NEWARK, NJ – Like many other major cities, Newark faces two major hurdles when it comes to protecting its homeless residents amid the coronavirus pandemic: limited beds and the need for social distance.
But on Monday, New Jersey’s most populous city, with the highly anticipated launch of Newark Hope Village, hit both of its needs badly.
Located at 79 Newark Street, the innovative complex offers a new way to approach an old dilemma. The city has turned seven unused shipping containers into individual homeless shelters, each with their own code-compliant facilities that conform to the rules of the International Code Council.
When people in need of protection arrive at Newark Hope Village, they will find “dormitories” with heating, bunk beds with extra storage space, and a small chest of drawers. Nearby, two supply structures offer people private shower rooms and a multi-purpose area for meetings. And for lunch, residents get a nutritious and delicious meal courtesy of Newark Working Kitchens.
Those expecting dreary metal containers will be surprised what is waiting for them. Knowing that a friendly design is critical to the success of the program, the city teamed up with Newarkers Andre Leon and Robert Ramon from the Rorschach collective to paint the village in bright colors and vivid gradients. Positive messages are written on the floors and walls and a design that exudes warmth is created, courtesy of collaborating designers Chantal Fischzang, Assistant Professor at Rutgers University, and Rebecca Pauline Jampol, Co-Director of Project for Empty Space.
In total, the complex can care for up to 24 people who are homeless. This is big business in a city where an estimated 1,859 people were struggling with homelessness as of January 2020 – about 86 percent of the total population in Essex County.
It’s a unique solution that has only been used in a few places. And that also applies to the way the city operates the “come as you are” house.
According to city officials:
“Newark Hope Village is a safe, no-requirement dormitory village where homeless people have access to shelter and support services, including help with transition to permanent shelter. Separate from traditional shelters and supportive homeless services, the service model is aimed at helping the chronically homeless through targeted public relations work on the street, to create an atmosphere within the village that can promote a healthy life and a continuum of social welfare. “
“Many of our residents without addresses have been traumatized by the system that was created for them,” said Mayor Ras Baraka. “Housing is key, but we must first restore confidence in the scars.”
Newark Hope Village was a true community effort that came together with the help of a dream team from local social organizations: the United Community Corporation, Bridges Outreach Inc., the Mental Health Association of Essex Morris, the Northern NJ Medication-Assisted Treatment Center of Excellence, Integrity House, Essex County Division of Community Action, the Essex County Continuum of Care.
Other important help came from Homes 4 the Homeless, Custom Containers 915, the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs, Project My Brother’s Keeper, and UCC YouthBuild.
Funding is provided by the federal CARES Act, the Essex County Division of Community Action (through the State of New Jersey Code Blue Grant), and the City of Newark.
“This has really been a joint effort with many partners providing collective resources to solve this critical problem,” said Sakinah Hoyte, the city’s tsar for homelessness.
The new shelters will be of great help in dealing with the COVID-19 crisis, which has created an urgent need for homeless shelters with private rooms for every resident or family. But the shelters will also be able to help people displaced by disasters like fire or flood, or people trapped outside during the Code Blue winter warnings.
“When people freeze to death, every day matters,” said Steve Schneider, founder of Homes 4 the Homeless, the California-based nonprofit that helped create Newark Hope Village.
According to the city, the designers at Homes 4 the Homeless chose modular steel structures for their sturdy construction because they are safe and quick to deploy and deploy again.
The structures were manufactured and built by Custom Containers 915 based in Texas, with a timeline of less than 90 days from contract to delivery.
United Community Corporation will expand its case management, support services, and local outreach efforts to include Newark Hope Village.
Bloomberg Associates has advised on the project and will help measure the pilot’s success at no cost to the city. The Newark Housing Authority has also partnered with the city to provide housing vouchers for the shelter’s residents.
And the work can’t be done either.
“If proven and philanthropic donations are substantial, the city will attempt to inventory containers and retrofit the current containers into homes,” officials said.
Corporate and philanthropic partners interested in contributing to the Newark Hope Village container protection program can contact Sakinah Hoyte at [email protected] or Kevin Callaghan at [email protected]
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A peek inside a unit in Newark Hope Village (photo courtesy of the City of Newark Press Office)
NEWARK VS. HOMELESSNESS
Newark Hope Village is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to combating homelessness in the city.
In February, city officials and developers gathered for a groundbreaking ceremony at Miller Street Pathways to Housing Center. A former school being converted into a 24,000 square foot facility will provide 24/7 emergency shelter and support services.
In total, the animal shelter will have 166 transition beds for men, women and families, of which 84 men and men activity rooms, 44 women beds and one women activity room and 21 beds, which are “Code. can be used Blue ”is hip in the city. There will also be seven individual suites with 17 beds that can be used for families, quarantines or isolation.
In the past few years, the City of Newark has launched various initiatives and programs to help homeless residents, some of whom ended up in New Jersey after moving from New York City.
In early February, city officials announced that Newark had partnered with five developers and service providers to create 100 temporary, permanent, and supportive housing units.
The selected partners include:
- Monarch Housing Associates / Bridges Outreach, Inc.
- Garden State Episcopal Community Development Corporation / North Jersey Community Research Initiative (NJCRI)
- ETTA Investments LLC / Soldier ON, Urban Agriculture Cooperative, Greater Newark Conservancy, CareSparc Consulting Inc. and The Mental Health Association in New Jersey
- Domus Corporation / Archdiocese of Newark Catholic Charities
- 10th and 11th Street Homes LLC / AIDS Resource Foundation for Children (ARFC)
This story is part of Patch’s Headlining Hope series, which introduces local nonprofits and charities in need of volunteers and resources. If you know about a local organization that should be profiled, contact [email protected]
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