In 1998 several community activists recognized a worrisome and growing phenomenon in the community; yeshiva boys were dropping out of school and ending up on the streets of Brooklyn. House parties were rampant and many teens were literally homeless with nowhere to hang out, leaving them to the dangers of the streets. These boys were struggling with drug and alcohol use, truancy, and assorted psychological and emotional challenges. Many of these boys had grown up in dysfunctional homes, had experienced intense rejection, and/or had been victims of abuse or trauma as children. They desperately needed a place that would offer unconditional love, support, and safety - an alternative to roaming the streets. Spearheaded by Moshe Binik, Z”L, the team jumped into action to create a drop-in center that would be guided by a devoted and loving staff, providing a truly non-judgemental environment, nightly fresh dinners, and amazing recreational activities. Armed with the support of the Novominsker Rebbe ZT"L and other Rabbinic leaders, as well as the clinical training of Rabbi Shimon Russel, LCSW, the Our Place Boys Drop-In Center was born.
As attendance grew, the volunteer staff quickly expanded from community volunteers to include therapists and addiction professionals, Rabbis, and mentors who would provide the necessary clinical and emotional support for the hundreds of boys who would soon become part of the Our Place family. Through the unparalleled patience, unconditional acceptance, and unbridled confidence of the Our Place staff, many of the boys slowly began to turn around their lives - entering drug rehabs and achieving sobriety, seeking therapy, re-enrolling in school, or GED programs, and successfully gaining employment. At-risk youth were slowly transitioning into sober, productive, and healthy adults. The model of unconditional love was working. Based on the initial successes of the Boys Drop-In Center, in 2003 a separate drop-in center for girls was created to assist the growing population of young females who were also taking to life on the street. Shortly thereafter, The Living Room (TLR) became the third program added to the Our Place family. Many teenagers were referred by Our Place (and other community organizations) to drug rehabilitation centers throughout the country. When they returned to the NY area, there wasn’t a culturally sensitive support system to help them maintain long-term recovery. The Living Room was founded to meet that need and quickly developed into a vibrant, 12-step based recovery community combining clinical expertise, peer support, and recreational programming. Today, The Living Room has expanded beyond its Brooklyn Headquarters to include sites in Long Island and Monsey, as well as recreational programming in South Florida. Most recently, Our Place opened its first sober living home in Rockland County, a 12-bed facility known as Our Village Sober Living.
The extensive Our Place network enables the Our Place staff to regularly place adolescents and young adults in therapy, vocational services, yeshiva, college, and inpatient rehabilitation centers, while also being able to respond to members in moments of crisis. As Our Place looks to the future, we continue to seek opportunities to expand and grow our services to assist young people in pain. Fighting against addiction to prevent suicide and overdose is a never-ending uphill battle, but at Our Place, we truly believe in every child who walks through our doors. We will never give up. It takes a village – and that’s what we are.