PATCHOGUE, NY – December 20, 2016 – Unfortunately, as the numbers of homeless with special needs continues to grow on Long Island, there are no easy answers to the crisis. “The number of homeless households in Nassau and Suffolk Counties increased 25% in the last three years, from 548 households in 2013 to 682 households in 2016, according to the Long Island Coalition for the Homeless.” But the victories come one family at a time. And a formerly homeless family of four will be spending their first holiday season in their new home in Mattituck, thanks to their efforts and assistance from the nonprofit Community Housing Innovations (CHI).
Regina Nielsen and her three children moved in to their new home on December 1st, five and a half years after she and her family ended up in a CHI emergency shelter. After six months in emergency housing, Ms. Nielsen was accepted into CHI’s supportive housing program, which provided her with the tools to gain independence. Often, families with special needs become trapped in a cycle of dependency, as their benefits alone are insufficient to maintain stable housing and they succumb to the stress of an impossible situation, devoting all of their time to finding the rent.
In supportive housing, Ms. Nielsen not only gained affordable rental housing, her case managers and social workers helped with life skills, job training, health care, and linked her to a host of other community supports that contribute to stability and independence. Funding is provided under New York State’s Homeless Housing & Assistance Program, which allows CHI to acquire and rehabilitate properties to serve homeless families and individuals.
“Six years ago, I couldn’t imagine being where I am today. I can never repay CHI for the help they gave me and my family,” said Ms. Nielsen.
When Ms. Nielsen got to CHI, she was homeless, nine months sober, and traveling almost daily by bus to Stony Brook Hospital to care for her premature baby girl, who remained in the NICU for three months. She also has a son who was one year old, at the time, and daughter, then 10.
From emergency housing in Middle Island, CHI accepted her into the agency’s transitional housing in a home in East Patchogue. Due to the lack of permanent housing, CHI extended her lease at that home for almost two years, enabling Ms. Nielsen to care for her children and get back on her feet. This month Ms. Nielsen and her family moved into a new home, independent of CHI.
Due to the help she received at CHI, Ms. Nielsen was able to become the kind of parent she has always wanted to be. Her older daughter was being bullied at school. She was able to get her the help she needed, sending her to a therapist and addressing it with the school. That same daughter will graduate early from high school this June and has already been accepted to Jamestown College in the fall. Her two younger children are enrolled in their new schools and doing well. Her younger daughter, Rayna, has special needs and receives occupational and physical therapy, and schooling that meets her needs.
Now that both younger children are a little older and enrolled in school full-time, Ms. Nielsen is ready to start a full-time job. She is excited about the road ahead.
“From my CHI case managers I learned to set small goals and work my way toward them and that’s how I’ve accomplished a lot of things in the past six years,” said Ms. Nielsen. “That’s what I’ve taught my children to do too. We stick together and support one another. This growth and change starts in the home.”
“I feel so grateful for my time at the CHI house in East Patchogue. I had never heard of a program like this that really turned my life around. I hope that house brings as many memories to the next family as it did for mine.”
About Community Housing Innovations
Founded in 1991, Community Housing Innovations, Inc. is a nonprofit affordable housing and social services agency serving Westchester, the Hudson Valley and Long Island. CHI provides housing and human services that support social and economic independence. Programs include emergency and transitional housing, permanent housing, homeownership counseling and education, down payment assistance and foreclosure prevention education. For more information on CHI, visit www.chigrants.org.