BCHS was founded in 1978 by a group of clergy and concerned citizens from Downtown Brooklyn, who were alarmed by the growing number of individuals with a mental illness that were sleeping on the street and seeking help from local parishes. When the Carter Administration called for the creation of community-based housing programs for the mentally ill, these clergy and citizens formed what was then called Pastoral and Educational Services (and which later became known as Brooklyn Community Housing and Services), and pledged to bring an end to homelessness in Brooklyn.

In 1980, BCHS began one of the first Scattered-Site Apartment Programs for homeless mentally ill adults in the country, and then subsequently embarked upon an ambitious construction project, called Brooklyn Gardens (BG), which opened in 1991. Located in Fort Greene, BG is a 180-bed complex serving formerly homeless families, adults with severe psychiatric disorders, and adults with a chronic mental illness. BG not only received national attention for its innovative design and programming, but its attractive presence—along with a community room, events open to the public, and 24/7 staff who reached out regularly to local residents—helped stabilize a neighborhood reeling from years of violence and abandonment.

Since then innovation and excellence have been agency hallmarks. BCHS’ Scattered-Site program now houses 135 individuals in private apartments throughout Brooklyn, while the agency was also part of a team that recently opened Navy Green, a 97-bed supportive housing building for formerly homeless/low-income individuals.

Currently, BCHS provides housing for 412 individuals daily and 1,000 annually. On-site services include case management, mental health and substance abuse counseling, nursing, childcare, vocational training, and recreational/socialization activities such as horticultural, drama and art therapy. Additional programming includes homelessness and eviction prevention, veteran’s services, and specialized services for criminal justice involved individuals and formerly homeless seniors.

BCHS has been fortunate to earn widespread recognition for its efforts. The agency has received awards such as the prestigious Fannie Mae Foundation’s Maxwell award for excellence in low-income housing development; the Corporation for Supportive Housing’s Eastern Region Finalist award for excellence in supportive housing; and the New York State HHAP award for outstanding contributions in innovative housing. The agency has also been visited by government officials from throughout the country to study its unique and successful approach, while housing officials from as far away as the U.K., Australia, New Zealand, and Israel have taken trips to BCHS to learn more about our program model as well. Finally, BCHS’ work is regularly profiled in news and media outlets, including publications such as the New York Daily News and The Atlantic Magazine.