Settlement Housing Fund works to strengthen neighborhoods by creating and sustaining quality affordable housing, amenities like schools and playgrounds, and programs that promote educational success and upward mobility. When we have a concentration of housing in one area, we are able to provide space for programs that address needs of the community.
In 2007, we worked with community residents in Brooklyn to create a program called DREAMS (Dedicated, Responsible, Educated, Accountable, Motivated and Self-Sufficient) targeted to young adults, ages 17-24, who are unemployed and lacking a high school diploma. Nearly 40% of the City’s 200,000 “disconnected” young adults live in Brooklyn, many in communities where we have developed housing, including Crown Heights, Bedford-Stuyvesant, and East New York. DREAMS provides a safe and structured environment where these young men and women resume their education, acquire GEDs, and gain the skills needed to obtain employment. With funds from the U.S. Department of Labor through YouthBuild USA, we added a job training component in 2008, giving students on-site, paid construction training, through which they earn certification and help to renovate and return affordable housing units to their community. GED and vocational training is combined with job readiness and placement, college counseling, leadership development, community service, mentoring, and referrals to healthcare and child care.
In early 2011, our DREAMS YouthBuild and Young Adult Training Program expanded into larger quarters at our development for homeless and low-income families in Brooklyn’s Crown Heights, with space for two classrooms, a testing and assessment area, lunchroom, and private office space for confidential individualized counseling. The education component is part of the New York City Department of Education’s alternative school system, which provides skilled teachers and breakfast, lunch, and public transportation to and from the school. This year, Settlement Housing Fund will open a new Career and College Access Center across the street from DREAMS, which will feature additional classroom space, a computer lab, and a resource library for students and neighborhood residents. City capital funds for the rehabilitation of this facility were allocated by the Brooklyn Borough President, with additional funding coming from the Lavanburg Foundation and National Grid.
In 2012, DREAMS expanded its services to young adults involved in the juvenile justice system, with a two-year SMART (Start Making A Real Transformation) U.S. Department of Labor grant from YouthBuild USA. In addition to finishing high school, these students will receive training in green construction, health care and technology-related jobs, and participate in community service projects. And with Community Education Pathways to Success (CEPS) funding from the NYC Department of Probation, DREAMS will also serves young adults from Brownsville who are on probation with specialized literacy and math instruction to prepare them for GED courses and to enter the workforce. CEPS is part of the City's Young Men’s Initiative (YMI), a comprehensive effort to tackle the disparities in the advancement of black and Latino young men.
The Brooklyn Community Foundation helped launch this program with funding through its Education and Youth Achievement Fund, and Bike & Build helps fund DREAMS YouthBuild through its grant program.
The DREAMS students pledge to:
Turn our dreams into realities,
Never give up on our dream of getting a GED,
Respect our teachers and fellow classmates,
Never leave anyone behind, but never let anyone hold us back,
Conduct ourselves in a respectful manner,
Improve and rebuild our community.
 Raison, Eva, and Sandra Sajonas. “Selecting Success: Disconnected Youth’s Reading Choices.” Urban Library Journal, an official publication of the Library Association of the City University of New York. Vol 16, No 1 (2010). http://ojs.cunylibraries.org/index.php/ulj/article/view/15/html_7
Ditashiah Kohn, Director
1615 St. John's Place, Lower Level
Brooklyn, NY 11233