December 2022

Housing is a Human Right

Notes from the Board

REACH Advocacy, Inc. has a new mission statement!

REACH Advocacy is breaking the cycle of chronic homelessness by providing graduated and permanent housing options with equitable access to resources. We advocate for housing as a human right, promoting dignity, a sense of belonging, and hope for a beloved community.

For the past two months, REACH Board members have been working with Causewave staff to review where we are as an organization. We spent time rethinking our values, vision, and mission. The Board took this step as we embark on a new year with a huge increase in our budget and the hiring of full-time staff. We thank Causewave for their generous support of this work and, particularly, Kate Herrman and Allyn Stelljes for their wise and insightful facilitation.

For readers interested in some of our background work, here are a few resources:

Congratulations, Talitha-Koumi Oluwafemi

We are pleased to announce that Board member, Talitha-Koumi Oluwafemi, has agreed to serve as the Development Team Leader. 

We wish her well in this new role and thank her for her service to our mission.

REACH Donors Rock!

Thank you for your generous donations to REACH Advocacy on ROC the Day. We raised $3100, almost double what we raised last year.

If you missed your chance, you still have time to help us

double last year’s total of $3730!

Donate Here

Shelter Update

Meet Isaiah Pinckney

I invited Isaiah to tell me his story and to chat about his experiences.  It was my hope that he would help to identify the key issues people experiencing chronic homelessness face. And he did as you will see, but first a little about Isaiah.

Isaiah was born on September 9th 60 years ago in Yemassee, South Carolina. From what he conveyed during our chat, Isaiah had a rich family life where his uncles taught him how to play the guitar and drums. Isaiah composes his own music and has spent a good deal of his life playing in groups both for churches and other settings.  As we talked about his love of music, Isaiah spoke of the number of people he has met on the street who also are or were musicians. He spoke about wanting to help form a group that could play together and earn some income in this way. 

At some point, he moved to Buffalo and trained to be a Physical Therapist. He worked in a local hospital for a number of years and continued to play at night with music groups. Sadly, it was through these music groups that, as he says, he met up with “the wrong people” who led him astray and he became a user. Eventually, this led to him being laid off from his physical therapist position and he was now on the street.

Continue reading about Isaiah's journey here.

Meet Matt Smeltzer, New Logistics and Volunteer Coordinator for the REACH Shelter: Project Haven

Matt has worked in human services for over 20 years. He was the Director of Programs at the Open Door Mission and most recently oversaw Emergency Family Services at the Salvation Army. In addition, Matt has spent numerous hours over the years doing street outreach to assist the chronically homeless population.

We asked Matt what excites him the most about joining REACH Advocacy and Project Haven:

"It’s a privilege to join the ranks with such an amazing team of professionals and to build a program that’s going to be an enormous asset for our community.

 I love problem-solving, thinking creatively, and collaborating with caring people. So, it’s truly an honor to join REACH Advocacy / Project Haven in this role."

Meet Pamela Smith, New Executive Director of the REACH Shelter: Project Haven:

"I am a wife, mother, and grandmother, and I am very active in my church. My spirituality is very important to me. I have been working in the human service field professionally since 2001, and a social worker for 14 years.

As a social worker, I have worked as a case manager, addictions therapist, primary therapist and most recently at the House of Mercy as the director of social work. I am excited to start this new journey with Project HAVEN and look forward to developing and growing a team that is committed to serving and engaging the most vulnerable of our community."

We are thrilled to have Pamela and Matt's leadership as we get ready to open in time for the New Year. 

Shelter Donations Needed

We are still in need of items and funds to open and run the new shelter system. Please consider a donation of one or more of the items below:

Tiny Homes Update

It’s official. We named the project Edgerton Meadows: A REACH Advocacy Community.

We named the project in honor of the former Rochester Mayor from the early 20th Century and to represent our plan to bring Clarence Park back to a place that makes the neighbors proud.

City Council showed incredible support before passing the Option Agreement to purchase the land. You can view the three-minute video clip here. This agreement opens the opportunity to apply for grants requiring site control.

We extend heartfelt thanks to our new Founders this month, Jessica Hann and Susan Domina. You can become a Founder with a donation of $250 or more designated to the Tiny Homes project. 

Your donations show the power of the people who believe in our mission. To date, we’ve raised over $80,000 from individual donors. We now have over 65% of the funds needed to begin construction. We are poised to write grants in January that should take us over the top, keeping us on target to start building next year.

Advocacy Team Update

We do not have a homeless crisis; we have a housing crisis.

Six years ago, REACH became REACH Advocacy. We founded REACH to offer emergency shelter to people who were homeless during Rochester winters but soon came to the realization that we were doing “band-aid” work to a failing system.  

We came to understand that what is truly needed is a vast increase in affordable and supportive housing units. We resolved that in some way we would help to change the narrative around housing. We want to promote the idea that housing is a human right and not just a means to profit.

In 1948 Eleanor Roosevelt helped to create what became the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights, among which was the “right to shelter.”  While the U.S. has never ratified this document, it is widely received as an aspirational view of what a just and compassionate society looks like. Article 25 states: 

“Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing, and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.”

What do we need to do to change the narrative around housing and make it one of the rights we defend in our society?

This will take a great deal of work to make this happen in the face of the vested interests of developers, hedge fund managers, investment brokers, and all who profit from housing. But the fact remains that there is a large section of the public who just cannot afford housing. For example, in 2016 the National Low Income Housing Coalition reported that in the US for every 100 very low-income families seeking housing there were only 30 units available. As one local developer told me, “Peter, we cannot build for people whose income is less than 60% of the Area Median Income.” That means that thousands are either housing poor, by HUD standards, or are effectively homeless.

What will it take to change this narrative? To use the insights of the late Bruce Popper we must EDUCATE – AGITATE – ORGANIZE. Bruce, until his retirement, was a much-respected organizer with SEIU 1199. Beginning in January, there will be a meeting of the Advocacy Team and any reader interested in joining us is welcome to attend.

First, we will educate ourselves on what we need to know about the current housing crisis that is not meeting the needs of the very poor. Here are some questions to explore: Who holds the power? What needs to change in our system of housing to meet the needs of the very poor? Who might collaborate around a campaign to change the current narrative? Then once we are armed and educated, we can begin to agitate and organize.

This is a long-haul task and many will oppose it. But if we are to ever see housing justice, we need to do this. 

Our first meeting will be held via ZOOM on Wednesday, January 25 at 4:00 p.m. To receive the link to this meeting please send your contact information to

Peter W. Peters, Chair pro-tem of the Advocacy Team

Thank you to our readers!

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