CAMBA Fights the Mental Health Stigma

Featured image: Raven (left) receives on-site case management services from a CAMBA staff member.

Imagine one out of every five of your friends, classmates, coworkers or relatives.

That is the number of Americans who experience a form of mental illness in a given year.

This spring, CAMBA spoke with Raven, a 34-year-old single mother of two who is diagnosed major depression, anxiety and PTSD. Raven became a mother in her late teens to a baby boy she named Demaine and then later a daughter, Kimberlee. Over time, the young mother’s living situation became less and less safe and Raven did what she had to sustain her family, including making the difficult choice to move from Florida to New York City when their safety was put into jeopardy. She came to New York in hopes that she could provide her children with a better life, however she experienced many difficulties.

After living in the shelter system for over a year, Raven got some great news: At long last, her family would be given a safe, permanent home through CAMBA Housing Ventures’ newest building, 603 Mother Gaston Boulevard in Brooklyn. Raven began building her new life as she received on-site mental health services along with her new home. Her children are excelling in school and Raven is on track to earn her Associate’s Degree in Medical Administration and Coding at Monroe College. Her family is stable and focused on their future.

CAMBA Housing Ventures (CHV) was started in 2005 to combat the city’s housing crisis through providing or building beautiful, green buildings that offer case management services to individuals and families living with mental illness issues, as well as to formerly homeless tenants. CHV is an award-winning affordable supportive housing developer that provides their clients residence and onsite services including health care, education and financial literacy in three of the city’s five boroughs.

LaShonne Greene, Senior Program Director for supportive housing, began working at CAMBA twelve years ago as a Clinical Supervisor facilitating housing opportunities for the homeless including those with substance abuse and mental health needs. Over the years, she has navigated countless clients through the homeless and housing systems, including the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH), with the goal of moving them into stable, supportive housing and eventually back into their own communities. One of her clients was a woman who was incarcerated for 18 years; after this client received permanent housing, she was able to become gainfully employed, go back to college and reunite with her family. LaShonne said, “her experience working at CAMBA has increased her appreciation for life and increased her need to assist others in living their best lives.”

Image courtesy of the Seleni Institute.

In April, CAMBA Gardens Phase II opened with a ribbon cutting ceremony with local residents, elected officials, CAMBA staff as well as New York City and State partners. The building is a continuation of successful CAMBA Gardens Phase I completed in 2013, both were awarded the 2018 Excellence in Affordable Housing Development by the Urban Land Institute for New York for providing over 500 homes for vulnerable New Yorkers.

CGII was built on the grounds of Kings County Hospital; it is a national model for co-locating housing and healthcare offers easy access to healthcare and mental counseling. Through these services, CAMBA helps clients gain access to and maintain medical care, manage medications, get treatment, and find safe and affordable housing.

And it doesn’t end there: In early May, 603 Mother Gaston Boulevard, celebrated its opening with a ribbon-cutting with CAMBA staff as well as city and state leaders. The underused parking lot transformed into a new 12-story building with 101 units of affordable and supportive housing.

CAMBA has been a valuable resource to people who face a stigma because of mental health needs. Housing, counseling and other health services are offered without any hesitation to people in need to put them on a path to a better life.