A New Safe Haven Opens—and One’s on the Way

White curtains flutter in the large sunny window of a room with metal beds and a wooden floor.
A room at The Baxter
A sketch of the future 419 East 91st Street showing a seven-story building with two columns of windows
The facade of the future East 91st Street Safe Haven

At Goddard, we believe deeply that housing is the solution to homelessness. That’s why we’re excited to introduce two new Safe Havens that will help people take those first crucial steps away from life on the streets and toward permanent housing. 

The first, The Baxter, opened this month in Elmhurst. It’s our first-ever program in Queens. Eventually it will offer 75 beds, but under pandemic conditions it will only operate at about half of this capacity.  

The Baxter aims to provide everything that residents will need under one roof. That includes medical and psychiatric services, case management, three nutritious meals a day, help reconnecting with community and family, and help securing permanent housing. There’s a laundry room and community space, as well as an outdoor recreation area in the back.  

In about a year, we expect the second Safe Haven to open. It will be on East 91st Street in the Upper East Side—a  neighborhood that’s already served by Goddard Riverside’s homeless outreach teams. Since people living in the street often feel connected to their neighborhood, we anticipate that many of the people our outreach specialists work with will want to live there.  

“The East 91st Street Safe Haven will make both its residents and the Upper East Side community safer and more stable by helping people move off the streets,” said our executive director, Roderick L. Jones. 

We presented the project to Community Board 8 soon after signing a contract on the building. Earlier this month, the full board voted 46 to one in favor of the project, with one abstention. We’re eager to work with Upper East Siders to resolve any questions or concerns they may have, and we’re grateful for the board’s support.  

“Having a safe haven here, first of all, doesn’t change the fact that there are homeless people in the neighborhood. What it adds and what it changes is the fact that those people now will be able to get the help they need,” Russell Squire, chair of the board, told CBS New York

Like The Baxter, our East 91st Street Safe Haven will provide everything residents need under one roof. There will be full medical and psychiatric services, case management, three meals a day, and a roof deck for recreation. The building will have 24-hour front desk security as well as a security guard on the street for 12 hours per day. It’s important to note that unlike many shelters, Safe Havens are full-time residences; tenants are not required to leave during the day and there are no drop-in or one-night stays. 

Safe Havens work hand in hand with homeless outreach and supportive housing to provide a seamless transition from homeless to housed. Typically, outreach teams work with people on the street for weeks, months or even years until they are ready to accept a housing placement. That person will then move into a Safe Haven. There, they receive any services they need while they work on applying to permanent housing, which can take several months. A case manager supports them throughout the application process. Most people move from Safe Havens into permanent supportive housing, where they continue to have access to services.  

This process has a strong record of success: studies consistently find that well over 90 percent of people who settle in supportive housing remain housed.  

Goddard already runs four supportive housing residences on the Upper West Side and in Harlem. Like other organizations that work with people experiencing homelessness in New York, we’ve long advocated for more Safe Havens. We’re pleased to offer these two new residences as a crucial step toward helping more people move off the street.