Being born and raised in New York City, Robert Offley was no stranger to the concrete jungle. Robert had been street homeless for more than twenty years until he finally obtained permanent housing with Urban Pathways at the beginning of 2016.

Robert grew up in the Bronx and was raised by his mother. He was introduced to alcohol by age 14 and drugs at age 16. By age 23, Robert was married with 3 children and in a downward spiral using harder drugs.

Robert worked in the shipping business for 10 years until he was laid off. After losing his job, Robert worked as a porter for 7 years but was fired due to substance abuse. Robert spent one year in jail and was diagnosed as a manic depressive. He was released from his incarceration and became homeless staying in Madison Square Park for over 10 years.

Life changed when Robert finally secured an apartment of his own, but he gave up his home up to care for his handicapped relative, it would be 5 years before Mr. Offley would be homeless again.

After his relative’s death, Robert couch-surfed and eventually returned to his comfort zone in Madison Square Park. When Robert’s father became ill, he was called upon again to serve as a primary caregiver. Robert cared for his father until his passing. Once his father died, Robert again found himself in Madison Square Park, reuniting with his old panhandling group of men and women who became his family.

After taking care of others for so long, Robert realized that it was he that he needed help. One day, Robert was sleeping on a bench in Madison Square Park when he suffered a brain aneurysm.

Two months after being released from the hospital Robert returned to Madison Square Park, but this time sought out help.

Robert, when he first arrived at Urban Pathways
Robert, when he first arrived at Urban Pathways

He came across Urban Pathways Outreach team and decided to engage with them. Tiffany Porter, an Outreach Specialist in the Flatiron BID Outreach Program, met Robert in Madison Square Park and, after several months of engaging him in conversations and gaining his trust, Tiffany secured permanent housing for Robert in our 162nd Street residence located in the Bronx.

Once in 162nd street, Robert was very involved in resident activities, and was an active participant in client advocacy groups.

Robert never forgot where he came from, he would often travel from his apartment to Madison Square Park to see his friends who still lived there and help them gain housing as he did.

Robert, at his apartment in the Bronx
Robert, at his apartment in the Bronx

Robert enjoyed spending time with his grandchildren and visited his mother monthly. Robert was a success story of the Madison Square Park community and he was an advocate for those who are sick and unable to care for themselves.

Robert used his journey to find a home with Urban Pathways as an example, and showed others they too can obtain housing and live a better life. Thanks to Robert, some of his friends are on their way to permanent housing.

Urban Pathways changed Robert’s life, giving him a sense of purpose and a loving community. Robert found himself after finding a home, and it showed in the smile on his face that brightened up the room.

Robert received many awards and was featured on various news outlets for his inspiring story. In October, 2017, Robert was awarded the Tenant of the Year award from the Supportive Housing Network of New York (SHNNY).

In 2018, Robert was featured in CNN’s Champions for Change story, and last summer Robert was featured in WPIX 11’s Stories from the Heart and’s One Man’s Journey out of Homelessness.

Robert was a friend to everyone in the community and was loved by both staff and residents. He will be missed. Robert is survived by his mother, and three children.

Robert during the Champions for Change story