Coney Island

CAMBA Gardens provides housing for the most vulnerable while reducing hospital costs

November 18, 2014 By Matthew Taub Special to the Brooklyn Daily Eagle from Brooklyn Brief
CAMBA staff members, residents, community and affordable housing advocates and elected officials celebrates the opening of 'CAMBA Gardens.' Photo by Matthew Taub
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At Kings County Hospital, policymakers and affordable housing advocates have teamed up for a win-win solution to reduce emergency room visits and provide modest-rent apartments to the homeless, victims of Superstorm Sandy and patients with high-level medical needs. Additional units will also be available to everyday residents through a lottery.

CAMBA, a non-profit organization, in a partnership with a range of city, state and non-profit agencies and institutions, announced the completion of the first phase of CAMBA Gardens Apartments on the Kings County Hospital campus on Monday, along with the beginning of construction of a second phase of the project at the site of the hospital’s former psychiatric facility. When all facilities are established, the $165 million development will include a mix of 502 affordable and supportive housing units, providing housing to low-income residents and advancing better health outcomes for high-need Medicaid clients.

“I never expected to be a housed in a place like this,” said Elizabeth Melendez, tears forming at the corners of her eyes. “People like us don’t get to have the good things.”

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Melendez, who suffers from chronic asthma, says she and her special needs children were homeless for more than two years after a divorce and her ex-husband’s failure to pay child support. Her family was shuffled along to numerous homeless shelters until she connected with the CAMBA Gardens initiative.

“The causes of homelessness are multiple, and the conditions frequently associated with it can be difficult to overcome,” said Kristin M. Proud, commissioner of the New York State Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance. “Supportive housing is often the first, essential step in assisting families and individuals to build foundations for a better future. CAMBA Gardens will help residents address the challenges they face — not only lack of a place to live, but help with accessing health care, mental health services or job training.”

Responding to skyrocketing costs to treat the homeless and other groups with numerous medical needs, Gov. Andrew Cuomo created the Medicaid Redesign Team (MRT) to identify better protocols in managing the chronic conditions of more than 4,000 Medicaid clients. The MRT was able to rein in runaway spending on costly Medicaid expenditures, such as expensive emergency-room visits, and ultimately located $34.3 billion in taxpayer savings. Through the MRT, the state has invested $260 million of Medicaid savings in “supportive housing” over the last three years.

“All New Yorkers deserve a safe and affordable place to live, and today we’re taking an important step toward making that goal a reality,” said Cuomo. “This project is creating more than 500 housing units for people who face both financial and medical challenges. A quality home can be one of the most important components to a healthy lifestyle, and I am proud that the state has joined our local government and private sector partners to move this project forward and strengthen the East Flatbush community.”

CAMBA Gardens Phase I has 209 units of affordable and supportive housing. Built to LEED Platinum standards, it has a full rooftop solar panel array designed to reduce utility usage in common areas by 45 percent. As a community-oriented development, Phase I has public spaces, multi-purpose rooms, gardens and a rooftop terrace for tenants and neighborhood residents.

CAMBA Gardens Phase II was one of the first affordable housing deals financed under Mayor Bill de Blasio’s Affordable Housing Plan announced in May. Phase II will provide housing for those exiting the HHC Public Hospital System who would otherwise be homeless. The studio, one, two and three-bedroom units in the developments are affordable to households earning no more than 50 and 60 percent of the area median income.

Both CAMBA Gardens Phase I and II will provide social services on-site with case management, referrals to medical care and mental health services, health and wellness programs, job training, educational opportunities and family services. In addition to the services that are co-located, the development is adjacent to the central campus of SUNY Downstate Medical Center.

“Both phases of CAMBA Gardens are transforming this corner of East Flatbush, creating home and haven for hundreds of New Yorkers,” said Darryl C. Towns, commissioner and CEO of Homes and Community Renewal.

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