LEFT, A CASE MANAGER from a St. Catherine's Center program helping the homeless sits with a client on the streets of Albany; right, another client hugs her case manager. 
LEFT, A CASE MANAGER from a St. Catherine's Center program helping the homeless sits with a client on the streets of Albany; right, another client hugs her case manager. 

Over the past several months, St. Catherine’s Center for Children in Albany has been awarded two major grants totaling more than $8 million in funding for two of the agency’s supportive housing projects.

St. Catherine’s Center offers a variety of human services programs for individuals and families addressing issues of homelessness, child neglect, mental illness and trauma. St. Catherine’s also sponsors an elementary school for children with special needs, therapeutic foster care and a residential housing program for children ages five to 13 who have been removed from the care of parents or guardians.

In July, the New York State Department of Health awarded St. Catherine’s a five-year, $2.5 million Health Home Supportive Housing grant. In November, the agency was awarded another grant for $5.6 million from New York State’s Homeless and Housing Assistance Corporation.

“It really enforces the fact that we’re on the right track,” said Frank Pindiak, executive director of St. Catherine’s. “For the state to recognize [these programs] is big.”

Health Home

St. Catherine’s $2.5 million Health Home Supportive Housing grant will be used to extend the agency’s Project HOST (Healthy Outcomes and Supported Transitions), a supportive housing program for single individuals on Medicaid. Mr. Pindiak said the program began as a pilot project four years ago, kick-started with a $400,000 Department of Health grant.

Project HOST provides housing and case management to homeless or at-risk individuals in Albany and Rensselaer Counties, including those struggling with severe mental illness, substance abuse or chronic illness.

Since its inception, Project Host has helped provide housing to more than 200 adults in the Albany Diocese.

The new grant will allow for the program to be beyond pilot status. Now, it can be included under regular state Department of Health funding, enabling it to reach more people in need.

Veron Briggs has been a client of Project HOST for just over a year. His association with the program began after he became ill.

“I had stage-four cancer and I had no type of help,” Mr. Briggs told The Evangelist. Project HOST “came in, helped me with rent, helped get me set up [and] helped get me to food pantries.”

Project HOST connected with Mr. Briggs through the Joseph House emergency shelter in Troy and helped him locate stable housing in the city. He said the program is “excellent” and “should be offered everywhere.”

Mr. Pindiak said the program has shown success with helping individuals like Mr. Briggs to stay on their feet: “Housing is needed and necessary to keep people out of emergency services.”

According to the state Department of Health, individuals would make an average of 27 visits to the emergency room every year before getting connected with Project HOST. After, those numbers dropped to nine visits.

“There’s a variety of reasons why people use the emergency room,” said Mr. Pindiak, including access to a bed and food.

“It’s a support and comfort station,” he said.

There have been times when Mr. Briggs needed help getting to the grocery store or doctors’ appointments, and either his case manager or staff from Project Host have been there to help.

Last winter, for instance, a snowstorm hit and Mr. Briggs was unable to travel to the store to buy food. He called his case manager and she drove through the storm to help him get something to eat.

“They came out of nowhere and took me right in,” Mr. Briggs remarked. “These programs need to be expanded. I see results.”

Homeless and Housing

St. Catherine’s $5.6 million grant from New York State is a mile marker for the agency. Mr. Pindiak said the non-profit has never received a grant of this magnitude before: “It’s fantastic for us.”

The grant will be going toward the construction of a new, 20-unit apartment building for both individuals and families in need of supportive housing. The site is proposed to be at 543 North Pearl Street in Albany.

The building will have eight single-adult units and 12 family units. Staff will be on-site 24/7 for safety and security, and all residents will be assigned a case manager to get connected with employment opportunities, health care, counseling, financial assistance or other services.

The building will also offer a community room to be used by tenants and other local residents.

Mr. Pindiak hopes that the apartments will do more than just provide housing.

“We want to become a fabric of the neighborhood,” he said. “We want to be able to help the neighborhood.”

Construction is anticipated to begin in spring 2019.

St. Catherine’s continues to explore funding streams to better serve its clients.

“We want to help as many as we can for as long as we can,” said Mr. Pindiak. “There are so many people out there [who] are hurting, and we’re going to help as many as we can.”

(For more information, contact Brian Bell at 518-453-6716 or Adam Rossi at 518-453-6756.)