Media Mentions

Fast Company: Homeless Housing You Might Mistake For Luxury Condos

Housing for the homeless is not usually a place associated with sleek design. But the photos you see here all indicate otherwise.

The buildings are all run by Common Ground, a nonprofit that does the difficult work of trying to get the chronically homeless off of the New York City streets and into permanent homes. Since Common Ground opened its first 652-unit supportive housing residence in Times Square in 1991, it has been unique in its embrace of design and architecture as important elements of its work, right next to the services it provides. Read more.

Deutsche Welle: Homeless no more

New York City is "home" only in name for most people living on the streets. But one grand old heritage building with the iconic address of Times Square has now truly become "home" for the homeless. Read more.

New York Times: Uncertain Future for New York Housing Program

John Beyhl did not have to gloss over his homeless years on the street when applying for an apartment at the Brook, a modern rental building in the South Bronx with a rooftop garden, a computer room, a live-in superintendent and 24-hour security.

It was the reason he got in.

Mr. Beyhl, 53, a recovering alcoholic who has panic attacks, moved into the building in 2011 through a New York City housing program that over two decades has placed thousands of homeless people with mental illnesses and other disabilities in their own apartments. The program aims to keep them off the streets and out of shelters, which are meant to be temporary solutions, by providing so-called supportive housing that combines rent-subsidized apartments with social services such as mental health counseling and job training to help them live independently. Read more.

Common Ground on BBC Worldwide Newshour

If you’re listening in the United States, you won’t need me to tell you just how bad the weather has been this year. Heavy snowfalls continue to bring chaos. Just last Thursday a passenger plane skidded off a snowy runway at New York’s LaGuardia Airport. Well in New City itself, the low temperatures are causing particular pain to the high number of people without a roof over their heads. Despite the current economic boom in the city, homelessness is at levels not seen since the 1930s. Golda Arthur reports.

“We’re going to start our route actually going north. When we see an individual, it would be best if maybe two, at most three, people break off and do the interview. I say that’s particularly important to be aware of when the person appears homeless.”

It’s past midnight on a frozen street in Manhattan. I’m with a group of about a dozen volunteers who will spend the night surveying people that they meet at this hour. They’re trying to establish how many people are actually living on the streets. This is the Hope Count. It’s an annual event where the city sends out 3,000 volunteers, one night of the year, in groups just like this one, to fan out and try and get an estimate of the number of homeless people on the streets. Read more.

News.com.au: Common Ground provides affordable housing

Just a stone’s throw from Times Square, Fifth Avenue and minutes from Central Park, this New York address is some of the most coveted real estate on the planet.

But it’s not money that will get you a spot at the grand former hotel on West 43rd street. The luxurious building contains 652 apartments dedicated to New York’s low-income residents and “hardest to house” homeless people, many of whom have spent up to a decade on the streets with mental illness and substance abuse. Read more.

Curbed: How Common Ground Builds Small To House NYC’s Homeless

Long before former mayor Michael Bloomberg created a design competition for micro apartments, Common Ground was building them to house the formerly homeless. The 25-year-old organization is a nonprofit developer and property manager that constructs supportive and affordable housing, with units averaging 225 to 300 square feet—after all, the smaller the apartment, the more homes they can provide. These units may not be outfitted with pricey Murphy beds or trendy foldable furniture, but they do offer some design pedigree. COOKFOX, Ennead Architects, and Robert A.M. Stern have all designed Common Ground buildings. Read more.

PBS: Supportive Housing

Brenda Rosen on PBS's MetroFocus

Tonight, we’ll be on PBS’s MetroFocus, as part of a special report on supportive housing in New York City: "Supportive Housing: Solutions Beyond Shelter for the Chronically Homeless." The piece highlights Common Ground’s leadership role in creating and operating supportive housing, and is followed by an interview with Deputy Mayor for Housing and Economic Development Alicia Glen on Mayor de Blasio’s landmark affordable housing plan.

The report is available online now, or you can view it live on August 28, 2014 at 8:30 (Channel Thirteen) and 10:00 p.m. (NJTV).
Read more.

Affordable Housing News


Common Ground's new Boston Road building was featured in the Summer 2014 issue of the Affordable Housing News. The article, titled "A New Approach," explains how Boston Road will use Medicaid funds to provide supportive and affordable housing for the homeless. Read more.

WNYC: Brenda Rosen on the Brian Lehrer Show

As part of WNYC's series exploring health and healthcare in The Bronx, which was recently named the least healthy county in New York State, WNYC reporter Amanda Aronczyk explores whether housing should be considered healthcare. New York State thinks so, and is funding supportive housing through the state's Medicaid program. Brenda Rosen, executive director of Common Ground, joins the conversation to discuss Common Ground's role in developing supportive housing.
Read more.

WNYC: Take This Apartment and Call Me in the Morning

Lissette Encarnacion lives at The Brook, but she used to live under a bridge beside the Gowanus Canal.

Encarnacion has had a tough life. For a while though, most things were great — she was married, had a son, had a career. "I had it going on," she said. "I had a double-duplex townhouse, I had a Honda, I was doing my thing, money in the bank. I miss the working life."

But her husband was an alcoholic and one night when he came home, she says he threw her out the window.

She hasn't been the same since. Read more.

City and State: Brenda Rosen on Mayor de Blasio’s housing plan

Brenda Rosen on City and State TV
With New York City's homeless population skyrocketing over the last decade, Mayor Bill de Blasio has made it a priority to make sure homeless individuals have access to adequate shelter. To that end, the mayor has specifically cited supportive housing as a tool that can be used to combat the city's homelessness epidemic, which is music to the ears of advocates like Brenda Rosen, the executive director of Common Ground, who talked about the importance of supportive housing during an interview with City & State.
Read more.

The Brook wins Residential Architect Design Award

This six-story 92,000-square-foot complex in the South Bronx provides affordable housing units and community spaces for low-income, formerly homeless, and mentally ill residents. Manhattan-based Alexander Gorlin Architects organized the 190 units along double-loaded corridors on the upper stories of the L-shaped building, and installed recreational areas, computer labs, and supportive services on the ground floor. Read more.

New York Observer: What Does de Blasio’s Affordable Housing Policy Mean for the Homeless?

Among the many proposals included in the $41.1 billion affordable housing plan unveiled by Mayor Bill de Blasio yesterday were several policy changes intended to reduce the record numbers of homeless in the city, numbers that have continued to creep up even in the first few months of his administration. The shelter population reached a new high—53,615 people—in January, an increase that has been fueled, in no small part, by rising rents and the inability of financially-strapped families to pay them.
Read more.

“Not a Minute Too Soon”: Supportive Housing Network of New York on de Blasio Housing Plan

The Supportive Housing Network of New York is a nonprofit membership organization that represents over 220 nonprofits that develop and operate supportive housing, including Common Ground. This is The Network's statement about Mayor Bill de Blasio's recently released 10-Year Housing Plan.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio today issued "Housing New York," a plan to build or preserve 200,000 units of affordable housing over the next 10 years. The plan offers innovative strategies to increase affordability and broad unit production goals, including a plan to work with New York State to expand supportive housing development. Mayor de Blasio unveiled his housing plan at 262 Ashland Place, the site of a mixed-income housing project currently in development by Gotham Development Corporation and Network members Common Ground and The Actor's Fund.

"Housing New York" outlines over 50 proposals to develop or preserve these new units of affordable housing. The plan states that supportive housing should serve an integral role in the fight to end homelessness and create new housing opportunities for vulnerable New Yorkers. It specifically advocates for the creation of a new supportive housing agreement between New York City and New York State as a follow up to the successful, 10-year New York/New York III Supportive Housing Agreement that is ending next year.

The Network fully supports this critical proposal to expand access to supportive housing across New York City.
Read more.

Next City: Why Supportive Housing Cuts Down on Health Care Costs

Since 1990, Common Ground has worked to create affordable and supportive housing for homeless and vulnerable New Yorkers. Today, the organization has almost 3,200 units of permanent and transitional housing in the five boroughs, Connecticut and upstate New York. It’s the largest developer and operator of supportive housing in the region.

Executive Director Brenda Rosen has been with Common Ground in many different capacities since 1999. Here, she talks about the group’s newest initiatives, aging in place seniors, why supportive housing can cut down on health care costs, and the various ways Common Ground goes about funding its programs. Read more.

New York Daily News: Housing for the homeless — built with Medicaid money

The 12-story affordable housing complex rising on Boston Rd. is not only prettier and greener than other facilities for the homeless — but it’s also the first such project in the five boroughs to be funded with Medicaid money.

The building, which will formally break ground Wednesday in Morrisania, is the fruit of a 2011 Cuomo Administration initiative to take funds typically set aside for health care for the poor and use it to build permanent housing for the homeless.

The administration said the money could be diverted for housing because doing so would save billions in health costs among the chronically homeless, who have some of the highest Medicaid bills in the state. Read more.

Atlantic Cities: A Retirement Home for the Homeless

"Before I came here, I was living on the street six or seven years," Leonard says. "I was one of those people you pass by on the sidewalk. I guess I was fighting the whole world at that time."

Leonard came in off the streets of New York three years ago, after a caseworker from the Coalition for the Homeless spent months working to convince him. "His name was Jason," says Leonard with a smile. "He kept stopping by to see me." Eventually, says Leonard, something clicked, and he realized it was time to come in. Read more.

Stanford Social Innovation Review: Housing the Homeless

Ask Brenda Rosen to describe the organization she oversees as executive director and she will say that its “two biggest lines of business are as a real estate developer and a property manager.”

Given her location in New York City, this characterization hardly seems unusual—no doubt hundreds, maybe thousands, of other outfits in America’s most densely populated metropolis fit that description as well.

What makes Rosen’s description telling is the clientele her nonprofit organization, Common Ground, serves: chronically homeless people whose adverse life experiences or debilitating mental or physical health conditions have ostensibly rendered them “unhousable.” Read more.

Wall Street Journal: Housing Gets Architect Lift

A penthouse in the Robert A.M. Stern-designed 15 Central Park West sold last year for $88 million. But in nearby Connecticut, residents of the first "affordable housing" development designed by the architect will pay as little as $330 a month.

The new 60-unit project, called Cedarwoods, is tucked into a 19-acre site in the Willimantic section of the town of Windham on Connecticut's eastern edge. Mr. Stern said he wanted the project—which features three low-slung wood buildings arranged in a gentle semicircle—to emulate a country mansion.
Read more.

Affordable Housing News: Finding ‘Common Ground’

Focusing on eliminating homelessness in New York City, Common Ground has fast established itself as a leading developer and operator of affordable and supportive housing, in addition to promoting community revitalization.

"We pride ourselves on our well-designed mix-use buildings that offer community use resources because our goal is to create spaces that enhance an existing built environment," says Brenda Rosen, Executive Director. "We integrate our housing into a community's fabric. We have a commitment to design excellence, and we take pride in the way we develop and what we develop. We offer homeless individuals an opportunity to live in a beautiful, safe, stable place, with the onsite support services that they need to succeed in their new homes." Read more.

Architectural Record: The Hegeman

When CookFox Architects was going after a LEED Platinum rating for One Bryant Park, in New York (2009), its younger staff approached principals Rick Cook and Robert Fox. Granted, at 1,200 feet, the office tower would be the tallest green skyscraper in the world. But, Cook says, his employees asked, “Why not bring sustainability to low-income and affordable housing?” The architects contacted Common Ground, a New York nonprofit social-services organization. Soon the firm was designing the Hegeman in Brooklyn, a LEED Silver building with 161 efficiency units for low-income and previously homeless men and women. Read more.

Architectural Record: Social Housing U.S.A.

Over the last five decades, models for social housing in U.S. cities have continually evolved. First, the postwar subsidized brick high-rises—based on Le Corbusier's towers-in-the-park of the 1920s—were largely abandoned. Then, starting in the 1970s, smaller infill developments, often mimicking a neighborhood's rowhouses, were increasingly adopted. But low-rises with separate entries and limited communal space have not been able to serve all the needs of some populations, such as the elderly, disabled, or formerly homeless. Read more.

New York Magazine: The Blueprint

A few weeks ago, I watched a man who had spent much of his life living in doorways and cardboard boxes shamble into the sun-washed lobby of a new building on Hegeman Avenue in Brownsville, dig an I.D. card out of baggy jeans, swipe through the turnstile, and take the elevator up to a modest but clean room equipped with a bed, an ample window, a closet, and a kitchenette. He was home.

Sandy has aggravated an already brutal housing crisis in New York. With 3,000 adults living on the streets, and another 47,000 people forced into homelessness by the economy, shelters are overflowing, and the city pays exorbitant rents for emergency lodgings. The danger is that temporary fixes and short-term squalor could become the new status quo. But housing the homeless, not in shelters but with dignity, is a less intractable challenge than it seems. Buildings like the Hegeman point the way. They are the product of an extensive network of nonprofit organizations and private developers that has accumulated enough experience, enlisted enough first-class architects, and slowly changed enough attitudes to put a solution within reach. Read more.

Still Housing the Needy, In a Changed Manhattan

In a wide-open ballroom in Manhattan last week, a room with gilded columns and dark herringbone floors, men and women in dark suits sat at a reception for a retiring city official, listening to speeches as they munched on tidy portions of chicken and salad greens.

They sat in an elegant early-20th-century building near Madison Square Park, where some of New York’s most expensive real estate and finest restaurants can be found. But the residents living above that fine golden ballroom did not shell out a few million dollars for their homes; far from it. The tenants of this building, called the Prince George, include formerly homeless New Yorkers, people with persistent mental illness and the very poor.
Read more.