Landmark Place is an integrated campus of senior and supportive housing tied to historic preservation and adaptive re-use of existing buildings paired with new construction.
Although I’ve never been homeless, it feels like I don’t have a home. All my life, I’ve struggled to find and accept one. To me, a home is a place where you feel content and secure. I’m so close to finding this sanctuary that it pains me, but I’m not there yet. I think that if it weren’t for my troubled childhood, I would be able to find a place to call my own.
Growing up with two alcoholic parents doesn’t exactly set you up for success. I did have a perfect childhood, until my parents split up. After the divorce, my sister and I started living with our mother. This is when her alcoholism truly took control of her life, and ours. We would come home from school not knowing whether or not she would be intoxicated. At eight, I started to become traumatized by her instability and behavioral antics. We were too young to realize what was going on, but this had become our new life. Because of her alcoholism, I was forced to become an adult and take care of her while I raised my sister as well as myself. This life had broken any and all the memories I had of a home. Ten years later, I had a second chance of finding a place to call my own.
When I was eighteen, I moved in with a friend and his family. They accepted me and treat me like their own. I appreciate everything they’ve done for me and am eternally grateful, but even with all their support and love, I can’t help but to hesitate about calling their house my home. The constant tension within the house triggers something within me, making it difficult to relax there. because of the tension, I still return not knowing what I’m coming back to. This instability brings me back to when I was with my mother. They truly try to make me as comfortable as possible, but I’m still stuck in the past.
The closest thing to home I’ve ever had was my dorm at SUNY Geneseo. It was just me and my cat. I had my own space. The major difference was that the dorm was “mine.” I didn’t have to be anxious about what I would come back to. I had a safe space. This fall I will start an intercultural and interpersonal communications degree at SUNY New Paltz. I will once again be dorming and to me that means I’ll have a temporary home. I understand that home is what you make of it, but I just can’t adapt to living with others yet. I think that in order for me to let go of my past, I need to live on my own for the time being.
Home matters to me, as it should to everyone. Although I’m not quite there yet, I believe that my home is out there waiting for me. I’m not sure how I’ll get there, but I know I will. In the end everything works out, I’m just one step behind.
Fifty years ago, I was drafted into the United States Army along with thousands of other Americans. Though I was drafted into the Army, I’m proud of my service to my country. I spent 12 months with the 1st Infantry Division in Vietnam. When I returned, I took full advantage of the GI Bill to complete my college degrees and advance my education.
After 40 years of working and having a wonderful family with my wife, Valerie, I began to have emotional problems related to my military experience. For 10 years, I have been going to the VA Clinic in Kingston and the VA Hospital in Albany. With the help of the Ulster County Veterans Service Agency and the great support of people I know in Kingston, I find myself lucky compared to most veterans I meet. My medical condition is not good presently, partially related to my exposure to Agent Orange. For many years I went to consultations with the Veterans Service Agency at the Alms House (soon to be Landmark Place), which is now being considered for low-income housing by RUPCO.
Many times I had asked, “Where in Kingston or Ulster County are there apartments or living areas for Veterans?” I was told the closest one is in Pittsfield, Massachusetts. After speaking with RUPCO about this, I learned that if the Alms House is used by RUPCO, 10 apartments will be made available to veterans. I think this is a good idea, and I know there is a controversy, but it’s the first time I’ve heard that any housing would be made available to consider Veterans in Kingston or Ulster County. Something tangible and realistic could be done for homeless veterans. Many need a place to live. Very few are loved.
Dennis Connors, Kingston NY
RUPCO’s Vice President of Community Development Guy Kempe has been elected as Hudson Valley Representative on the board of directors of NYS Rural Housing Coalition. The NYS Rural Housing Coalition, Inc. is a network of rural housing professionals who work toward a common goal: to design, develop, finance, build and manage affordable housing to meet the diverse needs of rural New Yorkers Members share their knowledge and expertise to attain this goal.
Mr. Kempe completed his undergraduate education at Bard College, attended graduate level courses at the Center for Medieval & Renaissance Studies at Oxford University, and began an MFA at the Milton Avery Graduate School of Arts. Guy has been VP of Community Development since March of 2012 and oversees a staff of three and a current development pipeline worth $100million.
For nearly 40 years, the Rural Housing Coalition has brought together affordable housing professionals who work to address the affordable housing crisis, to promote healthy homes and to create vibrant local economies in rural parts of New York. “It’s a pleasure for me to join the board in this important work.”
At RUPCO, we certainly hope this legislation will not pass. The Housing Choice and Project Based Voucher programs, formerly known as Section 8, provide affordable housing to the most vulnerable people in our society. By statute, the program is limited to serving households earning less than 50% of the area median income (AMI) but 75% of the assistance must go to households earning less than 30% AMI. In Ulster County, those incomes limits are based on household size as follows:
Income Qualifications for Ulster County HUD Rental Assistance in Ulster County
Income 1 Person 2 Person 3 Person 4 Person 5 Person 6 Person 7 Person 8 Person
30% of Median $16,650 $19,000 $21,400 $25,100 $29,420 $33,740 $38,060 $42,380
50% of Median $27,750 $31,700 $35,650 $39,600 $42,800 $45,950 $49,150 $52,300
• A single person earning 30% AMI or $16,550, paying 30% of their income, would currently pay $416 per month toward their rent and utilities. If this figure was increased to 35% of their income, the rent their payment would increase to $485.
• A senior or disabled person living on the average Social Security Disability Income of $1,197 per month would see their monthly rent go up by $35 that pays for critically needed prescription drugs.
• A single Mom with two kids earning 50% AMI would see their rent payment go from $890 a month to $1,040, an increase of $150 every month. That is equivalent to a car payment to get to work, or a week’s worth of food for her children taken off the table or a big hit to a Mom’s ability to pay for child care.
Today, less than 1 in 4 low- and extremely low-income households in America that desperately need rental assistance receive it. Forty percent (40%) of homeless families are working and people receiving rental assistance that are not elderly or disabled are working too. The proposed changes in the Making Affordable Housing Work Act completely miss the mark and, if passed, would only serve to exacerbate the burdens and struggles of America’s most vulnerable households including seniors, the disabled, and working poor. Given the recent tax breaks to corporations and the wealthy – on top of the already regressive tax breaks provided to high income homeowners for mortgage interest, points and real estate taxes –the question becomes why supports for the bottom end of the income spectrum are being targeted.
RUPCO has been a leader in New York State in moving families through Section 8’s Family Self Sufficiency program and the Section 8 to Homeownership program. We also understand the struggle that those in the middle class face today and we urge consideration for programs that lift all boats by creating affordable housing, producing jobs and provide affordable, quality education, healthcare and access to healthy food. We urge considerations of programs that do not target the lowest income households for cuts but rather provide more opportunity such as the proposed Housing Choice Voucher Mobility Demonstration Act, recently passed by the House.
The House of Representatives passed the “Housing Choice Voucher Mobility Demonstration Act of 2018” (H.R. 5793) by a vote of 368-19 on July 10. Representatives Duffy (R-WI) and Cleaver (D-MO) of the House Financial Services Committee introduced the bill, which aims to further improve voucher mobility and help more Housing Choice Voucher households move to communities of their choice, such as areas with access to jobs with decent pay, good schools, transportation, and healthcare. The demonstration will enable HUD and public housing agencies to develop new models for improving voucher mobility as well as provide counseling to help voucher households move to areas of opportunity. The bill now moves to the Senate for consideration in committee. NLIHC supports H.R. 5793. Learn more about the bill at: https://bit.ly/2umUyMN
Additionally, here are links to two of our most important annual housing reports that demonstrate the affordable housing crisis that exists today across our Country:
- Harvard University’s Joint Center for Housing: State of the Nation’s Housing
- National Low Income Housing Coalition: Out of Reach Report
Kevin O’Connor, Chief Executive Officer, RUPCO
Heather Free knows what it’s like to be homeless. Employed full-time in the Human Services industry, Heather worked closely with those needing supportive services. A college graduate with a Master’s degree in Fine Arts, she is an accomplished violinist, mother of two, and blogger. However, a series of events — car accident, adverse medication reaction, a fiance’s cold feet, loss of insurance and then her job — put Heather on the other side of the Human Services table.
As a homeless single mom, she did what was best and sent her daughter to live with her father. She struggled to get well, both mentally and physically, while living nearly a year out of her handbag, sleeping on friends’ sofas or living room floors; one time, she slept under a bush behind a convenience store. “I couldn’t get the help I needed and I knew how the system works,” she said. “Homelessness is a full-time job. There are no hobbies when you’re homeless: there’s no thriving, just surviving.” She posted her plight online and so began a social media chain reaction that put Heather in touch with Property Manager, Tasyka DeRosalia. With a stroke of luck, Heather was housed within a week.
While homeless, Heather traveled with her toothbrush in a Ziploc baggie, stashed consistently in her purse. No matter where she slept, she kept a simple routine: wake up, brush teeth, start day, hold onto hope, navigate homelessness. Two weeks after moving into her apartment, she searched her handbag for the Ziploc’d toothbrush. Nothing. Frantically, she emptied the bag and then retraced her steps.
She found it…right where it’s supposed to be…in her bathroom toothbrush stand. She knew then she was home. The gift of Home offers peace of mind, reliability, safety, and security. A toothbrush in its place is why Home Matters.
I consider myself lucky. My parents came from modest backgrounds and large families. Every resource was shared, saved, and utilized to its full expense. Both strove toward higher education; both earned their degrees. As college graduates, they worked hard from the bottom of the corporate ladder, saving what they could along the way, and accomplished enough to provide a comfortable life for me and my brother.
My brother and I were given everything we ever needed. We were taught the difference between needs and wants, and our needs were always met. We may have wanted and not received new gaming systems or clothes, but the minute a bone broke (and many did, we were rushed to the doctor without a second thought. There was never a question if we would have food on our table, heat for our house, or a stable place to live and call “home.”
I realize just now how fortunate I am. Beyond having the financial stability for my basic needs to be met, my home provided emotional stability and a place of refuge from the hardships of adolescence and growing up. I am lucky to have parents who can support me financially, emotionally, and mentally. Through their guidance, I have the confidence and ability to navigate the world around me. My college education was both a gift and an expectation from them, something I truly cherish and want to use to benefit my community. I gained valuable experience learning to serve those in the community and aiding in their overall wellbeing.
Home Matters because every person should feel a sense of refuge, stability, and safety from their living situation. It is the right of every individual to have their basic needs met, physically and mentally. We are all born to different situations and environments, but the need for a safe, secure, healthy home applies to everyone. Suffering due to a lack of these means is more than unnecessary. It is unjust. When a community’s citizens are taken care of and treated well, every person benefits. Working with an organization striving to provide safety and stability to neighbors in need begins the process of mending a community and is something I feel truly honored to be a part of.
Carolyn Smith is a SUNY New Paltz graduate majoring in Communications. She interned with RUPCO as a gran writer assistant in Fall 2017.
Dorothy was right, there is no place like Home. For most, when you hear the word “Home” there is a strong feeling of nostalgia attached. Family is typically the main association and with that comes a sense of familiarity, security, love, trust and care.
When I think of Home, I remember baking cookies with my mom, throwing a baseball back and forth with my dad, completing homework at the kitchen able and playing with my siblings and neighborhood friends.
When I was in school, I could not wait for the final bell to ring that meant I could go Home. Home was always the place I could be my most authentic self. At school, I was very quiet and shy. Though I was engaged in many school activities, I kept to myself and had only a few close friends. However, once Home, I had no reservations. Home was the place I felt most comfortable. If I felt excited, I could show it. If I needed to cry, I could let it out. There was no judgement or expectation behind those walls. My family and I, shared our most raw and honest versions of ourselves.
My Home was where my heart was. I carried Home with me as I formed my individuality there.
For me, my image of Home is a happy one. For others it can be a painful. But no matter the personal experience, the expectation for a Home comprises a sense of ownership, identity and self-hood. It was not until I went away to college that I realized what Home really was for me. As a teenager I craved small freedoms and new experiences; but once I received them I began to rethink what I wanted. Transitioning to a new living accommodation – a dorm suite that lacks privacy and familiarity – was especially difficult. A wonderful and trans-formative experience for many students, college living begins when you receive the keys to your “Home” on campus: a 15 x 15 space equipped with a complete stranger. Over the next nine months, I learned to make the best of my situation and space. With a roommate, you can find either a friend or a foe in your dorm room. In my college living experiences with roommates, I found that my dorm could either be a space I wanted to be in one or one I could not be away from enough. On campus, the disconnect between ‘housing’ and ‘home’ really came into focus.
I experienced homesickness to its fullest extent during my first few years of college. “Homesick” is a term many college students are accustomed to. By definition, the word homesick describes “a longing for one’s home during a period of absence from it.” With calls home to Mom and Dad, once, twice or three times a day, I counted down the days to vacation and longed for a comfortable night’s sleep in a bed that did not feel like a nail coffin.
Over time I became used to the dorm, the space, the roommates. I learned to live within those quarters without letting it take away from my overall great college experience. Nevertheless, I never considered my college room ‘Home’ because it lacked everything that made my family’s house the place I felt most comfortable, accepted and loved. I got past dorm life and now rent an apartment of my own. And, while I do love my apartment and the space and privacy it provides, it still does not have the same warmth and comfort I was lucky enough to have growing up. I understand it is a part of life to outgrow my Home, even if my family reassures me that I am always welcome to come back. The next course in life lies in finding what makes my house feel like a Home again. I know it can never the same, but I can learn to love this new place just as much. No Home is perfect, but those small fallibilities make each Home and family unit unique. At the end of the day, I see Home nurturing positive outcomes in my physical and mental health, education, employment, and relationships.
Home Matters because it is the place where I spend most of my time outside work or school. Home matters because it is the place that allows me to be the most honest version of myself. Home is where we start from. It is where we grow and thrive. But most importantly, home matters because it is the place you can be yourself with no inhibitions, to experience and share love, and be loved just for that.
Michael Bisio is an accomplished bassist player, music connoisseur, and long-time adjunct professor. Bisio also moved around many times, from Washington State to NYC, adding to his repertoire of cultural experiences. He found stability at The Lace Mill in Kingston, where he lives with his wife and fellow artist Dawn Bisio. Their apartment is his happy place with wiggle room to jive in and hang prized artwork hanging. Now, he can balance professorship, musical gigs, traveling, and love—a harmony he’d sought for years.
Bisio was a reserved student in college, shy and unassuming. Professors took note of his talent and realized self-confidence was holding him back from excelling. They routinely pushed him to step outside of his comfort zone in his work, to self-reflect on the success he wanted. They challenged him to see his potential, flaws included, modeling a budding artist into a star performer. For him, it was tough—to stand in front of sheet music and critics for hours a day. By graduation, he collected his degree and the payoff of a sharper sense of confidence.
Years later, married with a son, Bisio owned a home in Seattle. After experiencing a “high point” in home life, he divorced and moved cross-country for his musical career. He came to NYC, hopping from apartment to apartment for about a decade until he heard about The Lace Mill through a friend. He applied, and a “fantastic” opportunity unfolded for his music, housing and finding the love of his life next door. Dawn and Michael met passing through the door of ASK Gallery in Kingston—Dawn caught Michael’s eye. He flirted with a coy “you’re hot.” Dawn reciprocated, and the two instantly bonded. They soon moved in together and made their own hub for artsy exploration.
Now, Bisio is part of a large pool of artists who help each other out with events hosted at The Lace Mill. He’s glad he is in the mix, but with enough privacy to focus on his ever-evolving career. “I think in the abstract, it created a community that in the long run has proven to be diverse. It [The Lace Mill] gives me a platform to produce concerts, which benefits the community.” Artist-residents attend his concerts and they bring friends. Word of mouth spreads concert details quickly around town. Engaged audience members are key in these live concerts; they are an important “ingredient in the process” and contribute vibes—either high or low frequency—that Bisio feeds off for a unique emotive atmosphere. Live performance, he recognizes, is a special relationship between performer and audience. If the audience doesn’t understand the tradition behind the musical number, “they can still feel it—the overwhelming intensity of it.”
Bisio isn’t going to halt the torrent of gigs soon. He plans on affecting more people through his bassist work as long as he “remains creative and positive.” There’s always more good energy to create in the universe, and he feels it is his responsibility to contribute high-frequency vibrations that align people’s energies into a state of bliss. And after the shows are over, he comes home to his apartment, to relax and rejuvenate as he pleases. Indeed, his sacred space couldn’t be more loving and personal, a place which can be completely silent or filled with music, whichever, and whenever, he prefers. His home is where he can fluctuate between living and prepping for a show, balancing out the dynamics of being and doing, in symphony with his life partner.
Michael’s next Lace Mill concert is Saturday, April 21, from 4-6pm in the East Gallery of The Lace Mill, 165 Cornell St, Kingston. Suggested donation is $10.00. Guest parking is available on South Prospect Street and Manor Avenue. For more information, e-mail Michael at [email protected] or visit MichaelBisio.com.
Check out Bisio’s photo feature on the American Express site: https://www.amexessentials.com/hudson-valley-guide/ Click “Start Slideshow and scroll to image #7.
I picked up Janet hitchhiking this morning. The first time, I’d driven past her at 55mph down Route 9W. Thumb out, cigarette dangling from her lip, she stood shivering close to the metal guardrail — it was 46 degrees. She looked like she had slept in the woods – no doubt, she had.
I drove past thinking, “Where is she going? Wonder what’s her story?” She looked worried, as if she was late for work, or that she wished she had a job to be late to. I found that to be the case. She lost her job, and her apartment, after breaking an ankle. I didn’t ask how, but from the smell of the bag of cans she lugged with her, I envisioned a cadre of circumstances: a miscalculated stride off the curb, stepping into a groundhog hole, or simply not paying attention. I’d done those myself over a lifetime, some with, and without, the help of a bag of cans.
After a mile, I turned around. I half hoped she’d be there, half-hoped someone else had stopped for her. Flashers blinking, I pulled over gradually, giving the 18-wheeler behind me time to decelerate and pass. I stopped. She opened the door and thanked me. She wondered why I had my flashers on, what was my story: was I running out of gas? Or was I actually stopping to pick her up? She passed in her cooler, a bag of cans, and climbed in. She’d missed her bus by three minutes. Three minutes, she said, she couldn’t catch a break. She thanked me again, and told me I was one of her “Turnaround Girls.”
Trembling, she clutched a makeshift cup from an apple juice can, sharp aluminum edges folded over made for softer sipping. She cradled a second cigarette in icy-bent fingers, blue with cold and chipped nail polish. Ten minutes in the highway-side wind coupled with a night in morning dew-lined tent had frozen her to the bone. She huddled on the passenger side. I cranked the seat heater and blower motor; she defrosted.
In 5 minutes 23 seconds, from roadside to her destination, I got a glimpse of her story. I’d heard parts of this before, from people in need, some homeless, living in the woods, couch-surfing at a friend’s, tent-dwellers and those in-between on their way to permanent housing. They’d been to my office asking for help, help out, help up, any help.
Why the woods I asked? To save money for an apartment, she said, it was the only way to get ahead. But someone stole her pocketbook yesterday with $400 in savings. A friend had found her purse contents, but not before she’d cancelled her bank account; the bank charged her $30 to do so. She was back to zero. Luckily, she bought a tent two days ago; the Catskill cold had set in this week and she needed protection, but still needed a tarp. She’d been out there 10 days. She couldn’t afford a tarp. She cried, reset.
Janet would charge her phone at the convenience store. Her phone, a needed expense was her lifeline to work prospects, a human connection, a promise of another life, a home. Her battery barely holds a charge longer than an hour, she said, but she’d make it work. She’d recycle the bag of cans she’d collected while walking and spend a dollar on coffee. She’d warm up, cry, recharge, reset.
Her warm clothes stored 30 miles away, her Kingston apartment belongings in limbo; she had no way to get to her stuff, to move them, to store them. She cried through our brief talk about support services, how a system tough to navigate was cruel and offered little help and no hope. She couldn’t access the support she needed. Anger reset her composure. She was not letting this get her down. Her sporadic surveying gig in Tug Hill provided inconsistent income that disqualified her from most services. We talked about 12-step meetings, asking for help, holding onto hope that things will turn around. She thanked me again and closed the door.
I crossed the street to get my car serviced. In the back seat, I found the bag of cans. Shame-filled, I clutched the stale-beer promise of 5-cents-on-redemption. I cringed, wondering what the Service Desk employee thought. Did he think that clanking smelly bag of cans was mine? Disgusted, I wanted to toss the bag of cans, ditch them inside the warm waiting room recycling bin, or maybe stash them out-of-sight outside under a dealership bush. Would this bag of cans really matter to Janet if it weren’t returned? What if it were her clothes bag and phone? I cried inside, reset.
I climbed into the warm shuttle van and asked the driver for two stops. Walking into the convenience store, I found Janet charging her phone, making small talk with another semi-defrosted companion. I gave her a bag of cans. She smiled, thanked me, hugged me. “It’s gonna get better, right?” Yes, I said. And walked out.
In the passenger seat, I cried, reset, and went to work… for housing for those most in need.
Do you want to share your perspective? Email Tara Collins with your story.