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Neighbor helping neighbor

Since the coronavirus pandemic made social isolation a public safety necessity, behavioral healthcare providers have been sounding the alarm on the potentially harmful effects on people with mental health issues. This makes supportive housing programs for people living with behavioral and physical health challenges even more essential as they ensure vulnerable adults maintain stable housing and access to community services.

New Yorker Stephen Bates is one such person who experienced homelessness and struggled with mental health issues before he came to live in the Odyssey House Soundview Avenue supportive housing program in the Bronx. This 56-unit apartment building provides single, low-income adults living with special needs get the help they need to function independently – essential in normal times, but even more critical during this public health emergency.

When Stephen moved to Soundview in 2014, he focused his life on giving back and getting to know his neighbors. When the pandemic hit, Stephen saw that many of the neighbors he’d gotten to know well were experiencing higher levels of anxiety, and he jumped in to help calm their fears by lending a listening ear, keeping them up-to-date on the news, and picking up items from the store.

Calm help in a crisis

“It gets to you, and you just want to do something, anything to help,” says Stephen, who is helping staff by urging his neighbors to comply with social distancing and wearing masks.

“I do research and inform my neighbors about how to stay safe. It’s important to stay informed. I do the best that I can to help out because a lot of people are suffering, losing their jobs, their family members. It’s hard to see that.”

This is no surprise to Darlene Moore, Soundview Avenue Program Director, who calls Stephen a “model tenant.” In 2018, the Supportive Housing Network of New York named Stephen “Tenant of the Year” for his “tenacity and strength to overcome tremendous hardships and rebuild his life in supportive housing.” Read more about Stephen’s journey to and through supportive housing here.

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