Mayor's Fund to Advance New York City
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Press Release

March 7, 2007


The Mayor's Fund to Advance New York City announced the success of a public-private initiative to address the needs of chronic street-homelessness. The Department of Homeless Services' (DHS) Safe Havens program was designed to meet the needs of homeless individuals who are unlikely to enter the City's shelter system. Safe Havenss offer a safe, low-threshold temporary housing option for people who are chronically street homeless. The Safe Havens pilot program was launched in 2006, in partnership with the Bowery Residents' Committee (BRC), a nonprofit service provider, with funding provided by The Betty and Norman F. Levy Foundation granted to the Mayor's Fund to Advance New York City. Based on the success of the pilot program, DHS secured funding in the City's budget to replicate the Safe Havens model citywide. There currently are more than 200 Safe Havens beds across the City, and by the end of 2008 there will be 500 beds on-line.

"In a short period of time, this small pilot program has grown into a vital DHS tool for overcoming street homelessness," said DHS Commissioner Robert V. Hess. "It is a significant victory when a chronically street homeless individual chooses to come indoors. The permanent housing placements to date demonstrate that the Safe Havens program provides an effective transitional model and, ultimately, is an important vehicle to permanent housing. The generosity of The Betty and Norman F. Levy Foundation was instrumental in being able to establish the Safe Havens model as a best practice in New York City."

"The basic premise of the grant is that one doesn't have to suffer because one has suffered," said Foundation President Francis Levy. "Too often, the treatment of the homeless, many of whom manifest grave physical and mental problems, has been characterized by a sense of futility and insensitivity. We became interested in the Safe Havens idea after reading about a project in Portland, Oregon which provided humane transitional housing for chronic alcoholics. We are interested in providing homeless people with nurturing environments in which there is a sense of opportunity and hope."

The 19-bed Safe Havens pilot program was launched in a downtown Manhattan BRC facility in November 2006, offering immediate short-term housing and on-site services.  Since its launch, the BRC Safe Havens has served 67 clients by the end of January 2008 with an average length of street homelessness of 7.5 years; some clients were chronically homeless for more than 20 years. Seventeen of these 67 clients already have transitioned into permanent housing. 

With additional private support this year provided by The Betty and Norman F. Levy Foundation, DHS and BRC will continue to administer, evaluate and enhance the BRC Safe Havens program through December 2008. The City is using information provided by BRC to assess service needs and expand the program to new providers throughout the City. The Foundation's support is allowing DHS to further evolve and refine the program model as it develops contracts for new Safe Havens sites.

"The generosity of The Betty and Norman F. Levy Foundation has been imperative in allowing the Safe Havens model to launch and flourish in New York City," said Muzzy Rosenblatt, Executive Director of BRC.  "The City and BRC are extremely appreciative that the Foundation agreed to continue funding this program for the next 13 months and are grateful for their commitment to serving this population of homeless individuals."

"Private sector partners can help spark new approaches to providing public services and this program is a great example," said Mayor's Fund President Megan Sheekey. "We are so pleased that this partnership not only met an immediate need but delivered such positive and meaningful results."

This program is helping New York City achieve Mayor Michael Bloomberg's five-year plan to reduce homelessness in the City by two-thirds by 2009. Those experiencing homelessness can be moved more quickly toward permanent housing and stability through initiatives such as Safe Havens. Just last week, Mayor Bloomberg announced the results of the City's annual Homeless Outreach Population Estimate, with a 25 percent reduction since 2005.  DHS credits the decline in street homelessness to targeted strategies employed over the last two years, such as the Safe Havens initiative. 

The Mayor's Fund to Advance New York City serves as an umbrella not-for-profit organization for the City of New York. The Mayor's Fund is dedicated to creating partnerships between the City and the private sector in an effort to strengthen public programs serving the needs and general welfare of New Yorkers. For more information, visit

Eric Deutsch, DHS, 212-361-7973
Melissa Ferguson, Mayor's Fund, 212-788-7794