If you drove or walked past Kingston Avenue and Eastern Parkway in Crown Heights early Monday morning, you might have spotted a bright orange and white van parked on the corner with a handful of local residents buzzing around its perimeter.
No, it was not a food truck or another van to sign up for a healthcare plan. It was CAMBA‘s latest mobile addition to its HomeBase program: the “You Can Van,” a new, innovative outreach for residents who are homeless or facing eviction.
The van– the only one of its kind– first debuted in late September in Bedford-Stuyvesant. Its aim is to raise awareness around all of the services and support and rights for those who are facing eviction or homelessness.“Everyone knows that homelessness and housing is a big issue in New York City, and it has been for some time,” said Melissa Mowery, program director for CAMBA Homebase. “We’re out in the community trying to help families that are in need or people who just may need more information about all of the other services CAMBA offers. We park the van in high-need communities, because we want to make it easier for them to access us.”
The Homebase program takes a data-driven outreach approach, utilizing mapping technology integrated with court-based housing data, to identify “Hot Zones” with high concentrations of people at risk for homelessness.
Counselors traveling with the van provide assessment for shelter risk, intensive case management services, housing assistance and community-based program referrals such as legal services and benefits advocacy. The inside of the 300-sq-ft van has a bathroom, an assessment area, a storage space and a small office room for privacy, if there is a wait.
“It’s critical that tenants understand that there is help and resources here when they’re going to and from school, on their way to work… they can find out how they can get assistance before it gets to that eviction stage,” said City Councilmember Laurie Cumbo of Brooklyn’s 35th District, who joined CAMBA at the Crown Heights location. “That’s what we as elected officials are responsible for doing– making sure we provide our residents all of the adequate resources and support they need.”
Currently, CAMBA has four Homebase offices in Brooklyn and 23 CAMBA offices throughout New York City. So residents can actually go into an office for the same information.
The van eventually will park five days a week at various locations throughout Brooklyn and on weekends at special events. Residents can find out where the van will be daily by visiting CAMBA’s website, where a calendar will be posted for December or by calling 718-622-7323 or follow the You Can Van on twitter at @youcanvan.