Smoke-Free Housing Policies for Supportive Housing: DeKalb Avenue Apartments

ca_new_logo_tag_300ppi_rgbAfter the success of our “Supportive Housing Goes Smoke-Free” training program last year, twelve other members of the Supportive Housing Network of NY (The Network) have enrolled in this year’s program. We met with Carl Johnson, Program Director at Community Access, Inc. Community Access plans to adopt a voluntary smoke-free policy in one of their supportive housing residences (DeKalb Avenue Apartments).

1. Thank you, Carl, for joining us to learn how supportive housing providers can go smoke-free in their buildings. DeKalb Avenue Apartments is just one of the buildings that is owned and operated by Community Access. How many buildings does Community Access have?

Community Access was founded in 1974 in the Lower East Side of Manhattan and has expanded into other parts of New York City ever since. Community Access either owns, operates or provides social services in 20 buildings and more than 100 scatter-site apartments throughout Manhattan, Brooklyn and the Bronx.

2. And DeKalb Avenue Apartments?

DeKalb Avenue Apartments in Brooklyn was Community Access’ second housing site to mix low-income families and individuals living with psychiatric disabilities. We have 64-units, and each tenant holds his or her own lease. Our on-site service coordinators provide vocational training and counseling to residents. They’re also there to help with crisis intervention, social skill-building and government assistance programs.

Housing_Header3. Why is DeKalb Avenue Apartments interested in going smoke-free?

DeKalb Avenue Apartments, as well as Community Access, is dedicated to the improved health of the special needs populations that reside in our housing. Research shows that people with psychiatric diagnosis have shorter life spans because of smoking and other health-related conditions. The staff and residents of 910 DeKalb Avenue and Community Access are committed to improving these bleak indicators.

4. What staff resources are available to help implement a smoke-free policy?

DeKalb Avenue currently has smoke-free common areas in the building, and we want to go smoke-free throughout the whole building to provide our residents with healthier homes. Our staff currently works directly with tenants and provides them with relevant resources to reduce or quit smoking.

We track each tenant’s progress using the “Transtheoretical Model of Behavior Change (TTM)” developed by Prochaska, DiClemente, and Norcross in 1992.

iStock_000005318605LargeThe model assesses an individual’s readiness to act on a new healthier behavior and provides strategies or processes of change to guide you along the way. Rather than concentrate on the social or biological influences on behaviors, it focuses on an individual’s ability to make his/her own decisions. We think it’s a very effective tool to help frame conversations related to health and smoking in particular.

Over the past two years, our staff has been using this model with residents to develop service plans and track their progress.

5. How successful have you been?

We’ve been quite successful in implementing difficult policy changes over the past two years. This includes the complete overhaul of our service planning process and the implementation of our tobacco cessation program. Our staff has been able to work closely with tenants to gain their buy-in and support.

6. What are some of the obstacles you think you’ll face in going completely smoke-free in your building?

Brooklyn Borough Manager Rachelle Rochelle and Carl Johnson

Brooklyn Borough Manager Rachelle Rochelle and Carl Johnson

The real challenge will be our residents’ buy-in. But I’m confident that once we talk with residents about the negative health effects of exposure to secondhand smoke and educate them about ventilation systems, residents will agree to adopt a smoke-free policy for the entire building.

7. What do you hope to learn by joining us for our training program?

I’m interested to learn how other buildings have positioned smoke-free housing with their residents and how they gained their tenants’ support. We need all the technical assistance that you and the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene can give us. We hope to make DeKalb Avenue Apartments a model for Community Access to use to go smoke-free in all their buildings.