Bronx Community Solutions

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Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Big Changes...

There are some big changes happening at Bronx Community Solutions!  We have recently moved into a new office space in the Bronx Criminal Courthouse, to a room that has been transformed from a courtroom into a permanent office for all of our staff.  Seven years in the making, BCS now houses intake, clinic and administrative staff all in the same place.  There is a waiting area for clients and a small conference room for meetings and individual client sessions.  We are still making changes in layout and design.  Stay tuned for more information about a grand opening event that will take place in early December.  We are very excited to have the entire staff together, and to be able to serve our clients in a more efficient manner.  We look forward to sharing it with you!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

BCS and MCC Conduct Presentation for Court Staff

During National Domestic Violence Awareness Month, we call to attention all of those affected by this crime, including both the victims and the survivors. We strive to promote awareness as well as education. 

Last week, representatives from Midtown Community Court and Bronx Community Solutions came together for a presentation illustrating the connections between survivors of domestic violence and girls/women involved in the life of prostitution. The presentation took place at the Bronx County Hall of Justice and was titled, "Hidden Victims: Understanding the Connection Between Prostitution and Domestic Violence." 

The event was sponsored by the Bronx Domestic Violence Court and the Bronx Integrated Domestic Violence Court. Ms. Terri Roman, Project Director of the Bronx Domestic Violence Complex reached out to our team in the interest that we could share our expertise and experience working with individuals arrested for prostitution.
One of the goals of the presentation included highlighting the similarities in the experiences of those involved in intimate partner violence and individuals engaged in the life of prostitution. The overlap is primarily demonstrated in the executed dynamics of power and control normally associated within the context of a DV (domestic violence) relationship.  

Topics of trauma and raising awareness to identify clients associated with pimps were also focal points of the presentation. We provided attendees with application tips to apply in their own position and field work of practice. Such tips were readily welcomed, as those in attendance will translate what they learned to assisting those involved in prostitution with more awareness and knowledge.

- Melissa Novock, S.T.A.R.S Case Manager

Friday, October 19, 2012

Success Story - Lana

The following is a recent success story about a STARS client at Bronx Community Solutions.

Lana* has been a BCS client since 2008.  Her criminal history involves several prostitution cases, with repeated failure to complete her court mandates. In February 2011 she became connected with Melissa, a BCS STARS program case manager. It was after this time that she began to make noticeable improvements in her willingness to engage with the program and avoid re-arrest. At the beginning of their work together, Lana reported feeling “lost,” a sentiment frequently expressed by girls and women involved in the life of working on the streets. 

At one point recently, particular improvement was made with Lana. She contacted Melissa in a moment of crisis, as she was experiencing despondency to the extent of contemplating taking her own life. Melissa remained in close contact with her and encouraged her to keep coming in for counseling sessions. It was after this challenging period that she and Lana experienced a break-through moment, after which Lana renewed her efforts to take control of her life and escape violence. She has since completed all of her court mandates and is working toward independent housing. She has taken a big step recently, enrolling in a GED/Job Training program through the organization FEGS. Lana told Melissa that she is finally feeling “worthy of a life that's free of violence."

The dedicated attention that Melissa was able to provide for Lana helped her get through a crisis and make changes in her life that are hopfully putting her on a safer and more stable path.

*Name has been changed

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Community Partner Spotlight: Officer Carmen Tejada

In continuing to highlight some of our community partnerships, Moises and I recently met with Officer Carmen Tejada. She provides police supervision at many of our youth community service projects but her role has gone beyond that. She has found ways to connect to our adolescent clients, encouraging them to make productive decisions in their lives. She has been a great asset to BCS, especially in our efforts to engage with our younger clients!
Officer Carmen Tejada, Bronx Community Affairs Officer
I first heard about BCS in a meeting with various partners and agencies in the Bronx.  The word “solutions” caught my ear. We heard that BCS is trying to help the community and forming partnerships with community organizations. It intrigued me and my partner, so we inquired about how we could help the program. 
Now I supervise and assist with community service projects with Moises. The crews need police supervision, to make sure things stay under control and everyone is safe. Especially with graffiti removal, there can be risks related to gang violence when you’re painting over tags. But more than just supervising, I try to talk to the participants and encourage them to turn their lives around. They’re doing their service, that’s good, but they also have a chance to make a change and do things differently. That’s what I think is so great about BCS. BCS not only runs community service, they also listen to the concerns of each person and tries to find solutions to their problems. It’s how I think it should be because there should be a way for people to make a change in their lives; it shouldn’t be ‘no way out’. These are people who have committed crimes, but at the end of the day they still go home to a community where they live.  And I think doing this kind of work, with the special attention BCS gives them, makes them think twice before committing another crime. BCS gives them positive feedback. They’re doing the service, sure, but they get so much more than that. And they take this positive influence back out to their community and who knows, maybe preventing future offenses by passing the message on to others. 
Since BCS has been around, I’ve noticed that the areas where they do work are cleaner and the quality of life is more presentable. And when the community hears about a project that BCS takes on to make the neighborhood cleaner, it sparks an idea and they start saying, “I want that in my neighborhood too!” And they start thinking about ways to make a positive change in their community.
I wanted things to be done differently, and BCS is doing that. You want to just wave a magic wand all over the Bronx, but you can’t. But the part they do, it helps. It makes it a little better.  They never give up trying to find solutions. BCS has a vision of a better Bronx. 

Friday, October 05, 2012

Changes in Loitering-related Arrest Policy

The New York Times reported yesterday on a recent ruling that challenges the legality of loitering arrests in public housing projects. Judge Scheindlin of the Manhattan Federal District Court said in her decision that the current loitering rules are "unconstitutionally vague". A number of unlawful arrest lawsuits have now been allowed to go forward where previously they would have not been heard in court.

This decision comes on the heels of the Bronx District Attorney's recent decision to no longer prosecute individuals arrested for trespassing in public housing projects unless the arresting officer can be interviewed and will attest that the arrest was warranted.

Bronx Community Solutions will frequently see clients from court who have been brought in on trespassing charges. It will be interesting to see how policy changes affect these numbers.