Brigadier General Hazel Brown Johnson Veterans Center (HELP Philly VI) © Courtesy of Help USA
Homelessness is a complex issue that affects millions of people worldwide. The housing crisis has been a long-standing issue in the United States, affecting individuals and families from all walks of life.
For over three decades, HELP USA has provided housing and homeless services to vulnerable populations in New York City and beyond. Led since 2011 by the visionary Dr. Tom Hameline, a licensed psychologist, the organization has become a renowned national homeless services provider and low-income housing developer.
In 1993, Dr. Hameline was counseling families and teaching at NYU Medical Center when a colleague suggested he consider an open position at HELP USA, a homeless services provider operating five family shelters in the Greater New York City area. Hameline agreed to an interview, and, struck by the overwhelming need for services to address the roots of homelessness, he accepted the offer to oversee mental health programs for homeless families at HELP USA’s facilities in the South Bronx, beginning what has been a more than 30-year crusade to provide solutions to the housing crisis and address the traumas caused by homelessness.
Today, Hameline is HELP USA’s President and CEO. Since being selected for the top position in 2011, he has led the organization through a massive expansion of its enterprise from an operator of homeless shelters to a renowned national housing and homeless services nonprofit with 60+ program sites, across seven states, with 1,500 employees serving 30,000+ people annually.
THE FUTURE OF HELP USA
Dr. Hameline has announced that he will be retiring later this year. Having positioned the agency to lead the industry in end-to-end solutions for vulnerable populations, he acknowledges the quality of the staff and the generosity of the donor community, which have contributed significantly to HELP USA’s impact during his tenure.
“Leading HELP USA has been an extraordinary honor,” he shared. “The steadfast commitment of our management team, combined with their relentless drive to offer lasting support and solutions to the most vulnerable populations, is the foundational strength of this organization. The front-line staff is second-to-none, and their unending passion for helping others has informed our daily direction and successes. The support from our board, donors, and corporate partners has been tremendous, allowing us to rapidly expand both the number of people we serve and the number of homes we offer.”
The first HELP USA family shelter opened in 1987 in East New York, Brooklyn, and was constructed and designed with the highest standards of the time. In 2016, Dr. Hameline and his team recognized the changing needs of the community and began discussions with local government about their ideas for a redevelopment of the existing facility into a multi-use complex. They envisioned a development that would employ trauma-informed design principles to create welcoming, safe, and functional spaces for both residents and staff, while at the same time adopting passive house principles to improve the built environment.
After extensive planning, HELP USA’s original site was demolished to make way for the new HELP ONE. When completed, this benchmark project will significantly benefit the entire NYC area, showcasing a new standard in quality, supportive and affordable housing. The first apartments will begin welcoming residents later this summer.
Hameline cites this milestone project as a pinnacle in his long career, “With the landmark supportive and affordable housing project, HELP ONE in East New York, well underway, and our trauma-informed purpose-built shelter Logan Fountain rising in Brooklyn’s Cypress Hill neighborhood, I have every confidence that HELP USA is on the path to a strong future, and that this is the right time for a leadership transition.”
Dr. Hameline continued, “Now in my fourth decade with HELP USA, I reflect on the many challenges, triumphs, and learnings that have brought us to where we are today—at the forefront of organizations committed to the fight against homelessness.
For decades, we have served the relentless tide of those in need with compassion, efficiency, and dignity. We have found homes for thousands and taken care of thousands more while they waited for homes to become available. But that’s not all. We addressed the housing shortage at its source—we built more housing for low-income young families, seniors, veterans, and formerly incarcerated adults.
And we are constructing even more with our affiliate HELP Development Corp.—500 new, quality homes in Brooklyn just this year, with many more planned across Metropolitan New York and other areas where we work like Rochester, NY, New Haven, CT, and Perry Point, Maryland, for example.
To address the growing housing and homelessness crisis, which is surging at unprecedented speed, we are adding capacity at all levels–opening new and remodeled transitional shelters, piloting innovative prevention and trauma-reduction programs, and elevating talented and committed professionals to manage industry-leading teams and offer essential services to those who need our help the most.
Because of this foundational strength, HELP USA faces the future ready to meet the increasing call for affordable, supportive housing and safe, temporary shelter.”
On January 26, 2023, Dr. Hameline spoke before a standing-room-only audience of 250 industry colleagues at HELP USA’s symposium, Upstream. Commenting on the future of the industry in the wake of Mayor Eric Adams’ and Governor Kathy Hochul’s housing agendas, Dr. Hameline said: “There will be lots of productive and meaningful work for everyone to do in the years ahead…and we can expect more important developments to continue to come out of New York City.”
Dr. Hameline offered in conclusion, “Thank you to everyone who has stood with us to fight against homelessness. HELP USA will continue to help people build better lives, one home at a time for years to come, because our community will not stop until everyone has a place to call home.”
Developed under Hameline’s direction, this inaugural symposium set the stage for his successor to continue the agency’s positive momentum and build upon the remarkable accomplishments of his presidency.
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We provide shelter to meet people’s immediate needs, as well as support to succeed as individuals, as families, and as communities. We envision a world where safe and stable housing is a starting point for everyone, because housing is the foundation upon which people can build better lives.