REACH Advocacy

2014 Tent City Collage

It all began with the 2014 eviction of people living in an informal shelter in a downtown garage. Their subsequent displacement and destruction of a Tent City, set up in protest, precipitated a crisis. REACH formed in September 2015 when a group of citizens said “No!’ to leaving people experiencing homelessness out in the cold.

2015 REACH Home Prince St

In 2015, Rochester Emergency Action Committee for the Homeless (REACH) formed to provide a low-barrier, emergency winter shelter for people experiencing homelessness who could not find refuge elsewhere. More than 30 volunteers searched for a vacant building and were offered a house on Prince Street owned by the Roman Catholic Diocese. A shelter was created for one winter. We housed almost 150 people age 18+ successfully placing over 50 guests in permanent housing. It was soon apparent that this was not a one-winter problem.

2016 Bridge Home Shelter

In the winter of 2016-17, we relocated and opened an emergency shelter on Ontario Street as BRIDGE Home. On average, we housed over 40 guests each night during the winter and placed many of them in permanent housing.

2017 - 2019 REACH Home N Union Street

November 2017 brought a two-year collaborative effort with Dimitri House. With the support of many volunteers, we moved into a new REACH Home on N. Union Street. Through the efforts of our social work team, more than 40% of our guests transitioned to permanent housing each winter.

Draft architectural drawing of Tiny Home Village

In 2018, in response to a growing awareness of the lack of affordable housing in Rochester increasing homelessness, REACH began exploring ways to encourage and create local supportive housing options. This exploration soon became an initiative to develop a community of Tiny Homes.

Photo of REACH Home 2019

Thanks to the willingness of Brother Antonios and the Coptic Christian Community, we housed our 2019-20 winter shelter in what was the former rectory at 720 West Main St. With the help of our many volunteers, the shelter operated successfully from Thanksgiving 2019 until the COVID pandemic surge in early spring 2020.

Photo of 2021 Hotel used for shelter during the pandemic lockdown

By April, it became clear that many of our guests would be at high risk, and crowded shelters would provide an ideal environment for spreading the virus. With the support of the Monroe County Department of Human Services Emergency Housing Unit, we rapidly implemented a collaborative initiative to support hotel-based housing for people most at risk. This effort continued through the summer of 2020 and the following winter, transitioning half of the guests to appropriate housing before closing in early 2021. During this period, REACH also began supporting walking outreach programs working with people experiencing homelessness in the city’s Jefferson and North Clinton Avenue areas.

One of the scattered sites used to house guests in private rooms

For 2021-22 REACH developed several separate shelter sites, providing each guest with a private room to minimize the threat of COVID spread. Work also continued preparing 720 West Main as a central facility to support a planned scattered-site shelter model, and eventual winter shelter space.

Concept drawing of the Tiny Home Village

In 2022 the REACH Tiny Homes effort continued to move forward, with the focus changing to a more spacious site in the Edgerton neighborhood and plans to begin construction in 2024. The new location will provide 12 permanent supportive housing units with a resident manager and community center on site.

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