A Place To Call Home: NCC’s Homeless Veterans Housing Project Moves Forward

A rendering of Better Life, a supportive housing project in Newark that will offer mental health service, counseling and resources to the chronically homeless.
A rendering of Better Life, a supportive housing project in Newark that will offer mental health service, counseling and resources to the chronically homeless.

For decades, New Community founder Monsignor William J. Linder has fought for safe, attractive and affordable housing for the most vulnerable members of society—single mothers, the elderly and disabled. Now, his vision to serve the chronically homeless, including military veterans who have sacrificed for their country but often end up living on the streets—is another step closer to becoming a reality.

A Better Life, the inspirational name given to the project that will provide 24 units of supportive housing, including designated units for chronically homeless, and on-site mental health services, reached a major milestone when financing for the $8 million project officially closed on June 3.

Construction for Better Life, located on the corner of 14th Avenue and Camden Street, is slated to begin in the coming months.

The project highlights a dynamic collaboration between New Community, University Behavioral Health Care and the City of Newark. UBHC will provide a staff of clinical supervisors, counselors and nurses to give on-site treatment to the homeless, including veterans, who are often forced to frequent emergency rooms for medical care.

“A lot of these people are veterans who we sent to the Vietnam War,” Monsignor Linder said.

Better Life will demonstrate that stable housing can serve as an effective first step in addressing long-term homelessness, debilitating mental illness, and substance abuse, according to UBHC officials. Services offered at Better Life will include counseling, crisis intervention and linkages to wellness and recovery supports available locally.

“Better Life represents the commitment that New Community has always had to help individuals reflect their individual God-given dignity,” CEO Richard Rohrman said.  “This project is a payback for our veterans as well as others who have been left behind. Better Life is a comprehensive approach to help people function at their highest level,” he said.

The project is the result of a public-private partnership and was a major endeavor that spanned nearly five years, according to Douglas Angoff, director of real estate and general counsel at New Community. Red Stone served as New Community’s financial partner and other funding sources include the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development McKinney Funding for the Homeless and Special Needs Housing Trust Fund, Newark HOME Program, Essex County HOME Program, New Jersey Housing and Mortgage Finance Agency and the Federal Home Loan Bank of New York. NCC officials worked closely with partnering agencies and firms on a range of issues related to zoning board approval, financing, receiving a tax abatement from the city and hammering out a lease deal.

“Better Life is a major effort from public and private partners who worked to overcome legal and financial compliance. It is a project that New Community, our partners and supporters can all be proud of,” Angoff said.

Rosemarie Rosati, interim president and CEO of Rutgers-UBHC, also expressed enthusiasm for the project moving forward.

“Rutgers-University Behavioral Health Care is honored to partner with New Community on the creation of this special residential program for people with behavioral health problems who have been chronically homeless,” Rosati said.

“These individuals also tend to have significant medical problems and overuse hospital emergency rooms since it is difficult for them to follow through with regular care.  At the Better Life facility staff and services will be available onsite 24/7 and connections will be made to other services and resources in the community,” she said.

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