In expanding and bringing our services directly into these high-need neighborhoods, we increase visibility and awareness, and provide support to these communities by giving them valuable information on resources that can prevent tenants from entering the shelter.
Grace Ruiz, Supervisor at CAMBA’s HomeBase program
This week, we reached out to Grace Ruiz to explain a bit about what she does at HomeBase, a program that prevents 4,500 New Yorkers from going homeless each year.
Can you describe a day in your life at CAMBA’s HomeBase program?
A day in my life at CAMBA HomeBase is always pro-active. There is no such thing as a typical day. HomeBase is getting more and more attention which requires constant planning, organizing, coordinating meetings and events, conducting presentations and promoting CAMBA, CAMBA HomeBase and our mobile office, the You Can Van. One may think it’s exhausting, but I find it exhilarating. My team and I are constantly on the go. We can go from workshops on our program in the morning in Staten Island, to hosting resource fairs at night in Brooklyn. I’m grateful that I have such an energetic, amazing team.
How does the You Can Van reach families in need?
The You Can Van reaches out to families in several ways. When we take the tech-savvy approach to reaching out to families in need, we use real-time data from the Department of Homeless Services’ mapping technology called Arachno or data from DATA2GO, an independent service, to find families at the highest risk of homelessness. Our other approach is hitting the streets with the van. Talking to people in the community through Feet on the Street and going to places where the community congregates such as schools and places of worship, are some of the best ways to engage with them one-on-one.
Since all families have different needs and no two families are identical, we use different service strategies and plans. We use all of our resources to address and support the various needs of our families to keep them housed and guide them from falling into rental arrears.
Do you have a favorite story of a family that was helped by CAMBA’s HomeBase services?
There was a client I met at a community street fair in Bedford-Stuyvesant. We were just starting out with the You Can Van when its colors caught her attention. The client was facing eviction and expressed her eagerness to pay the arrears, and to return to school and gain employment to provide a better life for herself and her child. Our office provided her with assistance and service plans for her to reach her goals which included instruction to apply for full Public Assistance, and referrals to several dress for success programs and food pantries. The client was approved for the balance of rental arrears, has active SNAP benefits, and has recently gained employment. This past summer I bumped into her at an outreach event. She stopped by, eager to take some flyers to put in her building, and told us that HomeBase has been so helpful to her, not only with assisting her with rental arrears, but also being a place she can call for advice. She also emphasized how helpful and inviting HomeBase staff has been to her, and that she feels safe knowing that should she ever fall back behind, she could come to HomeBase.
CAMBA is looking to expand homelessness prevention services to Staten Island. What have you seen in Staten Island that that points to the need for a homelessness prevention program there?
What I have viewed within Staten Island is the need to inform the borough of beneficial resources and expand into high-need neighborhoods. The borough is poorly connected to the rest of NYC by public transport. In expanding and bringing our services directly into these high-need neighborhoods, we increase visibility and awareness, and provide support to these communities by giving them valuable information on resources that can prevent tenants from entering the shelter.
What is the most important tool we use to keep families in their homes?
There’s no “most important” tool we use to keep families in their homes. Since all families have different needs and no two families are identical, we use different service strategies and plans. We use all of our resources to address and support the various needs of our families to keep them housed and guide them from falling into rental arrears.
CAMBA connects New Yorkers to opportunities through its dedicated staff, trained to provide solutions to the biggest challenges of life in New York. Visit CAMBA’s 40th Anniversary website and join us in our 2020 Vision Campaign to provide services to low-income tenants and other vulnerable populations in the city.