Home for Good
The Sydelle Residence
CUCS is widely recognized as a founder of supportive housing, and our work over the past thirty five years has inspired and guided the development of the model nationally.
In June, 2016 we opened our newest supportive housing residence, the Sydelle. Located in the Bronx, the residence provides 107 homes and on-site support services to formerly homeless and low-income individuals and families. The Sydelle also features 24-hour security, laundry room, bike room, garden, green roof and roof-top garden, computer room, and a gym.
“For three decades CUCS has been committed to helping families and individuals exit homelessness and rise from poverty. Our integrated support services at the Sydelle are helping those who now call it home,” CUCS President and CEO Tony Hannigan said.
Today, the sounds of children playing can be heard throughout the building, residents gather regularly in communal spaces for social and educational activities, and every member of the Sydelle community has the opportunity to receive the support and services they need.
We recently spent time with four members of the Sydelle community to learn about how their new homes are helping them build brighter futures for themselves and their families.
Nardia and her son Keevaun moved into the Sydelle in August 2016, and it is no understatement to say that this was a life-changing move for their small family. Keevaun had been only two months old when they had moved into a homeless shelter. The family moved into their new home at the Sydelle the day before his fourth birthday.
They had spent almost four years in the family shelter system, after moving out of an unsafe environment that had challenged Nardia’s sobriety and was not safe for her young son. The home they have found at the Sydelle has enabled Nardia to create a brighter future for Keevaun and herself.
“It’s still surreal sometimes; I am trying piece by piece to put it together. I went into the shelters when Keevaun was two months old. He's spent his whole life in the shelters and actually had a bit of post traumatic stress from all the moving around."
“This is the most stability he’s had ever. He got used to this maybe a month ago. He came to me and said ‘Mommy, I love our house, is this our house?’ I said, ‘Yeah, we are not leaving here, this is ours.”
Nardia has enjoyed creating a home with her son. When they moved in, she and Keevaun picked out fish for a fish tank. Together, they named each one.
With the support and groups offered at the Sydelle, Nardia has also connected with other residents. She is an active participant in the Sydelle’s parenting group and stress management group.
“The groups are amazing, there’s like a group all the time. There’s a women’s group, there’s a stress group and now they have this parenting journey group.”
Keevaun is thriving in the Sydelle’s supportive community. At an open mic night in April, he performed an original break-dancing routine. While he was nervous at first, with Nardia cheering him on, Keevaun enthusiastically performed his routine.
"It's just nice to sit here and look out the window."
We first met Diedra in 2016 at CUCS’ women’s transitional living community. Diedra has a history of housing instability and homelessness, having lived on the streets for a period of time in the 1980s. In 2012 she became homeless again after leaving unsafe conditions at her tenement apartment in Brownsville, Brooklyn. Her life began to change when she came to CUCS’ women’s transitional living program at the end of 2015.
“I felt safe when I came to CUCS. I was always being threatened at the tenement where I was at. Lots of people were doing drugs and my room got broken into three times.”
Diedra moved into her new apartment at the Sydelle in October of 2016. After years of struggling with homelessness and perilous living conditions, the safety and security of living in the Sydelle, with staff to turn to if she has a concern, means a tremendous amount for Diedra.
Today she actively participates in many of the activities the Sydelle offers, including the “Too Blessed to Be Stressed” group.
Moving into her new home also allowed Diedra to reconnect with her daughter and grandchildren in Seattle in a meaningful way. She visited them for Christmas this past year, the first time she had seen them in over four years.
“I kept saying that as soon as I get out of the shelter I am going to Seattle to see my family. They were ecstatic. I stayed with them for two weeks at Christmas.”
CUCS places particular emphasis on developing housing that creates community while providing any needed support and services. One of the biggest surprises for Diedra when she moved into the Sydelle was that it was an apartment building just like any other in New York City. Both families and singles live in the building’s supportive and affordable housing units.
"It’s a mixture of every person here, some with complications some without. There are lots of people here with kids. I can look out my window and see the kids outside playing. They have their own yard here; they play outside. Knowing that it’s not a place where there is not only people with mental illness, it’s a mixture of all kinds. It’s like a regular house, having your own apartment, regular building, and that’s good."
Javier was born in Puerto Rico and lived there until his family came to New York City when he was 15 years old. He’s lived in the city for 36 years, spending a significant amount of his adult life in and out of mental health hospitals.
Moving into his own apartment from a mental health hospital was daunting for Javier.
"When I moved here in the beginning, I was very scared. Scared and positive at the same time. When you don’t have nobody you are lonely. I think it helped me a lot to find this place."
What some would consider basic living skills like negotiating the subways, grocery shopping, making doctors’ appointments were all new challenges for Javier when he moved into the Sydelle.
His first week in his new home presented Javier with a seemingly insurmountable task, traveling from the Bronx to Staten Island for an important doctor’s appointment. Javier knew, however, that his case manager was there for him and together they navigated the travel to his appointment. Now, Javier freely moves around the city with increasing confidence.
"The first day I moved here I was supposed to go to Staten Island. I didn’t know how to go but they helped me to Staten Island. I got there, and I got back very easily. I still get scared when I have to go places. Not because of anything can happen but the trains are crazy."
Javier proudly displays photographs of his family in his apartment. As he recites their names, it’s clear that having his own apartment is giving Javier the opportunity to connect with his family both at the Sydelle and other family functions. Not only can he bring them to his own apartment, but the community atmosphere at the Sydelle enables Javier to be with his family in meaningful ways.
Javier is also flourishing in the Sydelle’s community. Since moving in, he has remained committed to managing his mental and physical healthcare and is an active collaborator with his case manager. He is a proud, and most active, participant in the Sydelle’s Community Meeting where he regularly offers ideas on how to improve services.
"I’ve come a long way. I don’t want to be the Javier I was before. I want to be the new Javier that I made myself, now for almost five years."
Tanisha and Ishaun
"This is my first apartment in my whole life. My first real, real apartment with my name on the lease."
Tanisha and her son Ishaun moved into their new home at the Sydelle in September 2016. Since childhood Tanisha has been struggling with housing instability and as an adult she has sought shelter in various domestic violence and family programs with her son Ishaun, who has autism.
Before coming to the Sydelle, Ishaun had been in a public school that wasn’t equipped to provide the specialized support and education he needs.
Once settled into their home, Tanisha worked with her CUCS social worker to identify a school for Ishaun and the results in his life have been amazing. Since starting at his new school, Ishaun is speaking more, calling Tanisha mommy, and engaging more directly with her.
CUCS helps people rise from poverty, exit homelessness, and be healthy. We excel at developing affordable housing and providing programs that link housing, health and social services for low-income individuals and families. Every year more than 50,000 people are helped by CUCS.