Asking the Public to Learn About its Services and How You Can Help!
Many children in Jersey City are brought up in communities ruled by gangs, violence and drugs. These kids fall victim to street life, mainly because they arenâ€™t given the opportunity to explore their dreams and see what else is out there. Covenant House New Jersey (CHNJ) recently launched an innovative program to help change these patterns and bring hope to the lives of Jersey City teens.
From September 2009 through March 2010, an exploratory study of Jersey City was conducted by CHNJ to identify the challenges faced by the homeless and at-risk youth in this city. The goals of the study were to determine if there was a need for Covenant House services in Jersey City and to examine level of services provided to youth up through the age of 21. The findings showed that there werenâ€™t any agencies in the city that conducted street and community outreach with the purpose of connecting at-risk youth to stable housing and critical support services.
In 2011 CHNJ started its Jersey City outreach program with grant funding from the W.E. Simon Foundation. This grant allowed Covenant House to hire outreach workers, purchase a vehicle and secure office space on Martin Luther King Boulevard in Jersey City. The outreach employees work tirelessly to infiltrate Jersey Cityâ€™s poverty stricken communities, develop trusting relationships with the citizens and help prevent youth from turning to gangs, prostitution and crime to survive. Covenant Houseâ€™s Jersey City outreach is a unique program; there arenâ€™t any other non-profit organizations or services that infiltrate the cityâ€™s most dangerous neighborhoods on a daily basis.
Al Peterson, Covenant Houseâ€™s Jersey City Outreach Liason, said, â€œCovenant Houseâ€™s outreach program can be considered the â€œcover of the bookâ€- outreach workers set the stage and introduce the program to community members who would benefit from our services; then, youth decide if our program is right for them and take a chance by visiting our shelters.â€ CHNJâ€™s programs include crisis care, housing, health services, job training, educational services, and counseling.
The outreach team spends time visiting the housing developments, schools, churches, stores and community centers in Jersey City to spread information about the youth services Covenant House provides. The team takes in any youth who want help, first addressing hunger and health concerns, as well as providing clean clothing and addressing any hygienic problems. The workers than bring these youth to the shelter to create a long term plan towards safety and independence.
Al continued, â€œWe are currently looking to expand the program so that we can gain more support from local industry, churches, schools and other safe havens for youth. The more awareness we spread about the services we offer for youth, the better chance we have of helping our most vulnerable children.â€
Saleemah Graham, Covenant Houseâ€™s Jersey City Outreach Manager, said, â€œItâ€™s our job to protect and safeguard all children. All children deserve the opportunity to see the potential in themselves, and all children need unconditional love and respect. Thatâ€™s what weâ€™re here to provide through our work.â€
Though these outreach workers risk their own lives daily, they continue watching over the streets so that at-risk youth can get on the right path, finish their education, and escape violence, abuse and the housing developments. Saleemah said, â€œSome things we see break us down to tears, but we try to stay positive. We trust that the will of God is with us and that at the end of the day, weâ€™ve made an impact on these kids.â€
One Jersey City teen, Jeffrey, was able to find an escape from abuse and violence through Covenant House outreach. Jeffrey said, â€œLots of kids growing up in Jersey City need help. I would have come to Covenant House earlier if I knew about its services. The family Iâ€™ve found here has helped me realize that I can better myself and do amazing things. Only God knows where Iâ€™d be right now if I was still on the streets.â€
Another teen, Aaron, also came to Covenant House after living in Jersey City. His mother was unable to take proper care of him due to her struggle with addiction, which led Aaron to be placed in the foster care system. He said, â€œI know lots of kids back in Jersey City who have problems and just donâ€™t want to say it. With programs like Covenant House coming to the schools and neighborhoods, kids can find an escape. Iâ€™m blessed to have found a new community here.â€
Janette Scrozzo, Covenant Houseâ€™s Jersey City Outreach Coordinator, said, â€œThe only way to combat youth homelessness and abuse is to get out in the communities and form personal relationships with those who need help the most. We invite everyone to join us in spreading awareness about these terrible issues and help change the lives of our children.â€
She continued, â€œOur ultimate goal is to offer Permanent Supportive Housing in Jersey City in the near future. Once young people stabilize their crisis, equipped with the tools to be successful, weâ€™d love for them to return to live in Jersey City with Covenant Houseâ€™s continued support and services.â€ CHNJ is the largest private care agency for homeless, at-risk and vulnerable youth in New Jersey. To learn more about its services or how you can help the outreach team, please visit www.covenanthousenj.org.
If youâ€™d like to become involved with Covenant Houseâ€™s work in Jersey City, please contact Janette Scrozzo at firstname.lastname@example.org or (973)-286-3544.