Cover photo for Stephanie Cowles's Obituary
1943 Stephanie 2023

Stephanie Cowles

September 9, 1943 — September 11, 2023

White Plains

Stephanie Lois Cowles, a pioneer in developing homeless service programs in New York City, died on Sept. 11th at her home in Bronxville, N.Y. She was 80.
The cause was metastatic lung cancer which had been diagnosed earlier in the year.
Mrs. Cowles began her 44 year career in social work at Beth Israel's substance use disorder treatment program. Seeing the limitations of standard hospital detoxification programs, she sought to develop alternative treatment methods that could more effectively break the cycle of addiction. She began working at Project Renewal (then Manhattan Bowery Corporation) to start an experimental detox program that emphasized engagement in a non-medical setting, and utilized people in recovery on the support team to demonstrate that individuals could safely withdraw from alcohol and drugs outside of a hospital. The program's success led to a paradigm shift in how detox services are administered and spurred New York State to establish crisis centers modeled after this approach.
As New York City's homeless population grew and changed, Mrs. Cowles adapted her programs accordingly to offer transitional and supportive housing, mobile medical vans, and shelter for homeless LGBTQ young adults. Perhaps most notably, she developed the Culinary Arts Training Program which imbued her passion for cooking into an effective workforce development program that trains 120 people per year, 75 percent of whom have jobs waiting for them after graduation. "Cooking is something that everybody can feel comfortable with", said Mrs. Cowles in a 2020 interview, "there are so many people that will say - oh I love to cook! I remember cooking with my grandmother". Mrs. Cowles helped thousands of clients during her lengthy career, which was capped with a detox facility at Project Renewal's Third Street shelter named in her honor upon her retirement in 2020.
Mrs. Cowles was born in Brooklyn on Sep. 9, 1943. Her father, Gabriel, was the Chief Engineer for Benjamin Moore paints. Her mother, Muriel, was an avid gardener and founded several social groups at her synagogue in Westfield, N.J. Mrs. Cowles earned a bachelor's degree in psychology from Cedar Crest College and a master of social work degree from Columbia University. She met her husband, Walter Cowles, while working at Project Renewal's detox facility as an intake coordinator. At the time, Mr. Cowles was a NYPD plainclothes officer who was partnered with recovering addicts from Project Renewal to provide homeless outreach services; another pioneering effort led by Mrs. Cowles that also introduced her to her future husband.
In addition to her husband, Mrs. Cowles is survived by her son, Gabriel and his wife Sarah, two grandchildren, Evie and Oliver, her sister Patricia, and her sister Valerie and her wife Sarah.

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