Community Access was founded in 1974 by family members and friends of patients who were suddenly discharged en masse from state-run psychiatric hospitals. Without outside assistance, most newly discharged patients had two housing options: flophouses or municipal shelters. Our first volunteers formed a Board of Directors, pooled their money and rented apartments for their friends and loved ones in city-owned, tenant-managed buildings on Manhattan's Lower East Side.
In addition to providing decent housing, Community Access pioneered one of the country's first "supported housing" programs-a model that emphasizes community integration, flexible support services and the promotion of a person's abilities, not his or her disabilities.
In 1977, Community Access purchased two small apartment buildings, which housed 44 of our tenants and 20 low-income families. We hired our first staff person, who was responsible to help tenants maintain their housing and gain access to necessary support services. Later, these two buildings were eventually razed to make way for a subsidized housing project sponsored by another nonprofit agency.
Community Access received its operating license and funding from the New York State Office of Mental Health in 1981. With those funds, Community Access leased apartments from private landlords in lower Manhattan. We rented our first office and hired additional staff. During the following two decades, subsequent contracts and private donations have enabled Community Access to add more than 400 units of affordable supportive housing and to create innovative service models that define excellence and originality.
From our humble beginnings, Community Access today provides over 800 affordable housing units for people with psychiatric disabilities, people with AIDS, families with disabilities and low-income people from local neighborhoods. Our sites and programs are located in Manhattan (Lower East Side, East Village, Washington Heights), Brooklyn and the Bronx. We currently have 185 additional units in development.
For 33 years, Community Access has remained true to the vision of our founders: to provide quality housing and flexible services to those people most in need. With your help, we will continue to provide critical assistance to people at risk for homelessness. Every day, we work hard to provide more homes to more people. Our purpose is not to build just more housing units. We seek to create decent, affordable housing accompanied by support services that allow the tenants to live with dignity and self-determination,truly making a house a home.