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Advocate Discusses How Best to House the Homeless


The founder of a housing development group for the city’s homeless called for more government funding of “supportive housing” models to combat homelessness.

“Billions are invested in research and Blue Ribbon commissions,” said Ellen Baxter, director and founder of Broadway Housing Communities (BHC), a not-for-profit housing development group. “And all of the studies confirm the same thing—that emergency shelters are not the solution to homelessness.”

Baxter, who spoke on Jan. 28 at Fordham Law, recounted her exposure in 1979 to homeless women washing in the Grand Central Station bathroom and bedding down there. That inspired Baxter to develop “supportive housing” communities.

For example, BHC’s Dorothy Day apartments serve 70 families who were formerly homeless and facing dire circumstances such as drug addition, mental health issues and extreme poverty. The apartments offer daycare, after school activities, adult education and additional social service support to help give residents a chance at educational and cultural equality.

“The beauty is that now all the children are planning to go to college,” said Baxter. “It has changed the trajectory of their futures.”

Baxter added that BHC’s single housing model cost less in the long run than housing the homeless in the city’s emergency shelters.

Baxter told the audience of law students and faculty that the most comprehensive look at housing the homeless today is the special master panel report in the McCain v. Bloomberg (2005). John Feerick, former dean of Fordham Law, current Sidney C. Norris Chair of Law in Public Service and executive director of the Feerick Center for Social Justice and Dispute Resolution, was a member of that panel.


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