SHNNY Salutes RUPCO’s Supportive Housing Efforts

Rebecca Sauer, Supportive Housing Network of New York | SHNNY.orgRebecca Sauer, Director of Policy and Planning at Supportive Housing Network of New York, issued this statement for the Landmark Place press conference held on February 13, 2017.

Along with the Campaign 4 NY/NY Housing, the Supportive Housing Network of New York has been working for three years to ensure that there are sufficient resources to house the most vulnerable New Yorkers, at a time when more than 80,000 are homeless statewide. We have applauded Governor Cuomo’s commitment to develop 20,000 units of supportive housing over the next 15 years and were pleased when his budget last year included resources to develop the first 6,000 over five years through the Empire State Supportive Housing Initiative (ESSHI). However, the requirement that the appropriation be subject to a Memorandum of Understanding between him, the speaker of the Assembly, and the leader of the Senate, led to unsuccessful negotiations. The full pot of money has not yet been released. Nevertheless, as a result of the tireless advocacy of our partners and members, we were able to secure funding in the amount of $150 million in last year’s budget cycle to fund the first 1,200 units of supportive housing.

RUPCO’s Landmark Place will contain 35 ESSHI units, among the first in the state to be part of this monumental commitment. The historic property will be rehabbed to house seniors, including those that are medically frail, veterans, the chronically homeless and those with mental illness and substance abuse disorders. This development will allow these people the opportunity to rebuild their lives and regain stability. The Network salutes RUPCO on innovative and critically essential work.

Meanwhile, back in Albany we are prepared for another season of budget negotiations. The governor has included $2.5 billion in his budget for an affordable housing plan, including $1 billion for supportive housing over the next five years. While this budget removes the requirement for the MOU, the proposal is still subject to negotiations in the legislature. Along with our partners, we are continuing to push for the release of much-needed funds for supportive housing, be it through the signing of last year’s MOU or through the appropriation of funds in this year’s budget. Organizations like RUPCO, with the buildings they develop and tenants they serve, remind us of why these government policies are so important. We look forward to the successful construction and opening of Landmark Place and the shared work ahead.

RUPCO Pays Taxes

RUPCO pays taxesPaying our fair share is part of the deal. We direct public monies to transform communities and, in return, we pay property taxes on those we own. We are part of the communities we serve, at all levels of interaction. So to answer the question…

Yes, RUPCO pays taxes.

Below is a table outlining taxes paid through 2016:

RUPCO pays taxes

 

In a snapshot, The Kirkland, located at 2 Main Street Kingston has paid over $573,000 in taxes between 2005-2016. In 2015 alone, The Kirkland tax bill is over $55,000 in school, city and county.

The Backstory of The Kirkland article
The Kirkland, corner of Clinton & Main, #KingstonNYThe Daily Freeman recently published an article about The Kirkland. We feel it  helpful for you to have all the facts and access to our original responses which we forwarded to reporter Paul Kirby last Tuesday. We feel the real story about The Kirkland is our delivery of jobs, taxes, community space, and synergistic influences percolating inside one of Kingston’s historic gems. The larger story, of course, is how this small project jumpstarted a transformation that began Uptown and is now seeing it’s way to Midtown.

“It’s been 8 years since we completed the building” notes Kevin O’Connor, Chief Executive Officer. “The rental units and the office space have been rented since Day One but as we all know, the market downturned in 2008. That’s the main reason a restaurant didn’t take hold at The Kirkland. In addition, the capital expense to outfit a commercial-grade kitchen and restaurant fit-up required a new tenant investment of $100k-$200k beyond our investment and that proved problematic. We started marketing the property in 2005 and showed it to several restaurateurs we even used commercial brokers but had no takers. At the time, the location was a little off the beaten path, parking limited, and many opportunities with established commercial kitchens already existed.

“When we started this project, we promised and delivered mixed use space. We cobbled together 17 different funding sources to complete the project including a $1.5M mortgage from Key Bank that RUPCO is paying. In 2010, when we converted our community space at the Stuyvesant, we invested more money to outfit The Kirkland’s Senate Room as new community space. Since 2008, RUPCO has grown from 28 full-time equivalent employees (FTEs) to 65 FTE jobs, including 13 FTEs employees who now work at The Kirkland. Indeed, we’ve created more good paying jobs with benefits than what a restaurant would have delivered.” The Kirkland headquarters RUPCO’s Green Jobs | Green New York Program (GJGNY), a homeowner program designed to improve home energy efficiency through energy audits, weatherization and solar installations. GJGNY leads New York State in homeowner education, energy audits and retrofits, channeling over $5.3-million into the Hudson Valley economy; the program also saves homeowners money on their utility bills.

Originally built in 1899, the Kirkland Hotel fell into disrepair and remained derelict for over 30 years, a blight at uptown Kingston’s entryway. “We helped preserve history and put the 19th-century landmark doomed for demolition back on the tax rolls,” says O’Connor. “ Last year RUPCO paid over $55,000 in school, city and county taxes. Since we took ownership in 2005 and restored this building to its original grandeur – rebuilding the original domed cupola, installing an original wrap-around porch, improving the neighborhood – we’ve paid over $573,000 in taxes.” Winner of Best Historic Preservation Award from Friends of Historic Kingston, The Kirkland remains the gateway icon to Kingston’s Historic Stockade District.

“We hold homebuyer education classes in the Senate Room, which enabled 81 people achieve their dream of homeownership last year,” continues O’Connor. “Another 300 Housing Choice Voucher Program recipients learned about how the program works and what it takes to be good tenant. We also invested $58,000 this past fall, hiring local contractors to rehab and paint the exterior to keep it looking top notch this fall. This building has provided value to Kingston for over 100 years; we continue to do the same into the next 100.” The Kirkland is also home to eight mixed-income rental apartments providing much needed rental housing uptown.

Circle of Friends for the Dying, Ulster County Continuum of Care, twelve-step groups, Friends of Historic Kingston and O+ Festival hold monthly meetings, annual gatherings and diversity workshops here. “Once the central site the Kingston Clinic, Healthcare is a Human Right used the first floor for many years until they switched locations to The Lace Mill to meet the community demand there,” says O’Connor. “Women’s Studio Workshop and Kingston High School art students, NYC-based Center for the Study of White American Culture, Hudson Valley Tech Meet Up and local citizens have also used the space for their events. The Kirkland has consistently met the needs of our neighbors and we’re proud to adapt in ways that benefit our community as times change.”

RUPCO most recently invested in a high-tech audio/visual configuration to answer the community’s call for meeting presentation capabilities. “We continue to reinvest in the building,” says O’Connor. “We are good stewards, pay big taxes and create a large number of jobs! The Kirkland is just one spark to the economic fuel that is driving community wealth building in the Hudson Valley.”

Note: Also misreported in this article were Energy Square facts as well. As of today, possible tenants for the commercial space include Center for Creative Education and Hudson Valley Tech Meet-up; while we would have loved for them to join us on Cedar Street, Ulster County Community Action is not a potential tenant for this space.
History at 300 Flatbush Avenue

Bronze plaque commemorating Ulster County Chronic InfirmaryIt speaks well of the newly formed city government of Kingston that the first building it erected, between 1872 and 1874, was an institution to care for some 200 of the city’s poor. The City Almshouse was designed by the region’s leading architect, John. A. Wood (1837-1910), who had already designed many important Kingston buildings. Wood used an up-to-date Victorian style, the Italianate, to create a building with a three-part facade that was both dignified and economical.  Italianate features include the freely interpreted classical forms of the porch, the variously arched windows topped with drip moldings, the projecting eaves, and the gently pitched roof. Also worthy of preservation are a utility building and barn or stable behind the main building. The Almshouse interior was remodeled in 1954 by architect Harry Halverson to serve as the Ulster County Chronic Infirmary, but the original exterior was minimally altered.

Architect Wood based Kingston’s three-part Italianate facade on the Poughkeepsie City Alms House he had designed earlier, in 1868. Poughkeepsie’s former Almshouse, listed on the National Register in 1978, can now perhaps be a model for the preservation and adaptive reuse of Kingston’s structure. Poughkeepsie’s main building has been successfully renovated as Maplewood, housing for senior citizens, while the adjacent barn or stable has been adapted to function as Mill Street Loft, an arts program for young people.[1]  Ulster County proposes a similar adaptive reuse that will preserve this historic building, the first built by the new City of Kingston after its creation in 1872 and the work of a distinguished nineteenth century Hudson Valley architect.              

Early Care for the Poor in Ulster County and Kingston

In his history of Kingston written in 1888, Marius Schoonmaker wrote that the trustees of the early township of Kingston had “uniformly from the time of their incorporation taken care of the poor of the town and provided for their wants.”  Provision for the poor was, in fact, written into the town’s charter.  In 1770, the colonial legislature explicitly made the trustees overseers of the poor.  But it was 1790 before the township’s Board of Trustees resolved on building an alms house.  They also specified a piece of property on which it would be built.[2]

In time, other use was found for the property on which an alms house was to have been built but the resolution to have an alms house remained in effect. In 1803, the town trustees set forth a plan for selling off lots in the town’s “Commons” or undeveloped wood and pasture land to the town’s freeholders.  The money collected for selling the lots would be used to finance support for the poor, presumably including the building of the alms house first mentioned in 1790.[3]

Kingston City Alms HouseIn 1805, the Village of Kingston was created out of the larger township.[4]  Although provision of some kind was probably made for the poor of Kingston village, no building seems to have been designated for this purpose nor, based on a reading of Stuart Blumin’s study of the neighboring Rondout village, does that much newer village, incorporated in 1849, seem to have included such an institution. In 1872, the villages of Kingston and Rondout combined to form the City of Kingston.  At the very first meeting of the city’s new Common Council, Mayor James Lindsley pointed out that the State Legislature provided for the establishment of an Almshouse Commission and bonding authority of $10,000 to build an alms house.  According to Mayor Lindsley, the greatest change in the new Charter was in taking care of the poor and the distribution of alms.

A newly appointed Almshouse Commission voted at its first meeting to visit the Alms House in Poughkeepsie.  In June of 1873 the Commission voted to hire J. A. Wood, an architect who was well-known in the Hudson Valley “to draw the plans and superintend the construstion of a large and suitable building for the keeping of paupers.”  After acquiring 21 acres on the outskirts of Kingston for a building site, the Commission determined that $10,000 was not enough to build the alms house and went back to the State Legislature for permission to bond up to $25,000 for the building.

Work began during the summer of 1873 with Henry Otis chosen to do the masonry work. It was the first of a number of buildings on which Wood and Otis would work together.  The new Kingston City Almshouse was opened in June of 1874.[5]

Black & white postcard of Kingston City Alms HouseThe New Almshouse

The 21-acre site for the Almshouse was on Flatbush Road at the northern boundary of the village.  The facility was intended to care for somewhere between 150 and 200 of the poor.[6]  The main building consisted of a four-story main building (30 x 60 feet) with adjoining three-story wings (each 40 x 40 feet), in an Italianate style clad in brick.  Plans were made for a large brick barn (30 x 50 feet) and for a frame laundry building behind the Almshouse.  A quarry behind the laundry was to provide stone for a wall around the property.  Of the 21 acres, 16 were to be cultivated for vegetable gardening together with apple trees.  A spring-fed reservoir (38 feet in diameter and 8 feet deep) was to provide water.  The site itself cost $7,000 and the main building $23,000.  Another $22,000 was allocated for the grounds.[7]

The Almshouse opened in July, 1874. Six years later, an unnamed reporter in the Kingston Daily Freeman wrote that “There has been an immense amount of work done by the inmates of the institution in the years since 1874 in grading.  Other cities have their charitable institutions . . . but there are few cities that can boast of as good and well kept an Alms House as Kingston can.  Much fault has been found of the cost of its erection, but those who conceived the plans were working for the future, and coming generations may praise them for their far-seeing wisdom.  It is a substantial building, and when poor people have become so old that they have no kith or kin on which to depend for support may thank fortune to be allowed to live their remaining days in such a home as is here provided for them.”

“The house as far as cleanliness and fresh air is concerned is as good as any hotel or summer boarding house in this or any other county. It would pay any one to visit the Alms House, and go into its upper stories, as the best view can there be obtained of the surrounding country in our city.  The view takes in a grand sweep nearly all the Catskill range and the Shawangunk mountains, the whole of old Kingston village and a long stretch of country including the level plain toward Saugerties,  which already has been waving fields of grain.  Just inside the main entrance to the building are the two offices of the Superintendent . . . . The dining room is very pleasant, having windows its entire length and facing the Catskills. . . . The kitchen contains a mammoth American cook stove.  The whole building is heated by steam . . . .”[8]

Later or Additional Buildings

The one-story building with monitor roof immediately behind the main building of the Almshouse is identified in 1932 Sanborn maps as the laundry, built sometime after 1880. A similar laundry was built just behind the Poughkeepsie Almshouse.

The barn or stable further to the rear of the property (probably the building scheduled to be built in 1880) again relates to stables or barns behind the Poughkeepsie Almshouse.

Bronze plaque honoring Linda UhlfelderA Burying Ground

A “burying ground” at the Almshouse is mentioned in these issues of the Kingston Daily Freeman:

May 3, 1907: Body of Frank Sheldon (with “bad habits”) interred.

June 23, 1909: Body of unidentified man killed in north yard of West Shore Railroad buried at Almshouse, but now identified and disinterred for burial in New Jersey.

April 12, 1910: Body of Mag Graney found in Hudson River “after a debauche” probably to be interred at Almshouse burying ground.

August 15, 1911: Body of Henry Clark who died suddenly on upper Broadway interred in the Almshouse burial ground after Undertaker Murphy unable to communicate with relatives.

Similarities Between Kingston and Poughkeepsie Almshouses

Both of the alms houses have a central, three-story main block flanked by matching two-story wings placed slightly forward of the main block. Both are in the Italianate style in terms of their porches, window heads, cornices, and low roofs with slightly rising gables.[9]

More Recent History

By the end of the nineteenth century, the Almshouse was commonly known as “The Poor House” and was administered by the Board of Alms Commissioners . In 1948, the building was vacated and, in 1954, the property was transferred to the county for use as a chronic infirmary.   The Ulster County Infirmary operated in the building until new facilities were built at another site (Golden Hill) in 1973.  Thereafter, the building served as offices for the Ulster County Health Department until 2014 or 2015.[10]               

 Architect J.A. Wood and riendsThe Architect: John A. Wood

 [The following is from William B. Rhoads’s Kingston New York – The Architectural Guide (page 179):

 A. Wood was the leading architect in the Mid-Hudson region in the late 1860s and 1870s, designing several of Kingston’s most prominent buildings of that period. Born in 1837 in the Town of Bethel, Sullivan County, he was the son of Stephen C. Wood and Mary Crist Wood. By 1863 he was practicing in Poughkeepsie, where his office remained until 1871 when he established his office on Broadway in New York.  His operations were centered in New York for the rest of his life.

His buildings in Kingston include First Baptish Church, Albany Avenue, 1868; conversion of former Dutch Reforemd Church to St. Joseph’s Roman Catholic Church, 1869; Kignston Music Hall (later Opera House), on Fair Street, 1867-1869; Ulster County Savings Bank, Wall Street, 1868-1869; Office of Simeon and William B. Fitch , Wilbur, 1870; Children’s Church, Ponckhockie,  1870-1871; Kingston City Almshouse, 1872-1874;  Thomas Cornell Carriage House, 1873;  Dr. Robert Loughran House, Fair Street, 1873; Kingston Argus Building, Wall Street, 1874 (demolished); First Presbyterian Church, Elmendorf Street  , 1878; New York State Armory , Broadway, 1878; and Stuyvesant Hotel, John and Fair Streets, 1910.

Wood became something of a specialist in hotel design, and was responsible for the second Overlook Mountain House (1878) above Woodstock, the Tremper House (1879) in Phoenicia, the Grand Hotel (1881) at Highmount, as well as hotels in Georgia and Florida.  The most famous of the latter is the Tampa Bay Hotel (1891), preserved by the University of Tampa.

A. Wood died in Middletown on December 18, 1910, and was buried in Evergreen Cemetery, Town of Bethel. His career hs been the subject of intense and fruitful research by Annon Adams and James Storrow, who have generously shared their findings with me.

[Rhoads describes the Kingston Almshouse on page 114:]  It speaks well of the new city government that the first building it erected was an institution to care (inexpensively) for 150 to 200 of the poor of Kingston.  J. A. Wood had already designed the Poughkeepsie City Almshouse in 1868, and so he repeated the Italianate elements of that three-part facade in a fashion that alludes to the dignity of municipal government while avoiding expensive ornament.  In 1954, the building was remodeled by Harry Halverson to serve as the Ulster County Chronic Infirmary.

Bibliography        

Adams, Annon. “Victorian Ambitions: J. A. Wood’s Architectural Legacy in Ulster County,” a slide lecture presented to the Ulster County Historical Society at the Bevier House on November 3, 2007.

Blumin, Stuart M. The Urban Threshold – Growth and Change in a Nineteenth-Century American Community. University of Chicago Press. Chicago, 1976.

Kellar, Jane and Roberts, Peter. “Preservation of the Kingston City Alms House (1872) – Kingston, NY.”  Comment presented to Ulster County by the Friends of Historic Kingston about the preservation of the Alms House.                                      

Kingston Daily Freeman, June 2, 1880. “City Alms House…What a Reporter Saw of Interest.” (Available online at fultonhistory.com; search “Kingston Alms Houses” and see third of twelve items).  Kingston, New York.

Rhoads, William B. Kingston New York – The Architectural Guide. 2003.  Black Dome Press.  Hensonville, New York.  The Alms House is pictured and described on page 114.     

Schoonmaker, Marius.  The History of Kingston, New York from Its Early Settlement to the Year 1820. Burr Printing House. New York: 1888.      

[Sections of this application were prepared by Lowell Thing using extensive notes provided by William B. Rhoads. Lowell Thing can be reached at twothings@hvc.rr.com.] 

[1] For information on Maplewood, contact Burt Gold, principal at Fallkill Properties, Collegeview Ave., 471-8433; on Mill Street Loft, contact Carole Wolf, 471-7477; this contact information provided by Professor Harvey Flad of Vassar College.

[2] Schoonmaker, pps.  376-377.

[3] Schoonmaker, p. 378.

[4] Schoonmaker, p. 382.

[5]Adams.

[6] Rhoads, p. 114.

[7] Kingston Daily Freeman, June 2, 1880.

[8] Kingston Daily Freeman, June 2, 1880.

[9] Rhoads informal note.

[10] Kellar, p. 3.

RUPCO Strives to Better Engage Latino Community

Pictured l-r: James Kopp, NYS Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, Hannah Karp, Hugo JuleOn October 21st, RUPCO Outreach Coordinators Hugo Jule and James Kopp and Executive Assistant to the CEO Maru Gonzalez attended the 3rd Annual Hudson Valley Latino Forum held at Dutchess County Community College in Poughkeepsie.

Nearly 300 participants — including NYS Secretary of State, NYS Comptroller, State Assembly and County legislature members, City Mayor, Governor’s office, Empire State Development, Federal and State Agencies — came out to share perspective and service information. Organizations from Long Island to Albany and more that 25 sponsors, including RUPCO GJGNY, contributed their ideas on how to improve the quality of life of all residents in the Hudson Valley. 

Several round table discussions addressed health, media, community, education, politics, business and arts. James sat in on the media and politics sessions; Hugo attended the community and business sessions; and Maru attended the politics and community sessions. During the business session, Hugo explained how saving energy can improve business profit, as well as save money at home. Hannah Karp from Solarize Hudson Valley tabled next to RUPCO so that energy efficiency and renewable energy were on display together.

“One concern expressed at the forum was the difficulty that agencies have in bringing services to the Latino community,” notes Hugo. “This is due, in part, to the different immigration situations that residents may be dealing with. There needs to be a consistent, trustworthy presence of agencies in the community. Moving forward, the RUPCO GJGNY team will continue to work with the community leaders who work with the Hispanic population in the Hudson Valley so they may all benefit from the Home Performance with ENERGY STAR® program.”

RUPCO is also working to provide better service connections to the Latino community with its first-time homebuyer program and foreclosure prevention services. RUPCO recently launched a Spanish home buyer education orientation series and several energy-efficiency videos spoken in, or translated overdub, into Spanish.

Pictured l-r: James Kopp, NYS Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, Hannah Karp, Hugo Jule

Ask Governor Cuomo to Sign the Empire State Film Production Tax Credit Legislation

man-hand-signature-legislation-adobestock_116737673-500x167Call 518-474-8390 or email Governor Cuomo TODAY, encouraging him to sign the bill to expand the Empire State Film Production Tax Credit Program to the Hudson Valley (A.9415 -Gunther / S.6987 -Amedore) to promote new economic opportunity.

This legislation will directly benefit the work we’re doing with Stockade Works at the MetLife Building to bring TV/film production studios and a post-production & training center to Kingston. On a larger scale, the Hudson Valley benefits from the influx of people looking to work, live and create in our region. It will impact economic development and community wealth building in news ways that improve our neighborhoods. Here are  a few talking points on this initiative:

  • The New York State Film Tax Credit Program is designed to increase the film production and post-production industry presence and overall positive impact on the State’s economy.
  • New York’s film tax credit applies to all 62 counties of the state. But to stimulate production in counties outside of New York City, state officials in 2014 increased the 30% fully refundable tax credit to 40% for shows and films with budgets over $500,000 that are made in 40 upstate counties. In 2015, Albany and Schenectady counties were added.
  • Companies producing films or television shows in New York State are currently refunded between 30% and 55% of their costs, depending on where in the state they film and the credit programs for which they qualify. The bill would expand the geographic area in which film companies will qualify for the 40% credit.
  • The purpose of this bill is to expand to 40% for the Catskills and the Hudson Valley (north of Westchester and Rockland counties) and Suffolk County, which are close enough to the city to draw the kinds of productions that generate jobs and economic vitality.

Help us drive this legislation across the finish line. Call 518-474-8390 or email Governor Cuomo TODAY. Then ask a friend to call or write, too.

“The expansion of the Film Tax Credit means that the entertainment industry can expand and create a new segment within our growing creative economy and has the potential to become a major driving economic force locally, as well as throughout the Hudson Valley,” said Ulster County Executive Mike Hein. “My administration has been highlighting the disparity in the current program that is negatively impacting Ulster County and, as a result, there was a groundswell of grassroots support for this amendment. I want to commend and thank Assemblywoman Aileen Gunther for her leadership on this issue and for sponsoring the bill in the Assembly, as well as Senators Larkin and Amedore for their sponsorship in the Senate. If this bill is ultimately signed into law, our area would be poised to experience a potentially huge economic boost from not only the on-site production of films, but also the siting of studios and post-production facilities as well. This may prove to be some of the most important legislation our area has seen over the past ten years.”

The Struggles of Finding a Home

Steve. S landscape pictureIt has not been easy for Steve S. to find a place to call home. For years he has jumped from place to place living with various friends and going through all sorts of jobs. Steve also faced several illnesses such as pneumonia and Lyme disease that took him out of commission for quite some time. Through it all, Steve never gave up hope that things would get better. Rather than get down on himself, he found that he was more resourceful than he ever thought possible. When Steve found himself in a sticky situation, such as being evicted, he lived homeless for a while, but no heat, cold showers, and the onset of winter were not enough to deter Steve from persevering. When given a final warning of eviction, Steve contacted Pathstone and they were able to find him housing in Saugerties, NY with the assistance of Lisa M. and Multi-County at Paras House.

Steve recalls, “My time at Paras House was both educational and enjoyable. I learned a lot about myself and lived with diverse groups of people. At first, it was a bit difficult and some unpleasant words were exchanged, but overall we worked things out and lived in peace. For me it was sanctuary, a time to reflect and be free from all the stresses I was currently going through. I was more than warm; I had a roof over my head and food in my belly. Life was good! Come springtime, I got to work transforming, installing, and cleaning the Paras House landscape. I even fenced-in a vegetable garden out back. The vegetable garden was a huge success as we used the produce in home-cooked meals for the family. This also afforded me to share my cooking experience; we all ate well.”

IMG_1473Steve had honestly found a community where he was comfortable. Because of this close-knit family, he was able to recover from what was diagnosed as “Disseminated Lyme disease.” He states, “I accredit Lisa with making me feel so welcome and safe. She would often go out of her way to accommodate the needs of all of us in times of emergencies. With open arms and kindness, she is truly a special lady.”

When Paras House closed, Lisa secured Steve into RUPCO’s HOPWA program. With less than a month’s notice to vacate Paras House, Lisa worked diligently to find a new place for Steve to live. Steve said, “This was the first place we saw and I accepted it after checking it out. The space was more than adequate; it was in the perfect location. Since I did not own a car, having the stores in close proximity was awesome.”

Overall Steve reflects, “When I met the RUPCO staff at the office I found them to be super nice and very welcoming. I feel as though I struck gold. I was recently was cut off by Walmart’s workman’s compensation insurer but Lisa, who also transferred to RUPCO after Paras House, brought this to the attention of her supervisor. They continued to work with me until my situation changed. I am so grateful for these fine and caring people. I feel very blessed. Amazing people can do amazing things. I’m living proof.”

 

HeadshotEmily Lazo is RUPCO’s Editorial Assistant to Communications. She is a student at SUNY New Paltz double-majoring in English and Communication and Media with a concentration in Intercultural/Interpersonal.

No Place Like Home

Snapshot of Tom Hansen's homeI have called Ulster County home my entire life and I have never thought of it as otherwise. No matter where I went in the world, no one location was drawing enough to keep me away from the place I called home. No one location was ever enticing enough to make me want to leave Ulster County behind. The world is undoubtedly filled with beauty, but Upstate New York has a special place in my heart that will always make it my home.

I grew up in at a secluded stone house nestled in Stone Ridge. I have many memories of this house from all seasons of the year. I would spend my springs watching the heavy rain and thunderstorms from my porch. My mother and I always used to call thunderstorms “giant bowling tournaments in the sky.” Watching storms with her is one of my best memories growing up. I would spend my summers and autumns exploring the woods behind my house and scouring my stream for frogs and crayfish; my dog would always follow me everywhere I explored without fail. No matter how deep into the woods I went, he would always be right behind keeping an eye on me. I would also walk to my grandmothers or jump into the river using a rope swing tied to a tree. I would spend my winters walking along the frozen stream or building snow forts in the giant snow banks made from my dad’s snow plow. There was always beauty to be found at my house.

As I grew up and left childhood behind, things began to change; the harsh reality of life began to press down on me. My favorite tree was cut down while we were away on vacation. I was furious with my parents because I never got to climb it one last time. The dog I had grown up with, my partner in crime, passed away. Hurricane floods took away the tree holding up the rope swing. I did not get into the college I had dreamed of going to in high school. I drifted apart from my childhood best friend and my mother passed away. As much as these events changed the way I remembered things, they were never able to take away the beauty of this area that I call home. I still hike to the top of Bonticue Crag every summer to see the entire valley stretched out beneath me. I still swim in every river I can and ski every mountain possible. This area will always be my home, no matter what hardships I endure, because every day I make new memories. Ulster County will always be a place I can return happily to.

 

Tom Hansen is RUPCO’s Assistant Event Coordinator. He is currently a student at Ulster Community College majoring in Business Administration.

The Home in Community

Shot of Alison Simmons in her communityHome is more than just a house, or an apartment, or a bedroom, it needs a community to be whole. My family was always very involved in our community, which means I was very involved in my community. My parents coached almost all of our town sports teams, we attended the local church, and my brothers and I were in Scouts. The whole town knew my family, so we always had people looking out for us. Whenever I was out with my mom, everyone said hello and came up to talk, even all the kids at my school knew her; my school was pretty small but I think that says something about my community.

When I was thirteen, I could walk into town after school with my friends; I always felt safe because wherever I went, people knew me and I knew them. I did not always like it when I was younger because if I did anything I was not supposed to, my parents always knew by the time I got home. I felt it was unfair because my friends never got caught and I nearly always did; I see now that it was a great thing. It kept me out of trouble, it opened opportunities for me, and I met so many people.

Most of my free time was spent in town just hanging with friends. There were multiple times when my phone died or it rained and I needed to be picked up, but I had no way of contacting them. I always found someone I knew who could help me out. People get shaped by more than their housing situation and that is why I believe community is so important to the home.

Today I live in an apartment complex and I miss knowing all of my neighbors. The only person in the complex I talk to is one woman who lives two buildings down. It could just be because I am a college student in a complex of mostly new families and older couples, but it is a lonely feeling not being a part of the community around me. I never realized how important it was to me until I was no longer part of it.

A lot of people try to be independent and believe that they can rely solely on themselves or their families when times get tough. If we stopped to think about how many people in our lives actually affect us, it would become obvious that it is more than just those few. No one is alone in this world; as long as you look, people are out there to help. Being part of a community is about being “home.”

Want Equality? Start with Providing Housing That People Can Afford

red house, two green houses sitting on a $100 billUpwards of $22 TRILLION!

That’s what some experts estimate we’ve spent since LBJ launched his Great Society in 1964 in an attempt to eliminate poverty and racial injustice in America. Yet, little has changed.

More than 50 years later, 46.5 million Americans live in poverty — 16.1 million of them are children.  Millions more live on the edge, one job loss or one illness from an impoverished existence.

What went wrong?

Among other things, “Our housing policies…for decades have simply created islands of poor and low-income families, who for all intends and purposes, have been ignored and cut off from mainstream society,” says a paper recently published by the NHP Foundation, a national affordable housing nonprofit headquartered in New York City.

It goes on to say that these “housing policies have forced entire generations of Americans into neighborhoods—whether labeled public housing, low-income housing, or undercapitalized affordable housing—offering little supportive educational or social services.  The result has been chronic unemployment, ever-increasing crime rates, drugs, gangs, domestic violence, child abuse, high rates of incarceration, and premature deaths. “

The sad news is that these dire social issues will only become worse, more widespread, intractable, and irreversible as the crisis of unaffordable housing continues to spread from poor, underclass households to those earning average median incomes—and above.

According to an NYU Furman Center and Capital One study, households with incomes of 80 percent to 120 percent of area median income also are struggling to find affordable rental units in all 50 states.  Like many low- and moderate-income families, these households are forced to spend a disproportionate amount of their income on housing.

The government considers a family “cost burdened” if its housing costs are more than 30 percent of its income.  Yet, according to the U. S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, nearly 12 million renter and homeowner households now pay more than 50 percent of their annual incomes for housing—which leaves little left over to purchase necessities such as food, clothing, transportation and medical care, let alone save for things like education, retirement or unexpected expenses.

If housing policies remain as they are and wages stay stagnant, that number is expected to grow to nearly 15 million within a decade, according to a report by Harvard University’s Joint Center for Housing Studies and Enterprise Community Partners.

More than 55 percent of American adults—approximately 138 million—are struggling financially, according to the Stewards of Affordable Housing for the Future, many still reeling from financial losses suffered as a result of the Great Recession.

The pressure on local communities and nonprofit housing groups to create enough affordable housing to meet demand is enormous—and this at a time when many foundations and government agencies are shifting their focus from housing to social justice and equality issues.

Studies show, however, that where and how people live are good predictors of their life outcomes.  If social justice and equality are our desired goals, providing quality, safe housing that people can comfortably afford should be our top priority.

The low-income housing tax credit (LIHTC) program has been an extremely effective tool, but has fallen far short of demand.  According to the National Council of State Housing Agencies, the LIHTC has provided financing for the development or preservation of nearly 2.8 million units.  But to meet demand a whopping 8.2 million more units are needed.

So what’s to be done?

The NHP Foundation recommends building support among public and private-sector leaders to increase funding and re-engage the philanthropic community to help nonprofit affordable housing developers provide services that improve the quality of tenants’ lives.

Perhaps the most important recommendation put forth by the Foundation is to get everyone “to see this housing crisis for what it is—i.e. a root cause of social inequality.”

To paraphrase Arthur Brooks, president of the American Enterprise Institute, a right-leaning Washington think tank, we need to stop treating poor people as liabilities to be managed, and begin to see them as assets to be developed.

In short, rather than isolate entire segments of our population in dilapidated, rundown tenements that are Petri dishes for antisocial behavior, a good place to start is with providing people with quality, safe housing where they can thrive, have opportunities to succeed and feel that they are a part of the mainstream of our society.

Larry Checco headshotGuest blogger Larry Checco is president of Checco Communications in Silver Spring, MD. Larry is a nationally sought-after speaker on branding and leadership, and serves as a consultant to both large and small organizations, companies, foundations and government agencies. In addition, Larry is a faculty member of the NeighborWorks® Training Institute and an adjunct at Southern New Hampshire University. Larry has authored several books including Branding for Success: A Roadmap for Raising the Visibility and Value of Your Nonprofit Organization, and Aha! Moments in Brand Management: Commonsense Insights to a Stronger, Healthier Brand.

Contents Copyrighted © 2016 by Larry Checco.  All Rights Reserved. Reprinted by permission.