THE WAIT IS OVER: HOMELESS VETERANS MOVE INTO PERMANENT HOUSING

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By Carol Tannenhauser

On April 15th, homeless veterans began moving into a newly renovated SRO (Single Room Occupancy) building, at 330 West 95th street, thanks to a program instituted by Mayor Bill de Blasio and implemented by HRA Commissioner Steven Banks.

Pictured above is Bruce Rutherford at the entrance to his new home, made possible by the Mayor’s SEPS (Special Exit and Prevention Supplement) program, which, last August, provided $10 million in emergency funds to permanently house certain groups of homeless people, including veterans.

Construction took longer than expected and the wait in a homeless shelter seemed interminable to Bruce and the dozen or so other veterans who had signed up for housing at West 95th street last December, and were told they’d be in by Christmas. Winter became Spring; Christmas turned into Tax Day, but Bruce finally has a lease and a key to his own room.

SROs are considered the first rung of permanent housing in New York City. Bruce shares a kitchen and bathroom with three other formerly homeless veterans.

“I feel like I’m getting some semblance of my life back after a long, drawn-out period of losing my business, depression, and homelessness,” he said. “It’s a spiral that, once you start to get immersed in, it’s hard to extract yourself from, it’s such a force.”

The City hopes to reverse that “spiral” permanently for the approximately 125 homeless veterans who will eventually live at 330 West 95th street. It has contracted with two non-profit organizations – Harlem United and Bailey House – to provide any help and services the veterans might need.

Below, Rutherford, who has a BA in English literature from City College and an MA in Comparative literature from the CUNY Graduate Center, reads in his new room.

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“My plan is to start working again, go back to academic tutoring,” he said. “I’ve been bypassing a lot of jobs, because I was so focused on getting housing and getting out of the shelter.”

Bruce sounds like he’ll fit right in on the Upper West Side.

“I like to argue,” he said, “and I’ve got a screenplay I want to pitch.”

NEWS | 23 comments | permalink
    1. Filatura says:

      A lease and a key. It’s a start.
      Thanks for your service and good luck in the future, Bruce Rutherford.

    2. maryjane says:

      instituted by Mayor Bill de Blasio and implemented by HRA Commissioner Steven Banks=bound to failure

      • Chuck says:

        Why such unbridled negativity? Isn’t this a positive move for those who are moving in? How is this negative for those of us who are more fortunate? A bit of empathy, please.

        • Paul RL says:

          Chuck, the commenter mentioned nothing negative about the Vets. He or she is referring to the awful track record that the city has in managing these facilities. Freedom House (which was instituted as an “emergency shelter” under the Bloomberg administration) is a case in point. It was a disaster for the neighborhood as well as the pre-existing SRO tenants, so much so that the community finally forced the city to cut the population in half, to 200 residents. The building they emptied, 330 W 95th, is where the Vets will be housed.

    3. Steen says:

      I am so happy this finally came through for these guys. Thank you for your service and I hope this is just the first step on getting out of that negative spiral you mentioned and onto a road of contentment and satisfaction.

    4. Sherman says:

      I’m curious why this guy was in a “downward spiral”.

      Are his problems related to his military service, i.e. does he suffer from PTSD from combat?

      Maybe his problems in life were unrelated to his military service.

      • Bruce Rutherford says:

        I appreciate your concern, “Sherman”. I’ve recently learned how to read, so you don’t have to refer to me in the third person anymore. And the point of your comments are….?

      • Bruce Rutherford says:

        I appreciate your concern, “Sherman”. I’ve recently learned how to read, so you don’t have to refer to me in the third person anymore. And the points of your comments are….?

    5. Paul RL says:

      It’s wonderful that our Veterans are getting housing, but I still don’t see how this is any different than the dozens of homeless shelters and supportive facilities that have already strangled our neighborhood. One CB7 member told me that almost 27% of Manhattan’s supportive housing is within a 10-minute walk of this very facility, up from 24% of just two years ago, which is actually illegal according to the City’s “Fair Share” law. If the City wants to trade out some of the more dangerous drug-addict infested shelters in the area for better-managed Veteran housing I’m all for it, but we simply can’t afford to keep piling it on here.

      • Bruce Bernstein says:

        I’m very skeptical of this “statistic” and would request your source or back-up.

        It certainly isn’t true of NYC “homeless shelters”, of which there are actually very few on the UWS. see the Comptroller’s Report issued by John Liu a few years back (and the number has actually decreased). the concentration of these is in Harlem, Upper Manhattan, and the Lower East Side.

        “Supportive housing” is a broader concept so i suppose it is POSSIBLE.. but people like to throw statistics around. i would like to see backup.

    6. Independent says:

      Obviously sounds like a worthy project.

      But is this– or anywhere in bustling Manhattan– the best place for such a facility?

      Might one of the outer boroughs, where space is much more plentiful and less expensive, not be a better location? Wouldn’t the residents of such a facility benefit from the greater space and tranquility that could be had outside of Manhattan?

      Given the difference in real estate costs alone, I would think that a facility where each resident would have his own apartment could be had for no more and possibly even less than what providing only an SRO room costs here.

      • Kind To Strangers says:

        @Independent

        What if this man and the others feel most at home or energized to start anew in the heart of the city surrounded by people, art and opportunity? If someone requires peace and solitude, longs for grass and the suburbs, then yes, this is probably not the best choice, but this gentleman has done everything he can to secure the situation he wanted and now it has happened.

        One can’t assume the solution to a life interrupted is the outer boroughs. He didn’t get placed here. He chose it! Mr. Rutherford applied, waited, was granted, then delayed; he attended and spoken at community meetings. He has clearly stated his desire for a fresh start in Manhattan and now it is finally happening.

        I am happy for him and wish him well and hope, most of all, what he was promised comes to pass and we all give him a chance to be a part of the community before dismissing him. It’s actually possible he may be an wonderful neighbor and a beloved member of the community.

        • Independent says:

          @ “Kind to Strangers”:

          I appreciate your points.

          Please note, however, that I never “dismiss[ed]” Mr. Rutherford or anyone else. I simply wondered about what I felt were legitimate questions. I certainly join you and the others who have posted in wishing only the best for all of these veterans and hoping that this project works-out well for them.

          • Kind To Strangers says:

            @Independent

            My apologies. I didn’t read it as intended; I see now you were simply posing questions about the size/location in general. (I do think small and urban are just as valid as big and suburban and up to the individual to decide what best suits them, not a committee or initiative.)

            I’m glad we’re all excited for Mr. Rutherford and his new home!

        • Bruce Rutherford says:

          Kind to Strangers:

          Your comments, or rather your cogent argument, conveyed my sentiments exactly! Thanks, KTS, I couldn’t have said it better myself.

          I’ve lived in the Hell’s Kitchen and Inwood neighborhoods of Manhattan for many years; moreover, the institutions of higher learning where I attended for undergraduate and graduate school education are both located in this borough. But even if that wasn’t the case, I echo your point that choosing where to live and being exposed to certain population densities and available culture should be a personal choice. So when one condescendingly speaks of relegating an indigent population to the outer boroughs — as “The Independent” did — couching such notion as a sound fiscal concern in no way mitigates stark elitism.

          Bruce Rutherford

          • Kind To Strangers says:

            Mr. Rutherford!

            You have made my day!! Thank you for your comment and, once again, lending your voice to the conversation. I’m so very happy for you and look forward to hearing about THIS chapter of your life–previous chapters are yours to share, but certainly not for others to ask/speculate/judge.

            Have a wonderful weekend in your new home and neighborhood!

    7. Bruce Bernstein says:

      Congratulations Bruce Rutherford. I look forward to meeting you on the block.. i will introduce myself if i see you. Welcome to the neighborhood!

      • Bruce Rutherford says:

        Thanks, namesake, and I look forward to meeting you as well, in addition to participating in civic activities here in community board 7. Thanks, again, Bruce Bernstein. And may you have a joyous and reflective Passover.

    8. Elizabeth M. says:

      Best of luck to all and welcome to the neighborhood. Make the most of it.

    9. EricaC says:

      Welcome to the neighborhood!