Settlement Housing Fund works to strengthen neighborhoods by creating and sustaining quality affordable housing, amenities like schools and playgrounds, and programs that promote education and employment success. When we have a concentration of housing in one area, we are able to provide space for programs that help meet specific 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 YouthBuild provides a safe and structured environment where these young men and women resume their education, acquire high school equivalency degrees, and gain leadership and job 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 affordable housing units in their community. Wrap around services are added to help students overcome obstacles and to secure job placement, college access, leadership development, community service, mentoring, and referrals to healthcare and child care.
In early 2011, the DREAMS YouthBuild 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.
In 2012, DREAMS began working at Rikers Island to reach young adults involved in the juvenile justice system through a SMART (Start Making A Real Transformation) U.S. Department of Labor grant from YouthBuild USA. DREAMS was one of 9 YouthBuild programs chosen to implement this pilot project, which called for expanding job training in green construction, health care and technology-related jobs. In 2013, DREAMS was awarded a YouthBuild AmeriCorps grant to support the community service work and education of 31 part time students and 1 full time member.
The Brooklyn Community Foundation helped launch this program and additional support has been received from Bike & Build, Capital One Foundation, M&T Charitable Foundation, and through grants from YouthBuild USA made possible by the Charles Stewart Mott Foundaiton, JPMorgan Chase, and the Walmart Foundation.
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 1123