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NYC Department of Housing Preservation & Development

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Eric Bederman 212-863-5176 (HPD)


Providing Safe and Affordable Housing to Community Residents and to Formerly Homeless Individuals with Mental Illness

Brooklyn, New York – NYC Department of Housing Preservation and Development Commissioner Rafael E. Cestero and Services for the UnderServed provided elected officeholders and other New York City officials with a tour of the Mother Gaston Residence which provides permanent housing to 30 formerly homeless individuals recovering from mental illness, and affordable housing to 19 low income single adults earning less than 60 percent of the area median income (approximately $32,000 per year). There will also be one unit for the superintendent. The residence which sits on a formerly city-owned site was conveyed by HPD to SUS. Thanks to funding provided by the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene and the Department of Homeless Services, SUS is able to offer a full complement of social services and case management for residents of the development.

The newly constructed four-story development is located in Brownsville, Brooklyn and is named in memory of Rosetta Gaston, a community activist, who passed away in 1981 at the age of 96.

“There is a growing need in Brooklyn and across New York City for a residence such as Mother Gaston,” said Donna Colonna, the Chief Executive Officer of Services for the UnderServed. “The Mother Gaston residence confirms that well run supportive housing can help both formerly homeless citizens and the neighborhoods in which they are built.”

Colonna and the SUS staff were joined by Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz, Rafael E. Cestero, New York City Commissioner Department of Housing Preservation and Development, Seth Diamond, New York City Commissioner Department of Homeless Services and Dr. Adam Karpati, Executive Deputy Commissioner for New York City Health and Mental Hygiene.

“During tough economic times, it is more important than ever that residents get the support and resources they need, and the Mother Gaston Residence—named for one of Brooklyn’s greatest community activists, of blessed memory—helps get formerly homeless individuals back on their feet while providing much-needed affordable housing,” said Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz. “Bravo to Services for the UnderServed for providing a lifeline to some of our most vulnerable communities and for working to ensure that Brooklyn remains affordable forever.”

“The Mother Gaston Residence will help further our City’s commitment to provide housing that fills a real need in supporting one of our most vulnerable populations,” said HPD Commissioner Rafael E. Cestero. “With the help of partners such as SUS, and in collaboration with our sister agencies – DOHMH and DHS – we have created a place to call home and an environment that can support and empower the tenants to help them reach their true potential. The supportive housing that we are building under the Mayor’s plan plays an important role in our efforts to strengthen and stabilize neighborhoods as we strive to create a legacy of a more viable, sustainable and affordable City.”

 “The Mother Gaston Residence will assist our chronically homeless, those who most need supportive surroundings, in regaining independence in the community,” said Homeless Services Commissioner Seth Diamond. “Permanent supportive housing is the answer for many chronically homeless, especially those living with serious mental illness. This new environment will enable them to thrive, and we are proud to have a partner in Services for the UnderServed who assists this vulnerable population.  We look forward to a long and productive partnership with SUS.”  

“Safe and reliable housing with flexible supports is an important part of the recovery process for many people with mental illness and substance use problems,” said Executive Deputy Commissioner for Health and Mental Hygiene Adam Karpati. “For individuals who have struggled through homelessness and mental illness, the Mother Gaston residence will be a great step toward a healthier life.”

Residents of Mother Gaston described how their lives had been improved since moving into the residence. One Brooklyn resident who had previously been living in her own home said she feared that she would become homeless after she lost her husband in a tragic accident and was unable to afford her mortgage. However, being relocated to Mother Gaston she says has provided her with safe and comfortable living conditions.

A 44-year-old resident of Mother Gaston says she was homeless for two years and had become accustomed to the noise. However, she says she has adapted to her new home, enjoys the quiet, going to the grocery and cooking for herself and is getting used to cooking now that she has utensils and a food budget.

SUS provides residents with furniture including a bed, table and chairs and a starter kit which includes items that make an apartment livable including kitchen utensils, pots and pans, a shower curtain, and linens.

 A 33-year-old resident says she loves living at Mother Gaston saying it is clean and quiet and has helped strengthen her resolve to permanently improve her life. She says she lost custody of her four children, ranging in age from 4 -14 years. However, since relocating to Mother Gaston, she sees her children three times a week and now excitedly talks about getting a job.

Mother Gaston Residence is being developed under a DOHMH High Needs 2 contract. Through contracts such as High Needs 2, New York New York III, and other supportive housing initiatives, the City has financed nearly 3,100 units of supportive housing since 2005. The creation of supportive housing is an important piece of the New Housing Marketplace Plan (NHMP), which was launched by Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg in 2003. The Plan, an $8.5 billion initiative to build or preserve 165,000 units of housing by 2014, has resulted in more than 100,000 units financed to date, of which 23 percent are located in Brooklyn.

The Mother Gaston Residence was financed with $5.1 million in HOME funds from HPD’s Supportive Housing Loan Program, and $5.1 million in low-income housing tax credit equity syndicated through The Richman Group and $117,600 through a DHS SRO subsidy contract. Rental assistance for 30 units is being provided through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Shelter Plus Care program, and DOHMH is providing social services funding for the residents of the building through the High Needs 2 program.


About Services for the UnderServed:

Founded in 1978, SUS has gained a reputation for helping individuals and families faced with a wide range of challenges—mental illness, developmental disability, physical disability, AIDS, homelessness, unemployment and poverty. Many individuals come to SUS with severe challenges and need a high level of services—some of them having been previously rejected by other service providers. SUS has a reputation for its commitment to and expertise in working with individuals who traditionally have been seen as “hard to serve.”   SUS services are tailored to meet the needs, goals and preferences of the people and communities served. 

About the NYC Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD):

HPD is the nation’s largest municipal housing preservation and development agency. Its mission is to promote quality housing and viable neighborhoods for New Yorkers through education, outreach, loan and development programs and enforcement of housing quality standards. It is responsible for implementing Mayor Bloomberg’s New Housing Marketplace Plan to finance the construction or preservation or 165,000 units of affordable housing by 2014. Since the plan’s inception, more than 100,000 affordable homes have been created or preserved. For more information, visit

About Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg’s New Housing Marketplace Plan:

New York City’s affordable housing program to build or preserve 165,000 units of housing — enough to house half a million New Yorkers — is the most ambitious and productive in the nation—creating housing as well as jobs for New Yorkers. In April, 2010 the City reached the critical benchmark of 100,000 units financed—representing an investment of $4.5 billion to date by the City, not including roughly $5 billion in bonds issued by HDC.

Led by HPD Commissioner Rafael E. Cestero, the Plan has been recast to maintain momentum while confronting head on the economic challenges facing the City, the State, the housing industry, the financial sector and individual New Yorkers and their families. In order to fulfill the NHMP goal of 165,000 units, HPD and HDC are responding to market realities and focusing on three primary goals: strengthening neighborhoods, expanding the supply of affordable and sustainable housing and stabilizing families by keeping them in their homes. To read more about the NHMP, please visit 


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