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Advocates Stress Benefits of Housing That Places High-Need Individuals

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Advocates say the city needs more housing tailored to keeping the chronically homeless off the streets, buildings that offer homes and help, but developers building housing that places high-need individuals often face an uphill battle. NY1's Erin Clarke filed the following report.

Homeless for years, Eddie Brito now has a studio apartment that looks like any other in the city, and for the first time in his life, he's paying rent and bills.

"I thought that I couldn't live alone, and I'm doing it. I don't believe it," Brito said.

Brito lives in supportive housing, buildings that offer affordable or mixed-income apartments and on-site social services to people who need extra support to live alone.
They are typically for the mentally ill, disabled and those homeless for a number of reasons, like Kendra Oke, a victim of domestic violence who was previously stuck in the shelter system with a son who has autism.

"They have counselors. They have case management. They have a child life specialist, and they have, there's therapist and women's groups and all kinds of things to get us back into society," Oke said.

A rally at City Hall Thursday called for a new city-state agreement to create more of these types of units, units developers often have trouble proposing.

"The biggest challenge we face is, when we go to a community and say we're going to build supportive housing, they think we're going to build a shelter," said Steve Coe, CEO of Community Access.

Community members often argue that supportive housing will decrease property value and bring crime to the neighborhood, but advocates of supportive housing say these buildings actually help the neighborhoods they're in, as well as the city overall.

"Our tenants tend to be folks who historically have cost a lot of taxpayer money going through emergency systems," said Jessica Katz, assistant commissioner for special needs housing with the city's Department of Housing Preservation and Development.

"When they get, that same individual gets placed into supportive housing, they get hooked up with a primary care provider. They stop going to the emergency room. They don't need shelters," said Ted Houghton, executive director of the Supportive Housing Network of New York.

Experts cite a 2005 NYU study that found that property values around supportive housing rose once built.

Advocates realize that there's still skepticism about the model, but they're hoping to educate the public about the benefits - namely, giving thousands of New Yorkers a home and a chance to live a normal life.

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