New Community Corporation held the grand opening Wednesday for its new supportive housing facility for the chronically homeless and New Jersey’s first HUD Safe Haven model development.
The facility, A Better Life, will house chronically homeless individuals, many who suffer from mental illness. They will live in studio apartments at 101 Fourteenth Ave. in Newark that include a private bathroom that is handicapped accessible and a kitchen area with a stove top oven, microwave and refrigerator. A Better Life also has an engagement center, library, dining area, laundry room and common areas.
The grand opening was a culmination of six years of work; the $8 million project was the vision of New Community Corporation Founder Monsignor William J. Linder.
“One elected official said to me when we started New Community that New Community homes were too good for poor people. The housing should look poor. No, it shouldn’t look poor. It should look how much we love,” he said. “It’s a sign of our love, not their condition.”
CEO Richard Rohrman said throughout its 50 years, New Community Corporation has always helped the most vulnerable and housing the chronically homeless is another step toward that goal.
“This is a group that requires our help. It requires much more than this. This can only just be the very beginning. The issue that we’re facing of homelessness is much larger than this,” Rohrman said. “We’re hoping that by doing this it can be replicated with more and more of this in the city and elsewhere.”
Essex County Executive Joseph DiVincenzo said the county has more than 3,000 homeless people.
“So that’s a very, very high number. Being part of the New Community family and being part of this, people that are here will be involved in all the other programs and services that are offered so it’s giving them a second chance and that’s what we should be doing,” he said.
“It’s not radical to propose that everyone have a home,” he said. “Our veterans, our citizens are in need and it’s incumbent upon us to do everything we can to eradicate that need,” said Congressman Donald Payne Jr.
New Jersey Housing and Mortgage Finance Agency Executive Director Anthony Marchetta said the Christie and Obama administrations were involved in the completion of A Better Life.
“We got half of the resources for this facility from the Sandy Special Needs Housing Trust Fund. That’s a combination of both the state and the federal government,” he said.
University Hospital’s emergency care system will refer individuals for placement at A Better Life. Rutgers University Behavioral Health Care will be providing 24/7 supervision and support for the residents.