IFS Innovative Program To Include Shelter and Services for Local Homeless Veterans
Newark, New Jersey – September 28, 2017 ~ Long-time Newark non-profit organization Independence: A Family of Services (IFS) recently introduced its plans for a reimagined homeless shelter program to provide desperately-needed support for Newark’s homeless veterans. The East Ward, particularly the area closest to Newark’s Penn Station, currently faces a homeless crisis. Sadly, former United States service members are among those without a home and comprise a significant percentage of the homeless population in Newark. With a challenging local job market and the lack of affordable housing, the Veteran Affairs – Newark Regional Office frequently faces limited service capacity in Newark.
Not long after the fire, IFS conducted a thorough and extensive feasibility study that explored the critical needs of the Newark community. IFS set out to design a lasting solution to Newark’s veteran housing and healthcare problems. Based on its innovative program design and IFS’ 46-year history of providing services to Newark residents, IFS was successful in securing funding to develop a homeless veteran’s “bridge” housing program at its Van Buren St. location. IFS’s history of working with at risk families to stabilize their home environment, was one of the key factors in deciding to help veterans reintegrate into society and reconnect with their families. This project is consistent with IFS’s mission and 46-year history in this field. President/CEO, Margaret L. Woods has led IFS for 30 years, developing and delivering pioneering community programs for children, adults, and families throughout the Greater Newark Community.
The IFS model is different from the traditional shelter model. This model is a state-of-the-art short-term 40-bed bridge housing program dedicated to moving homeless veterans into permanent and sustainable housing. The program will offer nutritious meals, clothing and personal hygiene products Participants will receive clinical healthcare, counseling, and case management services along with life skills training, family reconnection and community engagement services, and recreational/cultural activities. Veterans will receive transportation to and from required VA and area service appointments that are not provided in-house.
Initially, the program received broad support from the Mayor’s Office and local leadership, including our East Ward Councilman Augusto Amador, who met with IFS in April 2017 and offered his enthusiastic support for the program. Unfortunately, in a recent letter to IFS, Councilman Amador withdrew his support for the program citing he spoke to local residents who voiced concern about its location. Several residents from its immediate neighborhood sent letters to IFS voicing opposition to a “homeless shelter” in their neighborhood.
IFS remains committed to educating residents on the model, citing it will not damage the esthetics of the neighborhood and its location, and won’t pose a threat to families in the area. For the record, the location had been serving youth and families all along, until the fire caused it to suspend services. Not much will change from the way the building was used in the past other than it serving as a temporary solution for veterans seeking permanent housing.
“We truly feel our model of providing a variety of customized services, will help veterans find permanent housing and reconnect them with their families. Our model will not include those stereotypical lines associated with a traditional shelter, but rather our model includes a safe and secure living environment that is conducive to achieving the ultimate goal of permanent and sustainable housing. Additional services will be provided, just like any other charity that serves people with needs, through referrals, transportation, training, and more, as needed,” states Ms. Woods.
IFS recently hosted a community meeting where local residents were invited to learn more about the program. Among the topics discussed were the program’s state-of-the-art 24-hour security system and its activities schedule as well as IFS’ expertise in delivering services for veterans. Unfortunately, the meeting rapidly deteriorated when some residents voiced their support for the program concept but expressed their opposition to its proximity to their homes.
“Homeless veterans already live among us, it only makes sense that we would welcome a program designed to deliver a lasting solution to the challenge of homelessness as opposed to simply walking by a homeless vet in our neighborhood. When a veteran serves our interest in a foreign land they should all have a home to come back to,” continues Ms. Woods.
The program’s innovative design will service approximately 40 veterans at any given time, allowing for comprehensive individualized support. The program will provide a full complement of services both on-site and through local service providers in the community. Participants will participate in physiological, psychological, and emotional healthcare, and education, cultural and recreational activities, life-skills training, job training and placement, and family reconnection support. The program is designed to address both the physical and mental health of participants with the goal of advancing them to permanent and sustainable housing. In addition to serving veterans, the program will hire veterans and will benefit from the ongoing assistance and insights of an advisory board made up of veterans.
For more information, visit www.ifsnj.org or follow us Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/IndependenceAFamilyofServices