Homeless individuals will soon have a new place to live.
Construction is about 85 percent complete for A Better Life, New Community Corporation’s housing project for the chronically homeless. The facility is expected to be done this summer.
The $8 million endeavor is a joint project led by New Community in collaboration with various funders and partnering agencies: New Jersey Housing and Mortgage Finance Agency, an affiliate of the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs; Red Stone Equity Partners; Essex County HOME Program; Newark HOME Program; U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development; and the Federal Home Loan Bank of New York.
NCC Founder Monsignor William J. Linder says the facility is meant for the “hardcore homeless,” chronically homeless individuals who often suffer from mental and behavioral health issues, many of whom are veterans.
“These are people who will not live in city shelters. They would rather live on the streets,” Linder said. “I think they have a lot to teach us.”
NCC CEO Richard Rohrman believes the project will benefit the community. “A Better Life will provide the chronically homeless not only with a place to live, but with the services they need to further improve their quality of life.”
University Hospital‘s emergency care system will refer the chronically homeless for placement at A Better Life and Rutgers University Behavioral Health Care will provide 24-hour supervision at the facility to support the wellness and recovery efforts of the people living in the building.
Rena Gitlitz, director of community based services at Rutgers University Behavioral Health Care, says her organization will ensure the residents are linked to the resources they need, including physical and mental health services.
“We’re very excited about this partnership between three very strong entities, all very committed to the homeless population in Newark where there’s so much need,” Gitlitz said. “We’re very excited about this amazing opportunity for individuals to live in their own studio apartment, to really maximize their independence and to have a safe roof over their heads. This is an incredible opportunity for people.”
A Better Life has been six years in the making partly because it involves so many entities and funders. New Community Environmental Services Project Manager Ronda Lawrence said the paperwork for A Better Life is extensive due to the various sources of funding for the multi-million dollar permanent supportive housing project.
“Every penny has to be accounted for,” she said.
The building is green, meaning the appliances are energy efficient and environmentally friendly. Unit doors are made of metal to reduce the risk of fire spreading throughout the building.
The building also has flooring that prevents water from seeping through from the second to first floor. Lawrence said that comes in handy should there be any type of flooding or if the sprinkler system were to be set off.
Chelsea Construction Company, an NCC subsidiary, is managing the project. It has served as the general manager during the construction phase of several NCC housing developments. Claremont Construction is serving as the general contractor.
The two-story facility will have 24 units, 20 of which will be reserved for residents. Each unit will be equipped with a private bathroom, kitchenette and living area. There will be an engagement center, laundry facilities and library available to residents.
A Better Life will provide the chronically homeless in need of services the opportunity to stay long-term as needed. Residents may also transition from the facility to other housing.
Lawrence is looking forward to the building’s opening and the gratifying feeling of providing housing to those that need it most.
“That’s the best feeling in the world,” she said.