Today’s news:

Queens to get big funds to aid homeless

The initiative by Bloomberg's administration is intended to help those who need special support in their daily lives and will assist people like Yurisan Fraticelli, who came to live at Immaculata from the Bronx.The 37-year-old has suffered from depression and drug addiction and became one of the first residents at Immaculata following several stints at shelters in the Bronx and Brooklyn. The hall, which is located at 90-10 150th St., holds 100 low-cost studio apartments with kitchens and gives residents a chance to live on their own in a supportive, structured environment. Residents are offered classes on daily living skills, employment counseling, substance abuse prevention and other educational and training programs."They make me feel at home," Fraticelli said of the staff. "They work with you closely."When she found out she would be moving from the shelters, where she had to deal with residents arguing and fighting, she said she felt "relief - I was happy."The Immaculata is the first site in Queens funded through a loan program for supportive housing run by the city Department of Housing Preservation and Development. It is also the first such facility in the borough administered by St. Vincent's, which operates Mary Immaculate Hospital in Jamaica and St. John's Queens Hospital in Elmhurst. The building, which had been rundown and under-used by the medical system, was completely renovated over the last couple of years during a $14 million project funded largely through a Housing Preservation and Development Department loan.The Jamaica site, which opened last month, already has 40 of its apartments rented out. Of the 100 spots, 75 units will be set aside for people with serious and persistent mental illnesses and 25 apartments will be reserved for low-income residents from southeast Queens. Those filling the mental illness slots will be referred by the city Department of Homeless Services and then screened to make sure they do not pose a danger."We've never had a problem," said St. Vincent's Director of Residential Services Marianne DiTommaso, noting that the medical center has operated supportive housing in other boroughs since 1986.Bloomberg said the loan program will be increased by $187 million to $472 million from $285 million over 10 years. The funding is part of Bloomberg's effort to move the homeless, who often have mental health problems, from shelters into permanent housing. He said offering on-site social services was also cheaper for city agencies."Supportive housing is a compassionate solution and it's also cost-effective," Bloomberg said.Fraticelli said there were plenty of others like her looking for a new home. "I can have my own place, have my own space," Fraticelli said. "I feel special. I feel blessed."Reach reporter Michael Morton by e-mail at news@timesledger.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 154.

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