Vicinitas Hall opens to serve former foster kids

Vicinitas Hall, pictured, is now open.
Photo by Patrick Rocchio

One of the first buildings in the city dedicated mostly to housing young adults who are aging out of the foster care system, as well as young LGBTQ community members, has opened.

Vicinitas Hall, a 67-unit seven-story building, with studio apartments primarily for 18 to 20-year-olds who are leaving the foster care system, is now occupied by young people who have just started living independent lives with the help of supportive social services located in the building, said Alissa Kampner-Rudin, chief operating officer for Lantern Community Services. Vicinitas Hall is located at 507 E. 176th Street.

The building was constructed under Mayor Bloomberg’s New Housing Marketplace Plan to finance 165,000 units of affordable housing by the close of fiscal year 2014. It is the result of a partnership between the state Office of Temporary Housing and Disability Assistance, the Department of Housing Preservation and Development, and non-profit developer Lantern Group.

“For some of the most vulnerable New Yorkers a quality, affordable home is the touchstone that can lead to a path of stability in their lives,” said Mathew Wambua, HPD commissioner. “Vicinitas Hall is a place where young adults who have aged out of the foster care system can find that stability in a safe and supportive environment. I thank the Lantern Group for their continued dedication to providing affordable housing to those most in need, the New York State Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance, and all of our partners who have helped to make this day a reality.”

The project has been in the works for five or six years from the planning phase to its recent opening, about two years longer than is usual for projects developed by the Lantern Group, Kampner-Rudin stated.

Supportive housing for a population that is aging out of foster care is key to making sure that the group does not wind up homeless, said Elizabeth Berlin, executive deputy commissioner of OTDA. The building also houses young LGBTQ community members who may have come to New York City in search of a better life but could wind up homeless without support from family, Kampner-Rudin said.

The people moving into the building are guided along by an in-house program director, case managers, program assistant that helps with matters related to everyday living, life specialist and employment specialist, Kampner-Rudin said.

“This is designed to promote independent living, housing stability, and really take them to the next level whether through employment, education, or both, Kampner-Rudin stated. “The case managers help them with their goals, which are directed by the young people themselves.”

All the support services are necessary because of the haphazard upbringing many of the young people have had where they might not have learned very basic things that other people who grew up in a nuclear family take for granted, Kampner-Rudin stated.

The rent of the apartments are paid 70% by the City through localized Section 8, and 30% by the young residents, Kampner-Rudin said. The cost is designed not exceed 30% of the young person’s income, and if a resident has no income, they then pay a nominal amount, Kampner-Rudin said.

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