In our travels we were finally able to read this article about the success of the Hoboken Shelter in securing permanent housing for the homeless. One hundred fifty-five people in two years is very impressive! We were pleased to see that they maintain records as much as we were to see how successful they have been. This is the type of local innovation that will insure that we will be able to end homelessness not only in Hoboken but all of New Jersey.
Off the streets
In last year, 84 Hoboken shelter residents have moved to homes
By Marguerite Daniels
Hoboken Reporter correspondent
Some people believe that homelessness is a chronic issue, that the street’s mentally ill and addicted residents can’t get back on their feet no matter who reaches out to them.
In 2007, Hoboken’s homeless shelter was able to move 84 of its residents into homes, according to Jacklyn Cherubini, the executive director of the facility on Third and Bloomfield streets.
How was the shelter able to do something that some believe is impossible?
With the shelter’s strict rules of living, programs to reintegrate its residents into the workplace, and a focus on getting proper socialization and medical care, the “holistic” approach is what helped, officials say.
“We’re not just serving them,” said Cherubini of the homeless residents last week. “We’re working together. This is their home, so they really participate in the programs. I like to say that we use compassionate boundaries. We are nice, but we have rules, and the guests help us monitor that, because it helps maintain the safety and sobriety, and their home.”
Though the shelter has offered home placement for 23 years, it only began tracking its rate of placements two years ago.
In 2006, 71 people moved from the shelter to their own homes. That number increased to 84 in 2007.
Former guests often rely on the Hoboken Housing Authority projects to get low-income apartments, or they move to local senior citizen facilities or back home with their families after they have received training and possibly a job.
Filling out forms for subsidized housing, or reuniting with family, all can be difficult tasks that require help.
Cherubini said many guests arrive at the shelter hoping to get a job, save money, find an apartment, and get back together with their family.
The shelter assists guests in achieving these goals.
“There is no one quantifying checkmark for how people are housed,” she said last week. Instead, there are programs and support groups throughout the community that have helped people find homes.
Providing tools for success
When meeting a former resident of the shelter, “You wouldn’t even be able to tell that they lived here,” Cherubini said last week. “Reintegration into the community is one of our biggest focuses.”
The official mission of the Hoboken Shelter, which is owned and operated by Communities of Faith for Housing, Inc. and founded in 1982, is to assist homeless adults in developing skills needed to gain employment and re-integrate into the community.
The shelter feeds approximately 100 people per night who come for a warm meal, even if they don’t all stay at the shelter. They also provide breakfast and lunch daily to their 50 overnight guests.
Guests take part in the Integrated Living Program, which offers addiction counseling, emergency clothes, health care advice, job-readiness training, and life skills. Guests learn computer skills, conflict resolution, interviewing techniques, money management, relaxation and anchoring techniques, resume writing, and salary negotiation.
Through the Intensive Day Treatment Program, any mentally ill and/or chemical-abusing residents are provided psychiatric services and evaluation.
Guests also take part in workshops that include computer literacy, creative writing, mentoring and tutoring, spiritual discussion, visual arts, chess and the movie group.
Cherubini said she is most proud of the laundry program, which supplies daily laundry service for the guests.
Though the shelter is a compassionate environment, there are rules each guest must follow. For instance, residents are required to shower daily and are given chores.
To be admitted to the shelter, applicants must meet with Sister Norberta, the shelter’s founder, and sign a contract committing to follow the shelter’s rules. The shelter, in turn, gives them a 30-day commitment.
“If they are working towards their goals, we renew their commitment,” Cherubini said.
According to Cherubini, the average stay for people who become successfully housed is six months to a year, because it takes that long to get public and housing assistance and adequate mental health care.
Support from the Hoboken Shelter does not end when a former guest is successfully housed. Many former guests come back to volunteer, or return for a free meal, the alumni support group, or the movie group.
Cherubini attributes much of the former residents’ success to the shelter’s 2,200 volunteers, and support from local businesses, schools, and organizations.
“We’re a community,” she said, “from our neighbors, to our volunteers, to our staff.”
You can help.
In 2006, the Hoboken Shelter served 64,412 meals. That total increased in 2007 to 66,844. “Every single person gets fed,” Cherubini said. “There is not one person who is turned away for food.”
The shelter constantly needs donations, including paper goods and toiletries. To find out more or volunteer, call 201.656.5069. More information on the shelter and volunteering can be found at www.hobokenshelter.org.
The story of Millie
According to Jacklyn Cherubini, who runs the Hoboken Homeless Shelter, the rate of homelessness among women in Hoboken is increasing.
For instance, “Millie,” who is a single mother, became homeless when she lost her husband eight years ago and could no longer rely on support from relatives.
She has been a guest at the shelter for eight months, and is using the shelter’s programs to get back on track. Last week, she described the shelter as a close-knit community.
“The people are nice,” she said. “As long as you do your chores and help each other, you make it comfortable.”
She credits the shelter with helping her develop life skills. “I’m learning how I have to be if I were to get my own place,” she said.
Cherubini estimates that 80 percent of the guests are mentally ill, and some have become chemically addicted through self-medication.
“One of the things that I think people believe is that if you are homeless, or you’re poor, you’re not educated or you’re not smart,” Cherubini said. “We have people that went to Oxford and MIT that are here. We have people who know how to live on $20 to $200 a month, and live well.”
She noted, “I would like more credit to be given to the people that survive every day for being smart enough to be able to do well.”
Currently there are 32 men and 18 women staying at the shelter.
“The need is increasing, and we can only do it with the support of the community,” Cherubini said.