February 2023

Housing is a Human Right

Shelter Update

Meet Our Guest: Cliff Ricciuto

Cliff was born in Rochester 51 years ago this coming March. He was raised and went to school in Spencerport. He went right to work after high school, first at Kodak for two years, then Delco for ten years “until the factory was shipped to Mexico,” and then he did landscape work with his cousin for 21 years.  

When he was about three years old, Cliff’s mother and his father divorced, and his mother remarried. Following this marriage, there were two additional children. By the time he was a teenager, he felt somewhat like an outsider in this new family configuration. Cliff speaks of his mother as the person who stood up for him. He did meet his natural father when in high school and spent summers with him. Sadly, his father died too young. He does not have a close relationship with his stepdad, and now his mother and his stepdad have separated. He remains close to his mother and currently “calls her every day.”

Cliff married Michele while quite young and they had two children together, a daughter, Chelsea, and a son Michael. At first, all was going well; Michelle attended to the needs of the children and Cliff worked hard to support and provide for the family. But at some point, Cliff says, Michelle felt the need to party on weekends and introduced Cliff to powder cocaine as a way to unwind. Later a friend introduced him to smoking crack as a better way to get “high.” Cliff now becomes what he himself described as a “functioning addict.” At some point, he and Michele divorced. 

Michael, Cliff’s son, moved into the city and began using heroin. Cliff was deeply concerned about the possibility of overdose and made several rushed trips from Spencerport to the city when Michael did not answer his phone. After a few of these trips, he moved in with Michael. He told me that four- or five times Michael had overdosed and needed Narcan. At some point, Michael ended his drug use and has now been clean for five months. Cliff hopes they can rebuild the closeness they once had.   

Eventually, the drugs were affecting Cliff’s work and his cousin had to fire him. At this point, Cliff says, “I got the case of the f—it’s: nothing mattered, I’m a crack head; I stole to support my habit; got arrested a couple of times; and lived rough.”

I asked him what brought him to REACH. “I had nowhere to go. I needed to quit the drugs; they were no longer effective.” He had been spending the nights wandering the streets, some nights he crashed at a “trap house” (a house that distributed drugs) where he earned his drugs by cleaning up, etc. Early this past January he was at the Villa of Hope just hanging around. As they were closing up for the day a staff member asked if he had anywhere to go. Cliff said, “no” and was driven to The Vineyard where he met Dr. Michael who took him to REACH at Barberry Terrace. There he was able to be safe and begin his journey out of a drug life.  

But now he faces some challenges: How to reconnect with his cousin and get back to regular work and how to reconnect with his children and share in their lives. He knows that he lost their trust and wants to rebuild that. He is hoping to get his own place but finds the process of applying and meeting the requirements slow and demanding. Cliff has been drug-free for just over a month now. He is determined to stay this way. We wish him well on his journey to full health and reconnecting with his family. 

Written by Peter Peters, Board Co-Chair and Advocacy Leader

Volunteer Opportunities - Join us!

The Project Haven shelters are all up and running and nearing capacity. As you can imagine keeping all sites supplied with needed items and supporting our staff is a huge task, so we are asking for your help.

On Friday, February 24th, we will have the first of our monthly volunteer orientation sessions at 720 West Main St. at 8:00 am and again at 4:00 pm.

We need help in our clothing room right now, but please bring your ideas for things you would like to help with including driving, arts and crafts, mindfulness, a Bingo game... anything you might like to do!

Please make sure to sign-up to volunteer with the instructions attached.

We have also updated our Amazon wish list and our Shelter Needs list. These include items we need on an ongoing basis, and we would appreciate any help you can give us. Please note: We are currently unable to accept clothing donations.

You can also donate through our website. Cash donations allow us to purchase essential items as needed for Project HAVEN.

Please email or call Matt Smeltzer for drop-off donations, at 585-331-0018.

Tiny Homes Update

The team has been busy writing grants this month. Part of grant writing is learning about the statistics related to homelessness and housing. Did you know:

  • Rochester has the third highest poverty rate of large cities, behind only Detroit and Cleveland (McGowan Homelessness Report 2020).
  • 83% of Rochester residents earning less than 30% of the AMI are either rent-burdened or homeless (ACT Rochester 2021).
  • “Affordable housing” constructed in Rochester is affordable to those earning up to 80% of the AMI (ACT Rochester 2021). REACH’s Tiny Home Village will meet the needs of people with incomes below 30% of the AMI who have few housing options.
  • A gap analysis shows a severe shortage of over 15,000 units for the lowest-income households earning less than $20,000 (ACT Rochester 2021).
  • Homelessness disproportionately affects communities of color. In a city where 53% of the population is non-white (2020 Census), more than 70% of REACH Home guests have been people of color. (REACH Home 2015 - 2022)

The facts demonstrate the staggering number of people living in poverty, the lack of affordable housing available for our target population, and the racial inequity of homelessness in Rochester.

These are the reasons we are passionate about building permanent supportive housing. Everyone deserves a place to call home.

Advocacy Team Update

“We don’t have a homeless problem; we have a housing problem.” 

This is the mantra many are now saying as we look at the rising numbers of people experiencing homelessness. So much of our energy is spent on creating shelter for men and women and families experiencing homelessness and that is a good and compassionate thing to be doing. But once we have succeeded in sheltering people, we are then faced with the need for permanent affordable, and in some cases, supportive housing. And the truth is that there are not sufficient housing units to meet the needs of people experiencing homelessness.

This past year REACH housed a woman who had come to Rochester to be near her grandchildren. She had found herself homeless due to a family conflict and was living in her car. REACH housed her and then assisted her as she searched for a home. She qualified for ESSHI-funded housing and submitted her application but was denied by the management as unsuitable. The result was she remained a guest with REACH for over a year. Thankfully she is now settled in her new apartment.  

We have many questions following this experience. Given that our guest qualified all of the criteria set up by ESSHI funding to the developer, what criteria are being used to pick and choose who management will admit? What action can someone bring against this kind of arbitrary selection of potential tenants?

This woman was fortunate, she has the resources to pay rent in her case, but many of those who enter REACH do not have such resources. This means that they are either dependent upon some kind of voucher program that will help subsidize their rent or they need to be in housing that is truly affordable to their level of income. But here is the problem, the current voucher programs are limited, and there are very few apartments affordable to those who have very low incomes, i.e., at or below 30% of the Area Median Income. 

Housing Justice For All

REACH Advocacy Team supports the legislative agenda of Housing Justice for All and commends this to our readers. During this New York State budget season, we urge our readers to join in their Our Homes, Our Power campaign. You can read more about this campaign in the article.

Team Meetings

Our Team and several readers of our newsletter met on Wednesday, January 27th, to explore how we might help to launch a campaign in support of housing as a human right. 

We had some lively discussion and agreed to meet again via Zoom on Monday, February 27, at 4:00 p.m. 

Readers who would like to join can request the Zoom Meeting link by sending a note to

In Honor of Black History Month

We invite you to view this reading list: 8 Books About Housing Inequality in America

Thank you to our readers!

We are grateful for your continued support of REACH Advocacy, Inc.