko has been committed to improving children’s lives since 1934.
Using a strength-based approach, Wediko responds to the needs of children who face repeated obstacles to development due to emotional, behavioral, environmental and learning issues. Through a continuum of flexible services, multi-disciplinary training programs, a residential therapeutic school and summer camp, Wediko develops enduring partnerships with children, families, schools, and the community.
In 2011, Wediko expanded operations to New York City and currently provides comprehensive school-based mental health services in 25 New York City public schools. Wediko clinicians and consultants provide direct services to students, capacity-building professional development to school staff, and family support services to parents and guardians.
The van Ameringen Foundation is a longtime supporter of Wediko initiatives, dating back to 1989 with funding for Wediko’s Summer Program and the Wediko School in New Hampshire. More recently, the Foundation has supported Wediko’s expansion of children’s mental health services in New York City, funding trauma-informed mental health supports in a school for high-risk students. This enabled Wediko to continue providing effective, multi-tiered support and family engagement strategies to improve the mental health and educational outcomes for high-risk students.
Over the past few decades with support from the van Ameringen Foundation, Wediko has been able to restore the hope and competency in thousands of children, families and educators through rigorous support, evaluation and treatment for children.
Breaking Ground believes everyone deserves a home.
As the largest provider of street outreach and permanent supportive housing for homeless New Yorkers, Breaking Ground is a leader in New York City’s efforts to address homelessness. With more than 3,500 apartments under management, and over 1,000 more in development, Breaking Ground is helping homeless New Yorkers to rebuild and restore their lives in housing.
The van Ameringen Foundation made its first grant to Breaking Ground in 2000 when they opened their second-largest supportive housing residence at the newly renovated and historic Prince George Hotel in Manhattan. Over the past eighteen years, the Foundation has continued to support Breaking Ground’s commitment to providing effective mental health support services to its thousands of New York City supportive housing residents.
Since 2009, the van Ameringen Foundation has also supported Breaking Ground with program-related investments totaling $1,000,000. Breaking Ground has devoted these dollars—in the form of a below-market loan to finance pre-development costs for a number of their supportive housing development projects—to building housing that meets the needs of hundreds of formerly homeless New Yorkers. In the process, formerly homeless people have gained access to quality mental health care, stable housing, and other needed services to put their lives on a new path.
Since 1948, Fountain House has empowered people with serious mental illness to live and thrive in society.
Fountain House programs in New York City have provided over 20,000 individuals with the most significant forms of mental illness a place to find community, form meaningful relationships and live a life of purpose that goes beyond the management of their symptoms.
The late Arnold Louis van Ameringen, founder of the van Ameringen Foundation, was an early and enthusiastic supporter and former Board President. The van Ameringen Foundation remains a proud funder of Fountain House’s groundbreaking mission and work. Recently recognized by a Conrad N. Hilton Humanitarian Prize, Fountain House has inspired the creation of hundreds of similar programs in more than 30 countries that serve more than 100,000 people.