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December 2015 Newsletter

QUICK VIEW | From Improving Shelters to Rethinking Rikers

Our donors’ bequests help bring fresh food to the South Bronx, provide housing for homeless families, fight for a fairer criminal justice system, and more...

a recent Mercado in Hunts Point Riverside Park attracted 800 residents, including many at an exercise class.

GLENN MARTIN, founder of JustLeadershipUSA, at a rally to make finding work easier for those who have spent time in prison.

A HEALTHIER SOUTH BRONX: “In New York, a ZIP code is a better predictor of health than a person’s genetic code,” says Trust senior program officer Irfan Hasan. The Bronx is the least healthy county in the State, particularly the South Bronx neighborhoods of Mott Haven, Morrisania, and Hunts Point. Last year, The Trust started the South Bronx Healthy and Livable Neighborhoods program. Now three nonprofits will use grants of $250,000 each to foster healthier living in these neighborhoods. 

BronxWorks is finding ways to get more people to eat better, and to increase use of St. Mary’s Park—a 35-acre diamond-in-the-rough that locals avoid. Claremont Neighborhood Centers will, among other things, expand an affordable fresh food program for public housing residents. And Urban Health Plan is hosting Mercados, which sell fresh food and burst with activity.

RIKERS CRISIS: Miguel Padilla worked two jobs to support his family. After being pulled over for a broken taillight, he was arrested for a previous, unpaid auto violation. Unable to post $1,000 bail, he spent two weeks in Rikers Island, the City’s main prison complex. “I feared for my safety every day,” says Padilla. “I pled guilty so I could get out of that awful place.” Padilla lost his jobs because of the absence, and had a hard time finding work because of his criminal record.

Padilla’s experience is alarmingly common. More than 75,000 New Yorkers, mostly black or Hispanic, are locked up on Rikers every year. Eighty percent haven’t been convicted of a crime—they simply can’t afford bail. The State and the City plan to speed up trials and eliminate bail for minor offenses, but that’s just a start. With $60,000 from The Trust, JustLeadershipUSA will back sweeping reforms, with the ultimate goal of closing Rikers. The group trains formerly incarcerated people to advocate to downsize the enormous U.S. prison system.

FIXING SHELTERS: Many people repeatedly return to New York’s homeless shelters. Breaking this cycle requires effective transitional shelter services and affordable permanent housing. The newly formed Gateway Demonstration Assistance Corporation will use our $100,000 to test a promising approach to redesign shelters and develop affordable housing units, starting with five shelters in the Bronx and upper Manhattan.

“If homeless people get help with jobs, child care, and health, they’re more likely to become stable and independent.” —Natasha Lifton, Trust senior program officer

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