Thousands of New Yorkers depend on CAMBA’s housing and homeless services each year. CAMBA provides housing support through homeless shelters, homeless prevention methods, housing for those living with HIV/AIDS, and permanent supportive housing for those transitioning out of homelessness. Having a place to live and come home to everyday can make all the difference. In an interview, Senior Vice President of Homeless and Family Services, Claire Harding Keefe, said that housing is important to the people that CAMBA serves because it helps “give them access to opportunities that they wouldn’t otherwise have.” Additionally, it is a step in “teaching them the skills required to live independently and be self-sufficient,” which is the main goal of providing any services to those in need.
Harding Keefe started working at CAMBA when she was a student getting her Master’s Degree in Social Work. This was before CAMBA had any homeless shelters. A former CAMBA client, later hired on as a staff member, strongly encouraged other members of the CAMBA staff to open a homeless shelter to help meet the needs of low-income New Yorkers. According to Harding Keefe, after opening the first shelter, CAMBA “[followed] the demand,” and now successfully owns and runs seven different homeless shelters throughout New York City.
Harding Keefe’s work with housing and homelessness at CAMBA is crucial in changing the lives of our clients. She stated that CAMBA’s housing programs transform lives because they “give people the feeling of ownership and the rights and responsibilities that come with tenancy.” Additionally, providing homes enforces stability, which according to Harding Keefe is especially important in the lives of children. This connects to her favorite parts of her job, client interaction and witnessing growth of clients and staff. She values “seeing the positive outcomes when a family moves out of a shelter, and getting to see when children can act like children again because they are no longer in an institution.”
While this aspect of the job is very rewarding, Harding-Keefe’s job is also very challenging at times. According to her, the hardest part of her job is facing client resistance. At times, clients will resist working with staff in changing certain aspects of their lives. While many assume that this is resistance to the change, Claire believes that the resistance usually comes from a place of fear and anxiety over what the changes will bring. In order to overcome this struggle, Claire says you have to, “find a different angle to connect with [the clients] and from there you can help them move and change and grow.”
Harding Keefe’s work to find creative ways to help families in-need leads to transformative solutions and improves lives each day. While someday we hope to see a New York City in which there are no homeless families, we are thankful for now that these services exist for those who need them most.
CAMBA connects New Yorkers to opportunities through its dedicated staff, who are 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 young people throughout the city.