Staff Spotlight: Coming Together During Uncertain Times at Castle Gardens

Staff Spotlight: Coming Together During Uncertain Times at Castle Gardens


The COVID-19 pandemic has changed nearly every aspect of life in New York City. At Castle Gardens, The Fortune Society’s supportive housing unit in West Harlem, everyday life has changed in many ways. However, thanks to the dedication of staff members like Case Manager Stalin Hunt, the community at Castle Gardens has been staying strong and healthy throughout the crisis.

“It's a difficult time and I want residents to see a familiar face that is there for them,” said Stalin.

Castle Gardens is a mixed-use, supportive, and affordable residential development and service center in an environmentally sustainable building. It provides long-term housing solutions for individuals with justice involvement facing homelessness and their families, as well as low-income individuals and families from West Harlem and the greater New York area.

Although the pandemic has ground nearly every aspect of life in New York City to a halt, Stalin’s work does not take a day off. As a Case Manager, he works both from home and on-site, commuting to Castle Gardens to ensure that his clients at are fully supported with the services they need for successful reentry after incarceration, such as mental health treatment and substance use counseling. During a quarantine, his work now includes conducting home visits with residents as well as wellness checks, especially for those who are elderly or medically vulnerable, while meeting with others virtually. He makes sure people have enough food and medication, educates them about health protocols, and makes them feel connected to the Fortune community despite isolation.

“The most challenging part of my job at this time is not being able to work from the office, not seeing clients face to face and feel the human contact that we usually have with clients,” he said.

Stalin has worked at Fortune for nearly 17 years, starting in 2003. Over the course of nearly 2 decades of service, Stalin has worked in several units, both at our Long Island City headquarters and Castle Gardens, where he has worked for the last 10 years. Over the years, he’s seen how residents and staff have always come together to persevere through challenging times—and knows that the COVID-19 pandemic is no different.

“It's like a big family,” he said. “Everybody helps each other.”

Stalin notices residents going above and beyond to take care of each other through ways such as helping elderly residents and doing grocery shopping for people who can’t go outside. He also says that Residential Aides have played a big role in maintaining safety and community at Castle Gardens.

Stalin stays motivated to work during the pandemic through his belief that Fortune will continue to stand by residents, no matter how good or bad the times may be.

“What I’ve learned from working throughout COVID-19 is that no matter what challenges we have,” he said, “we're going to learn from this and we're going to come out stronger and better at the end.”

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