CAMBA began in 1977 as a small merchant association in the Flatbush neighborhood of Brooklyn, working on crime reduction, neighborhood beautification, and city service improvements. Soon, it became apparent that merchant success depended on helping the large number of immigrants in the area learn English, secure jobs, and contribute to the local economy.
After listening to community members, CAMBA’s founders began developing targeted programs to do just that.
It was a wise course that became our hallmark. With this simple, yet effective strategy of listening and responding to the people we serve, CAMBA has assumed a respected role in the community as a trustworthy support system for New Yorkers in need. Today, CAMBA is known as an incubator for effective programs in housing stability, education & youth development, family & community support, health, economic development, and legal services. Our comprehensive and interconnected offerings have helped hundreds of thousands of people across five boroughs improve their lives and thrive.
Through the 1980s, under the leadership of Joanne Oplustil and a growing team of dedicated employees, CAMBA moved beyond its original focus and created HIV/AIDS programs, dropout-prevention classes, summer camps for homeless children, and a legal services arm—one of the first in the city—to provide programs for the working poor. New refugees learned HIV-prevention practices, while immigrant women trained at what was then the first and only free female security guard training academy.
By its 20th year, CAMBA’s creativity and success was apparent. We built relationships with New York City agencies, philanthropic organizations, and private donors. Our focus and expertise expanded to include more program areas: mental health, after-school initiatives, and homelessness prevention, among others.
CAMBA’s Response to Housing Problems
Within a few years of managing homeless shelters, CAMBA realized that housing insecurity was a growing problem. Low-income families couldn’t make their monthly rent payments and homelessness was a rising trend. As a result, we launched CAMBA Housing Ventures, Inc. (CHV) in 2005 to develop and manage affordable, supportive housing developments with the help of public and private partners. Just two years later, the first homeless family moved into a mixed-use project in Bushwick.
CAMBA’s housing assistance went beyond bricks and mortar in 2014, going mobile with the “You Can Van,” part of our HomeBase program. The van delivers on-the-spot services to individuals and families at risk of homelessness and helps keep them out of shelters.
Empowering and Evolving
With each new area we move into, CAMBA works hard to learn and understand the needs of the people who live there. We integrate ourselves into the neighborhood, working with the community to make lasting change.
In recent years, we introduced anti-violence initiatives, college readiness offerings, LGBTQ youth support programs, and mental health assistance for pregnant women and parents of young children. Today, we offer over 160 programs across New York City to 65,000 people a year. Our wide range of services in six interconnected program areas are powerful tools for transformation.
What’s next? Our President & CEO Joanne Oplustil, now with decades of leadership, and CAMBA’s dedicated staff members continue the tradition of actively listening to the communities they serve, ready to generate fresh programs and initiatives that connect people with life-changing opportunities for success.