How WellLife Network Staff is working on a better tomorrow
In the shadow of Yankee Stadium, just beyond the hustle and bustle that is the 161st subway station in the Bronx, lies one of WellLife Network’s newest residences. Built in 2016, the 165th mixed-use apartment complex stands on a quiet street between a row of private houses. It has a beautiful backyard suitable for summer BBQ’s and plenty of green space. The staff who run the facility keep everything clean and in order. You can tell as soon as you arrive that they take pride in maintaining the property. Its an oasis. A safe haven nestled in the South Bronx.
Clint Nared is the Program Director of the 165th facility. He has worked at WellLife Network for 3 years. Prior to assuming his current role, he was a case manager where he placed people in our resident programs and provide them assistance in obtaining services. When asked what drew him to this role, he told us, “I love helping people, that’s what I do best.”
One of Clint’s top priorities is establishing a sense of community within the building. “I want to get more tenants to attend the monthly building meeting, that would be great,” Clint said, like many buildings the 165th residency holds monthly meetings to hear about any grievances or anything that could be improved.
Every month Clint posts fliers on the 1st floor bulletin board for the monthly building meeting. He also makes it a point to deliver fliers to each of the tenants. “I am trying to get more people to participate, you know that’s how we make decisions, as a community.” Attendance is important for voting and for staying up to date with ongoing developments.
The building has 58 units, housing 38 WellLife residents and 20 individuals from the community who qualify for low-income housing. It was built with state-of-the-art qualities some include self-service garbage disposals, gym rooms, a new laundry room, and even security for the building, these were all included for free for the resident’s use.
Working in the main office on the first-floor, Clint, does his rounds every morning to make sure everything is clean and checks on all the floors for any irregularities. “We make sure the people are getting everything they need, if they need money for groceries or laundry, we loan it to them,” Clint said, “if they need help with doctor’s appointment, making them or getting there we help arrange transportation.” While the program does lend out money when the individuals need it, they also try and encourage the individual to budget their money.
Clint works alongside Marilyn and Evelyn, who are both case workers and meet with the tenants as many times as needed, sometimes multiple times a month. “I have definitely seen my fair share of progress from the clients,” Evelyn said, “sometimes it’s good progress and sometimes people have setbacks, but you try to help them out in any way possible.”
Clint and Marylin
Alongside housing support, tenants have access to WellLife’s world class mental health resources. Dr. Max Banilivy, one of WellLife most prominent psychotherapist, is always available to help staff. He advises them on how to deal with difficult situation involving a mentally unwell individual. Residents also receive guidance and support in personal and community living skills and monitoring of their prescribed medications. Individuals are also encouraged to participate in rehabilitation and vocational program activities outside of their residence.
One of the tenants living in the building is Jose. Jose came to the WellLife from a shelter in Brooklyn. “I was homeless before then I was getting bounced around from shelter to shelter. One in Brooklyn then east New York then in queens, until finally my case worker told me to apply to WellLife for a permanent residency and I got it,” Jose said.
As a longtime resident of 165th he has found a way to focus his energy on something creative. He makes 3D models out of crafts some of the models include a full house setup with its own garden and picket fence, wooden barrels, an American fighter plane.
“I get inspiration from what I see outside or on Facebook,” he told me. The Puerto Rican native said he loves to create art, not sell it, with that one can see many pieces created by Jose around the building and some in staff offices.
Every resident has their own, unique story. Staff told us about Rafael, who came to the program without much direction. He was withdrawn and detached at first, but after working with him, our team was able to get him to open up. They found out that Rafael had a lot to offer the world. He wanted to do something positive with his life, but he didn’t know where to start. WellLife connected him with our peer specialist training program. As a Certified Peer Specialists, Rafael was able to help the clients to make informed, independent choices, set goals, and become active participants in the community. He excelled in the program and quickly found a job that he loved.
Recently, Rafael told us about a position with the MTA that he was too nervous to apply for. Our team gave him the confidence to try and helped through the process. We are proud to report that he got the job!
These are just two examples of the important work that is being done by WellLife Network. Our goal is to create a low-income mixed-use housing development which offer supportive, safe and nurturing environments where all tenants feel a sense of cohesion and belonging to a larger community.