The Metlife Foundation and the Enterprise Foundation share a common commitment in building healthy communities. Began in 1996, the group recognizes nonprofit groups for innovation in two main areas: supportive housing and property asset management.
The “Awards For Excellence In Affordable Housing,” represents models that serve as inspiration for other groups with a desire to build healthy communities.
Let us look at a case study of housing related to the needs of patients with AIDS.
The Greystone Foundation earned a third place 2004 Award for its property, Isaan House, situated on a historic site, in contrast to the urban setting of Yonkers, New York, encircling it.
Isaan House provides 35 units of permanent housing for individuals living with HIV/AIDS and mental illness or chemical dependency. The integrated program here offers support services, blending housing, health care, psycho-social support and intensive care management ensuring residents with a feeling of security, community and a level of service required to engage an often “difficult-to-reach” population.
Additionally, Isaan House is the largest such facility in Westchester County for persons living with AIDS. Residents occupy the top two floors of the building while the lower floors are reserved for a community health program for people with HIV/AIDS. Maitri Adult Day Health Program. This assures the residents with crisis and health counselors around the clock.
In terms of design, adaptive reuse of the site, along with innovative services to meet the needs of the extremely vulnerable population makes the Isaan House a successful model program.
Greyston Foundation is network of community-based organizations in Yonkers, New York, which serves northern New York City and Westchester County with affordable housing, employment, daycare, and HIV healthcare services.
The mission of the organization is to create a new model of community development inspired by the core
values of the Buddhist tradition: commitment to a path of personal
growth, development of wisdom and compassion and celebration of the wholeness and interdependency of all life.
The foundation began in 1982 as a neighborhood bakery. Since then, it has built socially responsible businesses; employing the “hard-to-employ”; creating and managing permanent housing and supportive services for the formerly homeless, low-income families and individuals; and enriching the lives of individuals with HIV/AIDS.
Greystone is now a $13 million organization employing over 175 employees and provides programs and services to more than 1,500 annually.
Greyston Foundation, Yonkers, New York
Issan House is located in a 55,000-square-foot facility and is co-located with the Greyston Maitri Adult Day Health Program, a larger supportive community-health program designed for people living with HIV.
It consists of 35 studio apartments furnished with full, handicapped-accessible bathrooms and microkitchens. A full assortment of supportive services is offered, which includes 24-hour case management, re c re a t i o n a l opportunities, linkages to area service providers, computer access and crisis intervention. The Maitri Adult Day Health Program consists of community rooms, a dining hall, library, art therapy center, computer terminals, meditation facilities, gym, greenhouse, child care center and case management and counseling offices.
The name “Issan” is a tribute to San Francisco Buddhist priest Issan Dorsey (born Tommy Dorsey in 1933 in Santa Barbara, Calif.). Dorsey founded a model of hospice for people dying of AIDS in 1987. He named the hospice “Maitri,” which is Sanskrit for “loving kindness” or “compassionate action.” Greyston’s Issan House and Maitri program honor Dorsey’s legacy.
Many who live at Issan House arrive in a state of emergency, struggling with drug addiction and mental health problems. Ninety percent struggle with chemical dependency, and 66 percent are faced with both psychological and chemical dependency. Persons with HIV/AIDS with a history of homelessness require considerably more intensive and specialized case management services. Issan House provides these services, offering residents various opportunities for taking back some lost control of their lives and their health.
Although independent living is not a viable option for Issan tenants, they do learn to better manage their health and substance abuse issues and, in turn, make their lives more stable. Case managers and personnel work closely with residents, assessing each tenant individually with respect to the process of healing, in order to formulate a comprehensive care plan. By utilizing intensive case management, individual and
group counseling, as well as other programs, residents acquire interpersonal, communication, time management and health related skills.
In the process, residents at Greyston interact with neighborhood residents, Greyston staff and Maitri members. Consequently, they gradually become more involved in, and eventually supported by, the entire community.
“Issan House is part of the former Blessed Sacrament Convent, a recognized national historic site that has been skillfully adapted for its current use. The Maitri
Adult Day Program occupies the bottom two floors, while Issan House comprises the top two. Each has its own private entrance accessible from street level, but
Issan House tenants have easy interior access to the health services provided by Maitri. This building is adjacent to the historic Ethan Flagg house, which houses the Greyston Foundation. The hilltop property overlooks the Hudson River and Palisades. A stone wall encircles nearly two acres of lush greenery. The back of the property has a river view and features picnic tables and benches for quiet contemplation and a slate patio accessible by wheelchair. The yard is used for occasional volleyball games, barbeques and recreational gatherings.
St. John’s Riverside Hospital is located directly across the street, providing urgent care services and in-patient substance abuse treatment. All studio apartment units include a micro-kitchen and dining table to supplement meals provided by the
Maitri Café (a dining hall on-site serving three meals each day). The bed and its attached table were specifically designed with resident needs and space constraints in mind, and are easily accessible by wheelchair with an end board serving as a desk or bedside table. An additional table or drink tray is attached to the bed with a movable arm, allowing it to travel the length of the bed for flexibility of use. Each unit has a handicapped-accessible bathroom.”
“Much of the building offers natural light and bright, welcoming furniture. Common areas include a private terrace, accessible only to Issan House tenants, located on the third floor overlooking the Palisades, and a community room equipped with cable television, a pingpong table, a fully equipped kitchen, a telephone, a piano and several comfortable chairs. Other community spaces include the wood-paneled Room for Reflection, the Maitri Café dining hall, a comfortably equipped Maitri lobby, two computer terminals and a library.”
Residents are engaged in the functioning of Issan House, programs and activities through several means. The five member Tenant Committee is a vehicle for tenants to communicate directly and constructively with each other and with Issan managerial staff. Consisting of residents who are nominated and elected by their peers, the committee meets weekly under the guidance of an elected house representative to discuss Issan problems and solutions.
Issan House residents also volunteer for various activities and responsibilities on the property. For example, residents volunteer with Greyston’s Community Gardens Project, alongside area children, seniors, families and the developmentally disabled. Produce grown by these volunteers on the property is often donated back to the entire Issan/Maitri community. Volunteering with the Gardens Project often leads to year-round earning opportunities for residents tending to Greyston office and greenhouse plants. Residents also volunteer as peer counselors to other Greyston clients.
Community Impact and
Significant community outreach efforts are made by Issan residents and Maitri members. Participants in the Detox Outreach Program, for example, regularly attend
regional conferences and visit detox programs to talk about their personal experiences and engage people in recovery. Residents and Maitri members are also peer educators for local school, youth and substance abuse programs. And, members of the Maitri Mentors and the Maitri Theater Project travel statewide to perform for and reach out to area groups. Staff meets regularly with city agencies, and they engage officials in continual dialogue in order to ensure ongoing support. Greyston also has long-standing relationships with other organizations located in southwest
Yonkers that provide related or complementary services. For example, the Sharing Community is a drop-in center and soup kitchen for the homeless that frequently refers clients to Issan/Maitri.
Greyston also has a collaborative agreement with Westchester – Putnam Legal Services for their mediation and legal representation services and is a member of the Yonkers Continuum of Care for the Homeless, which is overseen by the
Municipal Housing Authority of Yonkers and the AIDS Task Force. As members of these two entities, Greyston’s permanent affordable housing offerings are part of a comprehensive, coordinated system to combat homelessness. Summary Issan House and the Maitri Adult Day Health Program comprise a nationally recognized, effective and holistic approach to supporting low-income adults living with HIV/AIDS. Issan is the largest permanent housing facility in Westchester County for people with HIV/AIDS, and Maitri is one of only 14 adult day health centers
throughout the state. The program offers seamless integration of housing with support services, blending housing, healthcare, psychosocial support and intensive individual case management to provide residents with a sense of security, community and a level of service necessary to engage this often difficult-to-reach population. The sheer beauty of the site itself enhances participants’ lives in its own way, as it sits high up on a hill amidst well tended grounds overlooking the Hudson River and the Palisades. The expanse of lawn, flowers and shrubs, where residents can meet, explore and reflect, is a virtual oasis in the midst of a distressed, urban area in southwest Yonkers. The distinctive design and adaptive reuse of this historic site in concert with innovative services designed to meet the needs of this extremely vulnerable population make Issan House an exceptional program.
*Metlife Foundation, “2004 Awards For Excellence In Affordable Housing.” Supportive Housing and Property Asset Management. www.enterprisefoundation.org/resources