Newark organization seeks to change the way homeless shelters are perceived

An Essex County organization is reimagining homeless shelters to encourage other service providers to offer clean and safe shelters.

News 12 Staff

Jul 14, 2022, 9:37 PM

Updated 702 days ago

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An Essex County organization is reimagining homeless shelters to encourage other service providers to offer clean and safe shelters.
The Apostles House in Newark’s Central Ward is trying to change the narrative of how people view homeless shelters. Not just for the people staying in them, but also for people living in the surrounding community.
“They’ve been to other shelters before that weren’t welcoming, that weren’t as clean. We want them to have a different experience here at the Apostles House,” says executive director Nadege DuVernay.
Nine families will temporarily call 22 Grant St. home in a few weeks. It is the site of the Apostles House’s newly remodeled emergency homeless shelter. The organization's goal is to give people needing temporary housing an experience better than “decent” – a word DuVernay hopes will not longer be used to describe homeless shelters.
“I wanted to take that word out of the Apostles House language and provide more than decent housing,” she says.
According to Monarch Housing Associates, Essex County has the largest number of people experiencing homelessness, with over 1,600 identified individuals. Over 7,000 of New Jersey's homeless residents, currently live in shelters, motels and transitional housing.
Just before the COVID-19 pandemic, the Apostles House saw a need for shelters specifically geared toward women and children. The organization received a $400,000 grant from the Department of Community Affairs to convert 22 Grant St. into a shelter.
“We want them to see a different way to providing shelter services so that we can help them,” DuVernay says.
The Apostles House partnered with several community sponsors that each adopted a room and added finishing touches all with the goal to do sheltering differently.
“We've heard a lot of horror stories…with hearing all those stories we learned from them, because we want to make sure that we're giving everyone a different experience,” DuVernay says. “We're changing the narrative we're making sure that when they come to the Apostles House this hopefully is the final stop.”
The new shelter is expected to open by the end of August.


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