Breaking Ground, formerly known as Common Ground, was an early pioneer in social housing in New York City and has since grown to become the largest provider of social housing in the United States.
The Breaking Ground philosophy is rooted in the belief that homelessness is a problem that can only be solved holistically. Rather than merely providing physical shelter, Breaking ground provides a complete suite of services to address the social problems typically found in homeless populations. Residents are given access to job training, drug & alcohol counseling, and social support.
The constellation of services works to address many of the root causes of chronic homelessness, rather than merely providing a shelter.
Historically, one of the harder problems to solve when addressing homelessness was recidivism. An individual or family could benefit from support in the form of shelter, however, there was frequently a priority to move them out as soon as possible. A family might be ‘back on their feet’ for some period of time and then suffer a setback which saw them lose their housing again.
Breaking Ground has been a leader in more progressive forms of thinking. Providing physical shelter from the elements is merely the simplest and most basic form of assistance we can give to a struggling family. Because it is only one part of the equation, however, it has proven ineffective at actually combatting homelessness. By understanding homelessness as a multi-layered condition of which building is only a part, Breaking Ground has been able to make substantial progress in moving families out of homelessness permanently.
We had a chance to speak with Brenda, along with Jonathan Kirschenfeld, about supportive housing in New York on February 2nd and 7th, 2017. Have a listen!