Citizens Advice Bureau in the Bronx was founded in 1972 based on a model of service from Great Britain, which has a network of 1,000 walk-in information and referral offices. The British CABs are well known to residents as the place to go for free guidance when they are facing financial, legal, or personal problems. Although we shared a name with them, we were not affiliated with the overseas organizations.
Initially sponsored by the Federation of Protestant Welfare Agencies and later by the Community Council of Greater New York, CAB became an independent organization in 1985. In our early years, our goal was to establish a network of information and assistance centers throughout New York City. Although we made some progress and eventually five walk-in offices, we were not able to secure the funding to become a citywide organization.
With the profound social change the Bronx was undergoing in the 1980s, CAB started to play an important role in the lives of the people in the West Bronx. We helped people facing severe housing and income issues, homelessness, and later AIDS. We were asked to provide services in housing developments as the Bronx was being rebuilt in the late 1980s and early ’90s. This was also the time period when the city contracted out services such as senior centers and homeless services that had previously been run by city workers. Being one of the relatively few well-managed agencies in the area, we were asked to sponsor many of these programs.
We became a settlement house in 1993 by joining United Neighborhood Houses and sponsoring children’s and youth programs. In 1995, we merged with the Girls Club of Greater New York, which gave us the Community Center building located at 1130 Grand Concourse and an expanded Board of directors. With the passage of the Welfare Reform Act of 1995, we shifted our focus from welfare advocacy to workforce development, building programs to help low-income individuals adjust to welfare reform. With the changing demographics of the Bronx during the ’90s, we also developed a range of services and programs for new immigrants.
The first decade of the 21st century saw an expansion of programs in many of these areas, especially homeless and workforce development services and children’s programs. In 2009, we changed our name to BronxWorks to have a name that better represents what we are and what we do. BronxWorks is a more accurate reflection of our purpose, our commitment to the borough, and our positive feelings about the Bronx.
View the historical timeline.