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“When I was at home, I was in a better place.” – William Shakespeare
November 17, 2017
What words come to mind when you think of the word ‘home?’ Security, warmth and joy pop into my mind. But to many people all around us, the word is synonymous with loss, uncertainty, fear and hopelessness.
As reported in the 2017 New Jersey Annual Point-In-Time Count survey, there were about 8,532 homeless men, women and children in New Jersey. What’s more, 30 percent of the homeless families in Union County included at least one child under the age of 18.
That’s where Homefirst, Inc. comes in. Homefirst is an advocate for the homeless and those at risk of homelessness. For more than 30 years, we have been a leader in developing creative and innovative solutions to end homelessness throughout Union County. Each year, Homefirst helps more than 2,000 clients break the cycle of homelessness and poverty and achieve self-sufficiency by providing them with housing, counseling and a variety of other resources and services.
Let me tell you about one of our clients. Michelle sought out Homefirst when she was pregnant with her fourth child. Like many single parents, although she was employed, it was a struggle for her to pay her rent and meet other basic family expenses. Sadly, Michelle developed a pregnancy complication which caused her to be hospitalized and subsequently became unable to work. Without a regular paycheck, Michelle and her family faced eviction.
Michelle contacted our Hillside Family Success Center for help. Pat, one of our family engagement specialists, worked with Michelle to create an individualized family plan. The plan served as a roadmap in the family’s quest to long-term sufficiency. After a few case management sessions, our staff discovered Michelle was suffering from postpartum depression.
“Our first priority was to ensure the family stayed in their home. We know stressors such as medical emergencies or a decrease in wages could begin a series of events which ultimately ends in homelessness. There was no way we could allow Michelle to bring her newborn baby from the hospital to a shelter,” said Pat.
Our team swiftly helped Michelle reorganize her household budget, including a payment agreement that prevented the family from being evicted. We provided emergency assistance to prevent the shut-off of utilities. Pat also helped Michelle complete of paperwork to receive state disability benefits. Equally important, Michelle was linked to a volunteer family mentor who shared tips on parenting, budgeting, couponing and meal planning.
Today, Michelle and her children are ‘regulars’ at the weekly Kids’ Night activities at the Hillside Family Success Center. “I am happy me and my kids are an active part of the Homefirst community. My whole family looks forward to Kids’ Night. It gives my children a chance to have fun in a loving, nurturing environment and I’m able to fellowship with other moms. I take comfort in the fact that my newest child will be spending this holiday in our own home,” said Michelle.
Now and in the year ahead, we will need resource to guarantee more families are able to enjoy the warmth and stability of their own homes. As you make your annual year-end contributions, I ask you to please support Homefirst. Your gift will help change lives like Michelle and her children!
$5,000 Helps a family move into transitional housing with furniture, food and clothing for three months
$2,500 Covers comprehensive job training program for six people
$1,500 Pays for summer camp for two children
$1,030 Pays rent for one month
$500 Feeds a family of four for six weeks
$240 Covers the cost of GED exam fees for five people
$150 Heats a family’s home for one-month
$52 Supports our food program to make sure children and their families have three healthy meals a day
On behalf of Homefirst’s board, staff, volunteers and clients I wish you and your family a wonderful holiday season!
Acting Executive Director
“Home is the nicest word there is.” – Laura Ingalls Wilder