Outdoor meeting of ICL staff, including staff members from ICL Connects. Photo: Courtesy of the ICL for the BK Reader.
Outdoor meeting of ICL staff, including staff members from ICL Connects. The ICL backyard is available to clients as well. Photo: Courtesy of the ICL.

Theres a brand-new program for East New York and Brownsville residents that addresses the skyrocketing disenfranchisement caused by the pandemic.

ICL Connects, run out of the Institute for Community Livings East New York Health Hub, provides people with housing support, nutritious meals, health care and mental health services.

ICL is a New York City nonprofit that works across all five boroughs helping people living with mental illness, substance use and developmental disabilities have healthier and more fulfilling lives.

David Matthews (left) is the director of the ICL Connects program at ICL, and Dimitri Davis (right) is a pastor and care navigator for ICL Connects. Photo: Courtesy of ICL.

In January, ICL became one of the first grant recipients of the new Mother Cabrini Health Foundation. With that, the ICL Connects program was established to help residents in East New York and Brownsville who are undocumented, uninsured, unemployed, experiencing housing insecurity and hungry.

Former East New York resident Gerardo Ramos, ICLs Senior Vice President for Integrated Care and Family and Youth Services, oversees the new program.

Gerardo Ramos. Photo: Courtesy of ICL.

Because our program is really open-ended, it allows us to fill gaps that other programs cant provide, Ramos said.

If someone doesnt have access to public assistance, were able to provide money to get them groceries. In addition to shelter, health, and legal support, we even address problems like lack of transportation, social activities, and so on. All the things that make up a healthy person.

Ramos said the program served over 180 people in East New York and Brownsville last month. ICL Connects prided itself on making a plan for everyone who came through its doors, no matter what they needed, Ramos said.

If someone comes in and says, Im having a problem with my landlord, we work with them to provide support, and sometimes help with security deposits and rent, Ramos said.  This program, its a really important community resource. And its free for clients.

For ICL Connects Care Navigator and former East New York resident Ana Miguel, this work is personal.

ICL East New York Health Hub welcome desk. Photo: Courtesy of ICL.

I was an addict, so back in the day, nothing mattered, Miguel said. But today, in my life, everything matters, my education, my job, my clients. My clients come first and foremost, why? Because Im one of them. 

Miguel, who worked at ICL for a few years before being promoted in this new program, holds two college degrees now and said ICL had offered to sponsor her next stepa one-year Masters program. 

Some of her clients have followed in her footsteps and now have college degrees too.

I couldnt be prouder, Miguel said.

Miranda Levingston

Covering everything Brooklyn. Twitter: @MLevNews

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