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History of Innovation

We are proud to share our long history of developing innovative, targeted programs and services that help New Yorkers, new and old, become economically secure and engaged members of their communities. CAMBA is an incubator for programs that have helped over a million New Yorkers improve their lives through education and workforce development, college access, health and wellness, temporary shelters and permanent affordable housing, youth development programs, legal services and much more. From our earliest days in Central Brooklyn to our current roster of 160 programs in five boroughs, we have worked to keep communities strong so that all New Yorkers thrive.

  • 1977 CAMBA is founded in Flatbush to meet neighborhood needs, including reducing crime, improving trash collection, and beautification projects.
  • 1982 Joanne M. Oplustil takes the reins as Executive Director of CAMBA with the knowledge that merchant success is tied to helping the large number of immigrants in Flatbush learn English, acquire jobs, and begin supporting local businesses.
  • 1983 Starts free English classes as well as provides immigrant and refugee services.
  • 1988 CAMBA’s first dropout prevention program is started at Tilden High School in East Flatbush, giving low-income teens the support they need to graduate high school and continue their education.
  • 1988 Offers free summer camp for homeless children living at Seagate by the Sea — featuring visiting artists-in-residence, academic enrichment, cultural events and trips.
  • 1989 Begins offering HIV/AIDS services, an early response to a growing crisis.
  • 1993 Opening of CAMBA’s first Beacon Community Center at PS 269 to revitalize the community by engaging parents, teachers, religious leaders and youth to bring stability and opportunity.
  • 1993 CAMBA Legal Services is incorporated as the legal services arm of the agency. It is one of the first providers of free legal services for the working poor.
  • 1994 First human service agency to proactively train all staff in safe sex/universal precautions, and educate newly arriving refugees on HIV prevention and universal precautions.
  • 1995 Early adopter of performance-based public contracting; embraces required internal changes for performance-based reporting.
  • 1996 First and only free security guard training academy exclusively for women with a focus on immigrant women, and first NYC CBO to offer a free licensed security guard training academy.
  • 1996 Wins bid to manage the Park Slope Women's Shelter during NYC’s first RFP process to outsource homeless services. CAMBA helps residents understand mental health and manage their illnesses in order to make a successful move to permanent housing.
  • 1999 The Afterschool Corporation was founded in 1998 and in 1999, CAMBA was among the first round of grantees for quality afterschool programming.
  • 2001 One of only two agencies in the U.S. who agree to resettle HIV+ refugees.

CAMBA began managing homeless shelters in 1996. By the early 2000s, we knew housing insecurity would continue to increase due to population growth and gentrification. Homelessness was on an upward trend and low-income families were struggling to stay in their homes.

  • 2004 NYC launches HomeBase, a homelessness prevention program that tackles the immediate problems that could result in homelessness. CAMBA is one of the first agencies to operate HomeBase.
  • 2005 CAMBA opens a new non-profit affiliate known as CAMBA Housing Ventures (CHV) to develop innovative solutions for increasing affordable housing in NYC funded via public-private partnerships.
  • 2007 CAMBA's first chronically homeless family moves into permanent supportive housing at 880 Willoughby which includes a renovated luggage factory. This mixed-use building helps spur redevelopment in Bushwick.
  • 2012 First technology training program, ‘Mobilize Your Business’, for low-income and immigrant entrepreneurs to use mobile technology to formalize their businesses.
  • 2013 First publicly funded initiative in the U.S. to train and ‘right-match’ highly skilled immigrant professionals to gateway jobs in their professions.
  • 2013 Launches Collegiate Express, a dual generation college readiness initiative with a unique “Parent-Coach” component. 100 percent of graduating seniors in the pilot are accepted into the college of their choice.
  • 2014 First mobile unit of HomeBase, aka the “You Can Van”, designed to reach families most at risk of homelessness and consistently keep over 90 percent out of the shelter system.
  • 2015 One of the first providers in NYC to offer specialized afterschool programming to children living in shelters (SONYC) and the first to bring the SafeCare evidence-based model for foster care prevention to shelters.
  • 2015 BIVO (Brownsville In Violence Out) pilot begins. CAMBA is unique in its implementation of the Cure Violence model by including actual community members in anti-violence campaign materials. After one year, the highest conflict areas in the 73rd Precinct saw a 57 percent decrease in shootings.
  • 2015 Project ALY promotes family acceptance of LGBTQ youth via social marketing and community education.
  • 2016 Opens six new Cornerstone Community Centers located in New York City Public Housing facilities.
  • 2016 First CBO to create and offer small business development trainings tailored to Worker Owned Co-Ops in NYC.
  • 2016 Selected for the highly competitive Connections to Care (C2C) initiative to provide clinical mental health services for pregnant women and parents of children ages 0-4 at The Landing family shelter in Queens.
  • 2017 Pilots the Phenomenal Girl Symposium with a 98 percent attendee satisfaction rate. The Symposium is designed to empower girls and facilitate improvements in academic achievement.
  • 2017 Opens the first supportive and affordable housing built on surplus NYCHA property (Van Dyke Housing built on a vacant parking lot).