BFL Apartments’ Cherita’s Hope & Gratitude
Excerpt from the NYC News Service Project, Nowhere to Go
By Christine Brink
For the first time in a long time, Cherita Barbuto, who suffers from bipolar disorder, counts herself among the lucky ones.
For years, she was homeless, bouncing between jail, shelters and the streets. Now she’s living in a modest Bronx apartment (*Barrier Free Living Apartments), part of a city, state, federal and privately financed program called supportive housing, designed to help get the mentally ill into homes of their own.
These are more than places to live: Counselors check on residents and staff help ease the transition.
But for the mentally ill long-term homeless, there is far greater demand for supportive housing than there are places to live. Barbuto, 56, remembers the day she received a call from a social worker in June 2015 telling her an apartment was waiting for her, a decade after she first entered the city’s homeless system.
“I just started crying,” Barbuto recalled. “She said, ‘Are you crying Ms. Barbuto?’ and I said, ‘Yes, I’ve been waiting for a long time for this.’”
Only one in six eligible applicants obtains supportive housing in New York City, according to several supportive housing experts and homeless advocates.
“There’s a lot of competition for the few units of available supportive housing that exists,” said Cynthia Stuart, chief operating officer at the Supportive Housing Network of New York, a coalition representing private nonprofit supportive housing agencies.
“It’s musical chairs with very few chairs.”
*Added by BFL.