Seminar 4 with Professor Berger

Category: Uncategorized (page 1 of 7)

Capitol Hall

Housing shelters in New York City have a bad reputation. They are often characterized by high crime and poor access to services. Because of this reputation I was unsure what I would see at the Capitol Hall Residence, despite it being single room occupancy and not a traditional shelter. During my time visiting Capitol Hall, I was shocked by the conditions, in a very good way. The residence was almost the opposite of the typified shelter.

Residents there have much more than just a shelter, instead they have a home. Capitol Hall allows those in need to get help while maintaining their safety and dignity. The accessibility of services can often be the difference in whether or not they will be used by those who need them. Capitol Hall provides its residence with access to food, mental and physical healthcare, and even help with things like taxes and paperwork. Having this kind of access is wonderful in helping those who need it, and the Capitol Hall Residence serves its residents remarkably well.

The only downside to the residence comes in its apparent uniqueness. The residence came about as a result of uncommon level of community support for such a place, and owes its continued existence and growth to the actions of that community. Most places would not be so supportive of such housing for the homeless, and because of this the success of Capitol Hall does not seem as easily repeatable as just making more buildings into similar housing.

-Jon Baumann

Capitol Hill

It’s one thing to learn about homelessness and affordable housing in class. It’s another thing to go out in the real world, to meet people who live in a low income residence and talk about their experiences. It humanizes them, and gets you to think not only about policy, but about the impact that policy has on the individuals affected by it.

That’s why I appreciated our visit to Capitol Hill. Instead of learning about homelessness as some abstract concept or statistic, we were able to speak face to face with the people who saved this residence and shaped it into what it is today. We also got to meet people who lived there, and hear their stories. It was truly a humbling experience, and it opened my eyes to a reality that I had never considered too deeply before.

I thought it was especially valuable to hear from the people who live in and benefit from Capitol Hill. One of the residents talked to us about his experience living in homeless shelters in the past; he told us how dehumanizing it was to live in a room where another person’s bed was at arm’s length, and how these shelters never really felt like home. He told us about his girlfriend and his daughter, and the experiences that led him to where he is now. Hearing him speak confirmed that we need a better solution to New York City’s housing crisis. Everyone deserves stability, and more residences like Capitol Hill can provide that.


Visiting Capitol Hall

When I first heard about our trip to this homeless residence, I imagined something more similar to a shelter than an apartment building. Capitol Hall had medical offices, a cafeteria, and common area. Rooms were big and offered residents a good amount of privacy. From both the outside and inside, Capitol hall looked surprisingly normal, and much more like a dorm than a shelter.

While discussing homelessness in New York and types of housing to help alleviate this problem, we gained some helpful insight from Capitol Hall’s management and the people who lived there. It was great to hear about the outreach they do, and how they got this huge plan to buy back the building, to actually work. Seeing occupied rooms and talking to tenants also helped bring a human aspect to the tour as well, and showed how fimiliar this living situation is to many of us in the class. Many of us have lived in dorms or small one room apartments were some facilities are shared and everyone is fairly close together, so we can somewhat relate to this style of living.

Although, being a student is very different than being homeless, and we are are surrounded by different types of people in a dorm, the size  and setup of the building creates a certain lifestyle that many of us can relate to. I’m grateful that we got to see this firsthand, and therefore grasp a more human understanding of the problems we discuss in class.


Destroy the Stigma

I don’t think I’ve ever had a trip that has caused such a change in my views as the trip to Capitol Hill.

I was raised in India, and the notion there is, those who are drug addicts, mentally unstable or lazy, are homeless. That notion was carried when I came to New York. The homeless were a product of their traits, lazy, crazy or a combination of both. It was a very ignorant mindset.

My research on the topic for the midterm paper as well as the trip to Capitol Hill showed me the exact opposite.

I had the pleasure of learning about a few stories from those who lived in the permanent housing at Capitol Hill. Every single one of the tenants were there due to a series of unfortunate events. We visited one SRO occupant whose disability coverage fee was so high, his salary was not enough to pay for the disability services as well as his rent. The disability was poor circulation, something that was not his fault. Another tenant was forced into homelessness because his original landlord was unable to pay his rent, forcing him to sell the entire building.

I honestly feel guilty that I had those ignorant predisposed thoughts about the homeless when I had never met any of them, nor heard any of their situations. This goes to show that people just don’t know, and it is our duty, as a citizen and an agent of change, to do something about it.


  • Madhav Bhatt

Fostering Hope at Capitol Hall

As I arrived at the entrance to Capitol Hall, I ran into a few of my classmates. We waited outside — uncertain of where we were to begin our visit. Eventually one of us realized we needed to be inside, so we made our way accordingly. In hindsight, I can see that my unwillingness to enter was more apprehension of what would be inside than uncertainty of where we would meet.

It’s incredible to think of how I naturally try to keep the homeless at arm’s length — how afraid I am to really engage with them.

But that is why I am grateful to have gone to Capitol Hall. From beginning to end, my expectations were turned upside down, and I was constantly introduced to a new — a better way of approaching the problem of homelessness.

From the openness and determination of the Upper West side residents, to the resourcefulness and diligence of the social workers, to the kindness and thoughtfulness of the outreach workers, to the the intelligence and passion of the ones who run the Hall and the outreach program, to the gratitude of those who now call Capitol Hall their home — the whole scene rang with hope.

And for me, that was the most important thing. Usually when I try to inform myself about any problem that society is facing, it’s hard, because it isn’t easy to see any solution. But actually seeing people not afraid to tackle the problem — that made me want to understand the problem, think of possible solutions, and see that it is possible to find solutions. In short, in gave me hope.

Capitol Hall: Stifling Stigmas & Changing Lives

Before our visit to Capitol Hall, I hadn’t known that there was such a staggering difference between a homeless residence and a homeless shelter. The two are synonymous literarily, but as one of our guest speakers pointed out, a shelter is not a home. Capitol Hall, on the other hand, was indeed a home for the homeless. The building itself is beautiful and clean, but the most impactful part of Capitol Hall for me was the psychological impact it has on its residents. To go from living on the streets to having a solid place to go to every night, something to call your own, is so invaluable. More than a home, a bed, a kitchen , or a bathroom, Capitol Hall gives it’s residents a new lease on life with their room and a support system to help them get back on their feet.

Capitol Hall also turns the stigma of homelessness on its head by removing the element of blame and shame that adds salt to the already open wound of losing everything after falling on hard times. That’s another thing– sometimes life gets tough and being homeless doesn’t mean you’re too lazy to get a job or you’re a drug addict. The residence hall and the residents in the hall challenge these prejudiced notions and serve as a shining beacon of progress for the city that never stops. Maybe now, people will stop long enough to see that homeless doesn’t mean hopeless.

– Sindi

Capitol Hall Residence

While searching for the Capitol Hall Residence, I was surprised at the lack of a sign or any other marker which indicated whether I was about to enter the correct building. Upon entering, the building’s interior beauty was even more surprising. With the preconception that this visit was to a homeless shelter, I had not anticipated such a “normal” looking building. However, after listening to the speakers for only a few minutes, I felt bad for having expected so little of the residence.

I have always felt that homelessness was a glaringly huge issue in New York City, but before this visit, I did not have any true insight into what homelessness really meant for the homeless, the non-homeless, and the community at large. The residents of Capitol Hall are mostly elderly, many receive public assistance, and some are even employed. These people are actively working to improve their lives – just like every other person throughout the city. They have experienced unfortunate circumstances which have left them incapable of securing housing on their own, but that should not define their character. The residents and staff we met were so kind, giving, and willing to share their experiences with us.

The existence of SRO’s provides people with the opportunity to improve their lives in the safety and privacy of their own space. Whether or not someone was homeless should not affect the living standards and amenities they get in their building. Of course they deserve a clean and safe building with TV’s, a patio, medical services, and privacy, why not? The accessibility of social services is vital for keeping the homeless off the streets during and after their time in an SRO. The stigma around homelessness needs to be put to rest; it can happen to anyone, and there needs to be a sustainable way to help people once it happens to them.


Homelessness in NYC & Capitol Hill

Before my visit to Capitol Hill, I had a narrower view of homelessness in NYC. I occasionally see homeless people on the sidewalk and on the train, and I thought that instead of asking people for money, their time would be better spent doing some kind of job. I knew that rent in NYC was very high and a lot of people were struggling financially, but I’ve never personally known anyone who became homeless. No matter how hard it was to live, the people I knew tried very hard to keep their lifestyles. I didn’t have a favorable view on homelessness because I thought that it stemmed more from personal responsibility than anything else.

While I met some of the residents at Capitol Hall, I learned about the various factors that contribute to homelessness. It was less about personal responsibility and more about unfair circumstances. For example, people lose their homes to construction projects. Some people cannot hold down a house or job because of mental illnesses. Some people have disabilities. It is the government’s job to help these people, but it is not doing enough. Homelessness in NYC is a complicated problem and the mayor is trying to alleviate the problem by advocating affordable housing, but more needs to be done. It will not be surprising if more of NYC’s population becomes homeless. The economy is bad, but rents are increasing. The city does not have enough funds to give the homeless new homes. To keep NYC as vibrant as it is, the federal government should extend their help and more developers should join to build affordable homes. It will take a longer time than New Yorkers would like for the rate of homelessness to subside.


Rosa Kyung

Blog 4 – “Investing In The Future of New York City” by Yashoma Boodhan

I think that speaking to the residents of Capitol Hall had the most impact for me. I arrived to the building earlier than my peers and I spent some time outside the building asking people nearby to confirm that I was at the correct location. A man who came out of Capitol Hall was kind enough to help me. I also noticed that the people who passed in and out of the building stopped and talked to each other — and even tried to include me in their friendly conversations about Starbucks and dogs. Both of the residents who I met inside were kind enough to share their stories and both of them expressed their thanks for a second chance. Their stories, attitudes, and views of Capitol Hall gives me the idea that the system at Capitol Hall is an effective one which can benefit the state and people facing homelessness.

After speaking with the people who own, manage, or live in the building, I was puzzled about why Capitol Hall wasn’t the norm. Like a classmate said, it seems so obvious that buildings like Capitol Hall which provide housing and social services can benefit New York State and people facing homelessness. Although we discussed the barriers that prevent Capitol Hall from being the norm, I don’t really accept them — they seem like an excuse. It was clear to me that if New Yorkers and politicians really wanted to alleviate homelessness in New York, then they would push for, and invest in, buildings such a Capitol Hall. In doing so, they would be investing in a more tolerant, supportive, and successful New York.

-Yashoma Boodhan

Capitol Hall Residence

The visit to Capitol Hall reminded me a lot of my time as a community organizer, where I interviewed many homeless people and worked closely with many homeless children. An abandoned hotel in my neighborhood had been transformed into a homeless residence for families and victims of domestic abuse, much to the dismay of many of the residence and shop-owners. There were worries of their land values going down, and fear of an increase in crime and violence in the neighborhood. What they, and a lot of people do not realize, is that homelessness is not uniform; not everyone is homeless because they are drug addicts or have mental illnesses, and not every homeless person is jobless. Keeping with this mindset will only hurt and hinder the homeless people during a time where love and support is needed most.

Capitol Hall is doing a great job for such a difficult issue. Affordable housing in New York City is a huge issue, and Capitol Hall goes above and beyond just basic housing. They provide many other resources, such as medical care and financial help for their residents. It is clear to me that to solve the homeless crisis in New York City, more places like Capitol Hall will need to be built. Although the road will be difficult, this would be attacking the roots of the issue, rather than just the symptoms, like homeless shelters do. Hopefully, eventually, everyone in New York City will have a safe home to live in.