RUPCO’s latest affordable housing project gives some unhoused Kingston seniors hope

Residents at RUPCO’s latest affordable housing project Landmark Place on Flatbush Avenue say their new apartments represent a life-changing moment and fresh start. 

Thirty-two people moved into their new studio apartments at the historic Alms House, an imposing white brick edifice that towers over the intersection of Flatbush Ave, U.S. Route 9W, and East Chester Street Bypass earlier this month. 

The project focuses on housing seniors, with special attention given to those who are homeless. RUPCO officials say there is an enormous demand for such housing at a time when a lack of affordable housing in Kingston and Ulster County has made national headlines in publications like The New York Times and others.

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Several residents spoke to Hudson Valley One on a recent morning in a community room, which will be soon outfitted with a pull-down screen and projector for movie nights. College classroom-style desks on rollers allow for the room to be easily reconfigured for whatever event or class may be held there. A couple of couches in the back give the space a more homey vibe.

An affordable place to call home at long last
They include Angel Maldonado who moved in earlier this month shortly after the building opened. He said before coming to Landmark Place he was homeless off and on for the past 10 years, sometimes crashing on couches as his efforts to find an affordable place turned up fruitless. “The rent is so high they’re not giving nobody an opportunity. He said he’s heard horror stories of it costing $4,000 just to move into a new apartment with landlords demanding a security deposit and back rent in addition to the regular monthly rent. 

But when he heard RUPCO was having a lotto for apartments at Landmark Place he figured he’d give it a shot.

Maldonado would have to wait months to find out if he was picked. 

“There were a lot of people, I was number 20,” he said. 

He praised RUPCO’s efforts. “They’re doing a lot of good things, making it affordable for people with mental health problems, seniors and SSI ‘supplemental security income’ people like myself,” Maldonado said. “They listen to suggestions for improvements to make it more warm and comfortable here.”

“This is the first time I’ve been in an affordable house like this, I’ve never had the opportunity,” he said.

Maldonado said he originally came from the Binghamton Area where life was no easier for him. 

He recalled sleeping in the lobby of a YMCA where he’d be thrown out at 5 a.m. so it could open. 

Now he feels grateful to be here. “I feel like someone is watching over me,” he said. 

Maldonado said he’s spoken to the property manager about working with BOCES to do GED classes in an extra room on site. That way no one has to be embarrassed and it can be a setting for everyone to get to know each other. 

He said people look down on those who are homeless. “They think they’re better than people who are homeless,” he said. But he admitted all too often people can have a stable life, a good job, a family and still end up slipping into homelessness. 

“People look down on people who are homeless, but we are human like everyone else,” Maldonado said. “I wish people would see places that need to have affordable housing,” he said. 

Stability and good neighbors 
Troy Gray moved into the building two weeks ago after coming home from a prison sentence on September 21. And he’s elated he no longer has to worry about stability. 

“That’s the most important thing,” he said. 

He said the building is really nice and he loves it there. He recalled when the building used to house the County’s Health Department. 

“It’s a big difference from what I’ve been through personally,” he said. “I have good neighbors, good staff. 

He noted Kingston has very high rent for people of low income. “That’s why a lot of people are homeless,” Gray said. 

He said he first heard about Landmark Place through his case worker with Family of Woodstock and he applied and was chosen in the lotto as well. And now he’s just happy to have a place he can call his own. The sentiment, he says, is shared by many of his neighbors.

“A lot of people here haven’t had their own in a long time.” 

A safe place and another chance at life
Vincent Logan moved into Landmark Place on November 5 after a stint living out of his car. 

He also had nothing but good things to say about it and RUPCO. “I love it here, I really respect these people,” Logan said. “I respect this organization, they did a wonderful job. I’d recommend it to anyone.”

He admitted it took a while for it to get open, but he feels it was completely worth it. 

And he also expressed relief to find a place he could feel is truly his. “You feel safe, it’s a wonderful thing. 
At 58, Logan admitted he’s been through a lot of things, but at last he feels he has a foundation in place that will give him an “opportunity to run.”

Now with a steady place to stay he reflected back on his time when he was homeless. 

“Nobody wants someone on their couch, family or not. It’s a situation they can’t put up with for more than a day or two.” He said he’d keep his trunk full of clothes and he knew how to move around and to keep clean and presentable.

“If you’re unable to do that,” Logan said, “then all hope goes out the window.”

Logan said that people often give unwanted clothes to the homeless, but he wondered, what can someone who is homeless do with them when they have no place to keep them? 

“What about people who don’t have a car, those people are out in the streets,” he said. 

Logan struggled to hold back tears as the interview progressed. 

“As you can see I’m emotional,” he said. “It’s literally given me back my life and given me an opportunity to get my life back together. I’m very thankful for that.” 

Fully equipped studio apartments 
Cari Marvelli, a RUPCO behavioral health specialist who will work on site and Lindsey Sutton, a RUPCO veteran who serves as Landmark’s residential Property Manager, offered a tour of one of just a couple apartments that still remain vacant. 

Like all the apartments in the old Alms House, the third-floor studio featured a full kitchen with all new up to date appliances, large bathrooms, all of which can be made accessible and are heated and cooled by highly efficient split-duct systems that can be controlled by the tenant. 

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Three large windows offered a commanding view over the surrounding neighborhood. 

Target and Hannaford provided donations to help outfit the units and they also have a microwave, Sutton said. 
The apartments come fully furnished with contemporary furniture and a twin bed. RUPCO provides electric, heating and cooling, while residents are responsible for cable, internet and phone service.

Another 32 units are under construction in a new adjacent building that remains under construction and are set to open next year according to Sutton. Seven on those will be set aside for frail elderly folks, she said. Marvelli and Sutton said residents will be free to go back and forth between the buildings for special programs 
Landmark Place’s senior-focused mission contrasts with RUPCO’s latest project at the former Quality Inn and Roudigan’s Steakhouse near the Thruway Exit 19 interchange in the town of Ulster. That project will involve renovating the old hotel into full apartments for families. RUPCO will partner with Family of Woodstock and Catholic Charities to provide on-site services at the former hotel. The purchase and renovation of the hotel were announced last summer in a special press conference at RUPCO’s headquarters in the old Kirkland Hotel in Uptown Kingston featuring RUPCO CEO Kevin O’Connor, Ulster County Executive Pat Ryan along with officials from Catholic Charities and Family of Woodstock. 

Lending a helping hand to residents through on-site services
While all of the units at Landmark Place are independent living, RUPCO will offer a number of services on site including an LPN who will help residents coordinate their doctors and dentist appointments. But those services will stop short of providing the level of care found in nursing homes and the LPN will not be doing school nurse type stuff, Marvelli said. 

Tenants will be encouraged to continue to work with any case managers they may already have, such as those assigned to veterans, while others may need a home health aide. Staff will also be able to assist residents in dealing with other agencies like the Ulster County Department of Social Services and programs like SNAP. 

Marvelli said they hope to offer programs like Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous on site as well. 

“We want to make it as convenient for people as possible,” she said. And when it comes to programs they’re trying to listen to resident’s requests like Maldonado’s for GED classes on-site. She said she’s in the process of figuring out if that could work and, if not, being able to use a shuttle bus RUPCO will soon receive to bring people out to nearby classes. 

There will also be help with more basic tasks like setting up an email account. 

“People are finding healthy things to do,” Marvelli said. “A lot of people like to cook.”

Landmark Place has a 24-hour front desk with security and also will have a building superintendent who will live in a brick home on site and help deal with issues that may arise in the buildings.

Those coming from a homeless situation will have their rent subsidized by the Empire State Supportive Housing Initiative, a state-run program that caps rent at no more than 30 percent of the recipients income to ensure rents remain affordable, Marvelli said. 

But these units will not be nearly enough to fill the demand as nearly 200 people qualified for just 66 units at a time when a lack of affordable housing has reached crisis levels in Ulster County. 

Sutton said Landmark Place follows a philosophy of “stability first” with everything else following that.
Marvelli said that philosophy has many residents breathing a sigh of relief as they look ahead to 2022 and the future. She admitted sometimes that it takes a bit of getting used to for some residents. 

“One older man came up to me and asked if ‘I’m staying here forever,’” she said. “It’s not a halfway house, it’s permanent housing.”

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