First renovation will create housing for people with autism
By JULIE MINDA
The Archdiocese of New York has shuttered some of its buildings as part of an ongoing and extensive restructuring, and the archdiocese's continuing care ministry, ArchCare, is looking at how best to repurpose some of the properties to house vulnerable New Yorkers.
Initial proposals have ArchCare renovating or replacing shuttered properties to create housing for three groups: adults with autism, low-income elderly people and people transitioning out of inpatient substance abuse treatment.
ArchCare is transforming this former convent on Staten Island into a residential complex for people with autism.
"What we're trying to do is to fulfill unmet needs in the archdiocese — and we're focusing on those who are most vulnerable and those who are not able to get services through traditional means," said Scott LaRue, president and chief executive of ArchCare. The organization provides long-term care, short-term rehabilitation, Programs of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly, home health services, health plans, assisted living and other services throughout the Archdiocese of New York.
LaRue said the repurposing project is connected to an archdiocese-wide restructuring called "Making All Things New," which is taking a strategic look at the use of staff and clergy as well as property and other resources across the archdiocese determining tactics to realign them to better match needs. The archdiocese began the planning process in 2010 and announced the restructuring plans in 2014.
From about 2010 through 2014, the archdiocese surveyed parishioners in all of its 368 parishes, met with clergy and others throughout the archdiocese and consulted with an archdiocesan pastoral council to come up with a plan that reflected the evolving needs and demographics of the region and New York Catholics. In 2014, the archdiocese announced it would consolidate 112 of its parishes down to 55 through a series of mergers. The plan also included removing buildings from service, such as rectories and convents that are no longer in efficient use.
The archdiocese has been implementing the plan for the last several years.
In 2014, Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan, archbishop of New York, asked ArchCare to evaluate the list of closed and soon-to-be closed properties to determine how some might be repurposed to better serve populations in need. LaRue said to identify potential uses, ArchCare conducted a needs assessment and came up with its list of the three vulnerable groups that did not have adequate services available to them.
LaRue said the assessment brought attention to the challenges faced by adults with autism. When individuals with autism turn 21, they age out of most support services, although the need for such services may continue.
LaRue said ArchCare envisions renovating some archdiocesan properties as multiunit complexes for adults with mild to moderate autism — individuals who are able to live independently with support services provided to them in their residence. He said the state of New York provides financial support, including rent assistance, for individuals deemed to be developmentally disabled by autism. The studio apartments will be private, each with its own kitchen and bath.
LaRue said ArchCare plans to connect the tenants with social support services in the archdiocese, some of which ArchCare may provide.
ArchCare and the archdiocese have begun work on a property that will be its first residential building for people with autism. It is a former convent adjacent to Staten Island's Church of St. Teresa of the Infant Jesus. That church and its parish school are not among the sites slated for closure. Using about $3 million from its foundation, ArchCare will complete an extensive renovation of the convent. Construction began in July and is expected to take about a year.
ArchCare and the archdiocese have completed feasibility studies for two additional sites for housing for people with autism, with one on Staten Island and one in the Bronx. ArchCare now is in the process of identifying capital sources for the conversions.
LaRue said ArchCare plans to draw on funds from its foundation, to identify government grant dollars and to conduct fundraising campaigns to raise the capital needed to develop housing for the three target populations.
Housing frail elderly in the community
LaRue said ArchCare and the archdiocese have not yet selected properties that will be repurposed as housing for low-income elderly and for people discharged from substance abuse programs — but those projects are in the offing.
He said there is an "endless" need for affordable housing for elders in the New York City area. He said some frail New Yorkers who might otherwise be able to reside in the community live in nursing homes because they are unable to find suitable, affordable housing.
ArchCare plans to convert archdiocesan property into affordable housing units for participants in its Programs of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly, to enable more frail elders to live in the community rather than in nursing homes, advancing that central goal of PACE.
LaRue said ArchCare already uses dollars from its foundation to provide housing subsidies for some individuals in its PACE program.
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