“If I can help someone as I pass along; If I can cheer someone with a word or a song; If I can show somebody that they’re traveling wrong, then my living would not have been in vain… ” Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
The adage says: “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day, teach him how to fish, and you feed him for a life time.” At AAPCI, we also say ” …provided he is given access to the river.” It is this principle that embodies the work of the African American Planning Commission.
The African American Planning Commission was founded in 1996 by Matthew Okebiyi to address homelessness and the related issues of poverty, domestic violence, HIV/AIDS, shortage of affordable housing, and unemployment in the New York City communities in which we live and work.
In 1998, there were only three New York City-funded transitional (Tier II) domestic violence shelters serving the needs of all abused women and children in New York City. At that time, the population of New York City was roughly seven-million plus. According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV), 1 in 3 women (2.3 million women) and 1 in 4 men (1,750,000) in the United States have experienced some form of physical violence by an intimate partner. Now imagine 1/3 to 1/4 of the New York City population trying to escape violence in their intimate relationships. Where do 4,000,000 individuals go for shelter? At the same time, we were being bombarded by a huge proliferation of domestic violence incidents brought to us by the media. These crimes, for the most part, were being committed by our sports heroes, our politicians, our law enforcement officers, our fathers, our sons, and our brothers. They were being perpetrated against our mothers, our daughters, our sisters, and our grandparents. Determined to make a difference and in light of the tremendous shortage of domestic violence and elder abuse shelters in New York City, AAPCI sought funding to develop a transitional housing program for families fleeing domestic abuse.
In the summer of 1998, AAPCI presented an innovative development and operational proposal to the NYS Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance (OTDA) under the Residences for Survivors of Violence Program (RSVP) initiative and to the NYC Human Resources Administration (HRA) to develop a new transitional Tier II program with on-site support services for homeless survivors of domestic violence. The project was named “Serenity House Family Residence.” Why was it named Serenity House?
A significant number of AAPCI’s target population comes from some of New York City’s most marginalized communities including the Northeastern neighborhoods of Brooklyn, inclusive of: Bedford Stuyvesant and Ocean Hill; Central Brooklyn neighborhoods inclusive of: Crown Heights; Eastern Brooklyn neighborhoods inclusive of Brownsville and East New York, and the Northern Brooklyn neighborhood of Bushwick. These neighborhoods are coterminous and have historically been plagued by high rates of HIV/AIDS, substance abuse, poverty, high rates of unemployment, drastic shortage of affordable housing, high rates of teenage pregnancies, and mostly single-mother headed households. AAPCI strives to address the needs of both its target population and the community through its developing and anticipated programs.
AAPCI has created economic opportunities for residents of its target communities. More than a decade after its founding and the opening of its first funded program in 2005, AAPCI has grown exponentially — from a dedicated staff of one, with nothing but a vision and a zero operating budget, working out of borrowed office space in 1996 to 33 full and part-time employees at the end of FY 2017. Services include the provision of three hot meals and snacks each day, 24-hour shelter, social supportive services, employment preparation services, housing placement assistance, youth, children and family-centered programs, as well as crisis case management services.
AAPCI’s transitional housing program is augmented with appropriate on- and off-site supportive services that ensure that residents are able to transition from poverty, homelessness and joblessness to permanent supportive housing and economic independence.
Current and Projected Programs
Today, AAPCI owns, manages, and/or is in the planning stages of the following projects aimed at addressing a myriad of social, housing, economic development, and community empowerment issues.
- Serenity House Family Residence – a 40 unit transitional Tier II residence for homeless survivors of domestic violence and their dependent children. Social support services is provided on and off-site. Serenity House is one of the very few domestic violence shelters in NYC that accepts male survivors of domestic violence with dependent children.
- Edwin’s Place — a mixed-use 125 unit, 100% low-income affordable rental housing geared towards low-income working adults and families from the community and permanent supportive rental housing for special needs homeless families and single adults, including homeless Vets. The housing development combines commercial and community facilities to create a community that invigorates the neighborhood, providing new jobs and business opportunities. Social support services are provided on-site and by referral to off-site community-based service providers.
- Glenmore Manor Apartments — we envision a mixed-use, 233 unit, 100% affordable housing project for low-income working single adults and families from the target community; as well as permanent supportive housing for special needs homeless single adults and families. A significant number of units will be set-aside for very low-income seniors from the target area. The housing development will combine leading edge commercial and community facilities on the ground and second floors to create a Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship which will energize the neighborhood, create new jobs and business opportunities. Social support services will be provided on-site and by referral to off-site community-based service providers.
- Glenmore Manor Senior Apartments — 59 units within Glenmore Manor Apartments will be set aside as permanent, supportive senior housing for very low-income seniors which will allow them to age-in-place. 40% of the units will be set aside for homeless seniors with special needs. 60% of the units will be set aside for independent but very low-income seniors. All tenants must be 62 years of age or older. Social support services will be provided on and off-site.
- Thaddeus G. Whitley Residence — we envision a 20 unit independent living residence with onsite supportive services which targets Runaway Homeless Youth (RHY) aged 13-21.
Funding Challenges – Why We Need Your Financial Assistance
In spite of our humble accomplishments, the African American Planning Commission continues to face funding challenges. Drastic cutbacks in government-funded social welfare programs have taken their toll on our agency and on our clients. Many philanthropic institutions have either minimized their investment in community development initiatives or have completely overhauled their funding priorities for one reason or another. The effect of this is that AAPCI (a non-profit organization) has found itself competing against private developers with deep pockets for scarce public and private land, for vacant residential buildings, and other resources in New York City. In spite of all these challenges, AAPCi is responding with creativity, flexibility, and patience. These are the key components to our survival.
It is the dream of AAPCI’s Founder and its governing Board of Directors, that a century and a day from now, when we are all long gone and forgotten, that the African American Planning Commission will continue to be a pillar in the community and strengthen the lives of all those who walk through its doors.
Be sure to enclose your check or money order and please; never, send cash or currency through the mail.
Please make your Check or Money Order payable to: African American Planning Commission and send it to the following address:
African American Planning Commission, Inc.
Attn: Development Department
P.O. Box 330-707
Brooklyn, NY 11233-0707
Contributions to the African American Planning Commission, a tax-exempt not-for-profit organization under Section 501(C)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code, are deductible for computing income and estate taxes.
On behalf of those we serve, we thank you for your support and generosity.