Community Access, Inc. is a non-profit organization that assists New Yorkers living with psychiatric disabilities make the transition from shelters and institutions to independent living by providing supportive housing, job-training and employment services and advocacy.

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NYC Youth Mental Health Symposium - Headstrong Initiative.


According to Community Access's main website, [2] their mission is:

Community Access assists people with psychiatric disabilities make the transition from

shelters and institutions to independent living. We provide safe, affordable housing and support services, and we advocate for the rights of people to live without fear or stigma. Community Access’ work demonstrates that people with psychiatric disabilities can lead productive, dignified, and valued lives in the community.


Community Access was formed in 1974 by concerned clinicians, family members, and former patients in response to the rapid downsizing of New York’s psychiatric hospitals. The founding directors’ practical response was to pool their own money as seed capital to rent and renovate three apartments on New York’s Lower East Side. Without fanfare, they helped their first residents reconnect with the community, find work, and rebuild long-broken social ties.

Photo of people that are involved with Community Access Inc that's been shared on the Facebook page.

Today, Community Access is internationally recognized as one of the most innovative providers of transitional and supportive housing providers for people with mental illnesses. They have expanded beyond housing to include support services, job training, and a fine art program to meet the needs of individuals and families. Tenants and consumers of housing and services also include people living with HIV / AIDS, low-income families, veterans, and individuals who had previously been incarcerated. Their award-winning programs have been replicated across the country and are recognized as leaders in providing comprehensive services to a diverse population.

Current programs (2009)


Community Access has led the development of housing that integrates people with specials needs with other low-income families. Financing of projects includes complex public and private sources. [4]

  • Safe, affordable housing for more than 850 people annually, including over 70 families
  • Community Access owns and operates 13 buildings in Manhattan, Brooklyn, and the Bronx
  • 27 units of transitional housing (one to two years)
  • 61 units of supported housing rented on the open market with visiting social services
  • 793 units of permanent supportive housing with on-site support services

(tenants hold their own leases)

  • 222 units in development in four buildings to open in 2010-2011
Photo of people who attended a Community Access, Inc. event.


Support services provided to more than 850 tenants include:

Job training and employment services are provided by the Howie the Harp Peer Advocacy Center (HTH). Since 1995, HTH has had over 730 graduates with an 80% placement rate in jobs and higher education. This peer advocacy program has been replicated nationally. [5]

The Art Collective provides technical training and support for artists, covering the entire process from creation of art to exhibition and sale notably hand made books. Artwork produced is featured in professional exhibits and displayed in all of the public spaces of Community Access. The Collective has nearly 50 active artists.


Community Access leads reform efforts on mental health issues related to social justice and housing. They have partnered with many other organizations to promote the basic human rights of people with psychiatric disabilities, taking an active role in initiatives such as:

  • New York/New York III, which provides $1 billion to finance and develop 9,000 new units of supportive housing in New York City [7]


  • the New York State Campaign for Mental Health Housing
  • the Boot the SHU Campaign – elimination of solitary confinement for people with mental illness


  • reform of the adult home system



Community Access is governed by a 13-member Board of Directors. Officers are Stephen Chase of Clean Venture, President; Karen Roth of the New York City Health and Hospitals Corporation (ret.), Vice President; David Perry of The Clarett Group, Secretary; Joshua Auerbach of Quancast Corporation, Treasurer.


Steve Coe, Executive Director, has led the organization for the past 30 years in building its programs, developing innovative housing, and creating an efficient management structure. Steve has been a leader in New York and across the country, advocating for new units of affordable housing and appropriate services so that people living with mental illness can be reintegrated into communities.


Community Access employs 238 individuals, 20% of whom are mental health consumers. We are committed to our goal of 51% consumer staff spread over all departments, programs, and levels of management.


Community Access's 2008-2009 budget is $16.6 million. The annual budget has grown 25% in past three years. Sources of funding include: 74% government contracts, 17% earned income, 6% foundations and corporations, and 3% individual donors.

Awards and features

2008: Robin Hood Heroes – Dwayne Mayes, Director of Howie the Harp Peer Advocacy Center, Steve Coe, Executive Director; Robin Hood Foundation .

2006: 2006 Building Brooklyn Award for Affordable Housing; Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce

2005: Project of the Year; Supportive Housing Network of New York

2004: Project of the Year; New York State Association for Affordable Housing. Community Access featured in the 11th season, seventh episode of PBS series, Visionaries .

2002, 1995: Maxwell Award of Excellence (won twice); Fannie Mae Foundation

1995: Design Award; National Association of Housing Rehabilitation Officials