Building strong neighborhoods with affordable housing and community programs
In 2007, Settlement Housing Fund worked with community residents in Brooklyn to create a program called DREAMS (Dedicated, Responsible, Educated, Accountable, Motivated and Self-Sufficient) for young adults, ages 17-24, who were 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 diplomas, and gain the skills needed to obtain employment and go on to college. The education component is part of the NYC Department of Education's alternative school system, which provides skilled teachers, meals and transportation to and from our classrooms. With funds from the U.S. Department of Labor through YouthBuild USA, we added a job training component in 2008, giving students paid construction training through which they earn certification and help to renovate affordable housing units in their community. Wrap around services help students overcome obstacles and secure job placement, college access, leadership development, community service, mentoring, and referrals to healthcare and child care.
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, and has since received additional support from the NYC Department of Youth and Community Development.
The Brooklyn Community Foundation helped launch this program, which has received additional support from the JPMorgan Chase Foundation, M&T Charitable Foundation, TD Charitable Foundation and YouthBuild USA.
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