TINTON FALLS — MariBeth O'Neill's house had the charms of Monmouth County suburbia — red flowers along the foundation, painted door and a sign saying, "There's no place like home."
"I only had time to paint one side," said O'Neill, 53. "I have screens because mosquitoes love me."
What is unusual about screens in a charming suburban house? Who paints only one side of a house?
Well, this house, although it had a peaked roof, was constructed of three cardboard boxes. Living space? Only enough for one person to lie down — uncomfortably.
O'Neill's house was one of about 50 comprising Cardboard Box City, a recent overnight event that Family Promise of Monmouth County, a nonprofit group assisting homeless or low-income families, ran to bring attention to homelessness.
"It's about painting the picture (of homelessness)," said Shanna Goldstein, the group's executive director. "We want people to understand there's homeless children and families in Monmouth County.
"We want to change the stereotype, (that) it's not the bum on the street; it's the person who works with you, you wouldn't even know."
During an annual survey for the federal government, taken in January, Monmouth County had 619 homeless people, with Ocean County having 589. However, the survey suggests over an entire one-year period, Monmouth would have 1,283 individual homeless; Ocean, 1,080.
"A lot of people in Monmouth might not realize the homelessness (in the county)," said state Sen. Jennifer Beck, R-Monmouth, who spoke at the rally. "My sense is, if you have a job, you may not appreciate how desperate the struggle is right now.
"I think we all need to be aware of our neighbors and friends. Sometime, the busyness allows us to forget it could be a neighbor."
Cardboard Box City sprang up on the grounds of the Monmouth Church of Christ, a Hance Avenue religious congregation that, according to Goldstein, is one of 36 area congregations, providing 1,400 volunteers, involved with Family Promise.
There, 75 volunteers turned clothes-drier, washing machine, refrigerator and watermelon boxes into overnight sleeping quarters.
Jenna Bonstein, 19, and Sydney Pentland, 18, both of Old Bridge, were setting up a refrigerator box home for Pentland's aunt, Laurie Kraus, another Old Bridge resident who was spending the night.
"I think everyone deserves a home and a roof over their heads," Pentland said.
O'Neill, a Family Promise board member, outfitted her box with a comforter, a pillow and a blanket used when transporting furniture and other goods.
"I hate camping," said O'Neill, who lives in Wall. "We've been camping once and I was miserable."
"It'll give us the feeling of what people do, living in a box," said Emily Mott, 24, who does programming for middle and high school children at St. George's by the River Episcopal Church in Rumson. "It's just for one night. (But) it gives us perspective."
The campers could not use the church buildings. Instead, they had only a portable sink between two portable restrooms.
"Keeping everything outside is a way of replicating what it would be like not to have shelter," said the Rev. Charles Rix, Church of Christ pastor.
A Manalapan couple — Maggie Dugan Sarrol and Andrew Sarrol, both 27 — were volunteering.
"We just wanted to get involved where we would be helping people, see the difference," said Maggie Sarrol, who teaches second-grade at Robertsville School in Marlboro.
"We're trying to give more back to our community," said Andrew Sarrol, a medical malpractice lawyer.
Of the 36 congregations involved with Family Promise, 11 provide supper and sleeping space for homeless families on a rotating basis, while the other 25 simply provide volunteers, Goldstein said.
The local Family Promise chapter is part of a national group, based in Summit.
Joe Sapia: 732-308-7754; 800-822-9770, ext. 1-7754; JSapia@app.com
From the Hub 9/30/2010
Learning how it feels to be homeless
Cardboard Box City raises funds for Family Promise
BY KENNY WALTER Staff Writer
With a recession driving many families into homelessness, a local nonprofit is helping to raise awareness of their plight by having volunteers spend the night sleeping in cardboard boxes.
Students from the Red Bank Charter School help design a cardboard box house during the Cardboard Box City fundraiser held at the Monmouth Church of Christ in Tinton Falls on Sept. 24. Participants build cardboard box houses where they will spend the night during the event, which was held to raise awareness of homelessness and to raise funds for Family Promise of Monmouth County, which helps homeless families. More photos at gmnews.com. PHOTOS BY ERIC SUCAR staff The Monmouth Chapter of Family Promise, based in Middletown, held its first Cardboard Box City program Sept. 24 on the grounds of Monmouth Church of Christ in Tinton Falls.
“Basically, the event is bringing awareness and funds for Family Promise,” said Shanna Goldstein, Family Promise Monmouth Chapter executive director. “We’ve recruited groups and families from around the county to sleep in cardboard boxes overnight.
“They are going to dine from a soup line and have soup and bread for dinner,” she added. “We have some entertainment from local bands and some speakers.
“They go to the cardboard box at 10 p.m. and wake up at 6 a.m. the next morning and break it down and put it all away.”
Goldstein said that participants are encouraged to go to local appliance stores to try to get the boxes.
She explained that a lot of people aren’t aware of the homeless problem in Monmouth County.
“Our whole goal is to kind of show what the stereotype of homeless people are,” she said. “It is amazing that people think there are not really any homeless people in this area.
Red Bank Charter School students at work designing and building a “home” for the night. ERIC SUCAR staff “There are a lot of people who live paycheck to paycheck and if they have a medical emergency, then they will struggle to pay for food or shelter,” she added. “The economy has really affected them and they can’t keep up with housing.”
Goldstein said between 100 and 150 volunteers were expected to participate from all over the county.
She said that most of the participants found out about the event through the nonprofit’s affiliation with local churches.
Family Promise also did some advertising for the event at local high schools.
Goldstein also said that the event raises funds for Family Promise.
“Our goal is a minimum of $10,000,” she said. “We had the youth get pledges, like the way you get pledges if you were doing a walk. We asked [them] to get a minimum of $100 in pledges to support them,” she added.
Goldstein explained that the money raised would pay for a day center in Middletown.
“It is really the center of Family Promise where families come to shower, do their laundry, use the computer, meet with a case manager,” she added. “[The funds] will be used for the rent and utilities and to pay for the case manager salary.”
Goldstein said that other Family Promise chapters held similar events, but this may be the first one in New Jersey.
“Family Promise is a national organization, and some of our sister networks have had them,” she said. “We think we are the first one in New Jersey but we don’t know for sure.”
Goldstein said the goal of the night is to show just what some of the homeless people are going through on a nightly basis.
“Basically, we are just trying to raise awareness and show people what it’s like to be homeless and not have the comfort of being able to sleep in a bed overnight,” she said. “We are very excited for the opportunity to raise awareness for the homeless in the county.
“We just want people to know what children and families are going through,” she added. “We are trying to provide a safe place for them so they are not on the street or in their cars.”
According to the website, Family Promise is a national organization with chapters in 41 states.
The local chapter provides food, shelter and other services for homeless families in Monmouth County in cooperation with a network of interfaith congregations, while advocating innovative solutions to chronic homelessness.
The Family Promise chapter accommodates three to five families or a maximum of 14 people per day. The network consists of a day center in Middletown and 12 host congregations. For one week, approximately every three months, congregations provide a place to sleep for families who find themselves temporarily homeless, as well as meals and fellowship. The day center located in Middletown has shower and laundry facilities as well as a kitchen for preparing mid-day meals.
According to the website, each year Family Promise provides some 10,220 meals and 5,110 bed-nights for families in need. Referral calls from families seeking temporary housing have increased steadily since the program began, Goldstein said, adding that the staff currently receives six - eight calls a week, but capacity falls far short of the demand.
For more information on Family Promise visit their website at http://www.familypromisemc. org.
Emily Karr of Freehold Township, with help from her fellow girl scout Kailyn Leary of Girl Scout Troop 222, has organized a garage sale to raise money for the homeless.
The sale is Aug. 7, at 12 Applegate Road, Freehold Township, from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Our troop leader invited us to First Presbyterian Church to serve dinner. But I felt that not enough people knew about Family Promise of Monmouth County, Karr explains. Karr and Leary have gathered donations for the sale, where theyll set up a table to provide information about Family Promise of Monmouth County, a Middletown-based nonprofit and the only shelter for homeless families in the county.
With job hunting and taking care of their families, they dont get much chance to have fun, wrote the Clifton T. Barkalow Middle School student Karr in a three-page project plan for her troop that details her efforts. Karr hopes to raise money for household and personal supplies for the families, in addition to the picnic shell host in August. I wanted to help the families and to raise awareness of homelessness at the same time, she says.
Were thrilled to have Emily putting so much energy into helping our families in their time of need, says Family Promise Executive Director Shanna Goldstein. Emily has an amazing heart and a giving spirit.
Family Promise of Monmouth County is committed to helping low-income families attain lasting independence, with an 80 percent success rate. For more information, go to www.familypromisemc.org.
Affordable housing is region’s most pressing concern
As executive director of the only shelter for homeless families in Monmouth County, I see families struggle every day to find affordable housing in Monmouth County, and now Gov. Chris Christie wants to reduce the state’s affordable housing trust fund by $30 million. If this happens, there will be no money to build or rehabilitate new affordable homes.
The primary cause of homelessness for families in Monmouth County is lack of affordable housing. In fact, Monmouth County officials have declared the growing scarcity of affordable housing as the single most pressing concern facing the region.
The results of the 2003 Monmouth County Department of Human Services Community Needs Assessment, conducted as an update to the 1998 United Way assessment, identified affordable housing as the most significant problem for Monmouth County of all issues included in the survey.
The cost of renting a two-bedroom apartment in Monmouth County (2009 Fair Market Rent per HUD) is $1,263. To afford this amount requires a family to earn $45,468 a year. This has been dramatically increasing each year. The federal government defines affordability as housing that costs less than a third of a household’s income.
Based on this standard, a minimum wage worker in Monmouth County would have to work 120 hours a week, 52 weeks a year to pay the average rent for a twobedroom apartment and meet other living expenses.
The cost of a monthly mortgage payment is also out of reach for most families in Monmouth County, even taking into account the high cost of rent.
The median price of “Lower Priced” homes in Monmouth County in 2008 was $554,950. As a result, the high price of housing forces many families in Monmouth County to rent instead of buy.
In addition to cutting $30 million to the state’s housing trust funds, Gov. Christie announced a plan to abolish the Council on Affordable Housing and repeal the Fair Housing Act.
This would allow municipalities much more leeway in determining how many affordable homes to plan for. At a time when more affordable housing is needed in our community, the governor’s plan will cut the number of houses being built.
Families have to choose between putting food on the table and paying their rent or mortgage. We do not need to make this a more difficult time for low-income families. We need to keep the money in the Affordable Housing Trust Fund and we need to hold towns accountable to provide affordable housing for all residents. Families and children deserve to have a safe, affordable place to call home.
of Monmouth County
April 15, 2010
A lesson in making the world a better place
School project inspires student’s bicycle donation drive
BY JACQUELINE HLAVENKA Staff Writer
Evan Pobuta collected bicycles for Family Promise of Monmouth County, a community organization for homeless families. JACQUELINE HLAVENKA HOLMDEL — Eighth-grader Evan Pobuta is pedaling upward on the path to success, one day and one bike at a time.
Pobuta is one of the many students in Steven Tetreault’s eighth-grade English class at William R. Satz Middle School in Holmdel who researched and created their own community service projects to give back to local communities in need.
After reading articles, facts and statistics, Evan brainstormed an idea to collect used bicycles for underprivileged children in Monmouth County — a project that came at a low cost with a big social value.
“I feel good knowing I helped someone and they are happy because of something I did,” Pobuta said. “My teacher thought what I was doing was very good and it could help a lot of people.”
The five-week good-works school project started in March as a class writing assignment. Each week, students would research a given topic — from the environment to eradicating poverty to education — and develop their own plans about how to contribute to the betterment of their neighborhoods through action and investigation.
Under the project guidelines and criteria, the class had one major piece of writing each week, including reflective essays about what they learned along the way.
“I think that’s how it connects to English,” Pobuta said. “It also can help us in the future if you’re trying to get into a college. They say, ‘Wow, if you could do that in the eighth grade, look what you could do now.’”
Persuasive letter writing was also a writing device that students used to pitch their projects to different organizations.
On March 1, Pobuta wrote a letter to Shanna Goldstein, executive director of Family Promise of Monmouth County, a community agency for homeless families based in Keansburg. In the letter, he explained he was collecting used and new bicycles for people of all ages, adults and children. His goal was 10 bikes by April 8.
“She [Goldstein] got back to me right away,” Pobuta said.
He was then put in touch with Michael Siciliano, a staff member at Family Promise, to drop off the bikes at a storage facility off Route 36 in Hazlet.
In an email, Goldstein said, “If we do not have any children that are currently in the shelter that can utilize the bikes, we will store them in our storage unit until we have new families come in, and they will eventually be distributed to a homeless child.”
She added, “We cannot thank you enough for your generosity and I hope you are enjoying the project. You are making a difference.”
On March 31, not only did Evan meet his goal of 10 bikes, but the whole Pobuta family was getting ready to deliver the bicycles to Family Promise during his spring break from school.
“It’s a good project and doesn’t cost any money,” said JoAnn Pobuta, Evan’s mother. “You usually ask people to make a donation, and there’s nothing wrong with that, but if you have stuff lying around that you are holding onto for whatever reason, you can reuse it.”
Evan explained that both his mother and father helped a great deal with the project. His father, John Pobuta, loaded all the bikes onto his pickup truck and helped clean and repair them.
Costs to fix up the used bicycles were minimal, he explained.
“A tube is $5,” John said. “It was mainly cleaning them up. It really helps those who can’t afford it.”
Both Evan and his father spent hours scrubbing the rust that accumulated on some of the older bikes, using elbow grease.
“But it looks like brand-new now,” he said, showcasing a shiny red-and-black tricycle.
Evan wrote a flier about the project, and JoAnn spread the word by sending out emails to family, friends and neighbors.
“We sent it out to family and friends, and we got a really good response,” she said. “It’s a good way to exercise, get outside and have fun. It [the bikes] becomes something of their own. It’s for them.”
According to data collected by Family Promise, nearly 33 percent of all homeless families surveyed in Monmouth County cited loss of a job or inability to find work as the cause of their homelessness.
In turn, Evan learned how the recession has affected surrounding communities.
“I think the stuff we are doing in class really helped,” he said. “You get an idea about what poverty is like.”
The project is not graded on a traditional A to F scale, but students are expected to complete their writing assignments on a weekly basis and provide documentation about their community service plan in order to receive class credit.
“The project was about making the world a better place,” Evan said.
For more information about Family Promise, visit http://www.familypromisemc.org/ or call 732 495-1050.
March 31, 2010
Group offers help for those grappling with homelessness in Monmouth
KEANSBURG — Jamillah Johnson never thought she would be homeless. She had a home, two jobs and a family. Then in June she came home after working the late shift as an assistant manager at a Taco Bell to find the locks changed on the front door. It was almost 2 a.m."I didn't know what to do," she recalled. She sat in her car for a while and beeped the horn. Fearful of waking the neighbors, she eventually drove to a friend's house.
Johnson, a 32-year-old single mom who lived with her 70-year-old disabled mother, said she had been feuding with her mother after Johnson put her foot down about how much money she would contribute to the household. Jamillah had suffered a heart attack about two weeks earlier and was convinced she needed to save more money.
"I thought maybe my mom needed time. She didn't take my calls at first, then she called until the phone died," Johnson said. She described an unhealthy relationship that left her with little money, little sleep and little chance of finding independence. She was ready to strike out on her own.
Johnson, who has a 9-year-old daughter, found the financial and emotional support she needed at Family Promise of Monmouth County. The nonprofit group says it provides the only emergency shelter for families in the county.
With headquarters in Middletown, Family Promise relies on 11 host church congregations and another 20 support congregations throughout the county to house up to five families per night on a rotating basis. The average family stays in the shelters for 90 days.
"We work with the families to discover why they became homeless and how they can overcome barriers, so they can become self-sufficient," Shanna Goldstein, executive director of Family Promise, said.
During their stay, a small staff and a host of volunteers help clients apply for government assistance, seek jobs and enroll in school. They drive clients to appointments and help them find apartments. There is a day room at headquarters where clients can use a computer to search for employment or do their homework. At night, they travel to the host congregation to have dinner and spend the night. "We provide intensive case management," Goldstein said. "Giving them food and meals is great, but if you don't teach skills, you're not solving the problem."
88% success rate
Since its inception in 2001, Family Promise has served more than 100 families. Its success rate for graduates who move into self-sustained, permanent housing was 88 percent last year.
Naomi Torres, 24, of Howell said Family Promise has put her on that road to self-sufficiency after a five-month stay in 2008, and still is making sure she doesn't wander off the path.
The Long Branch native recalled how she spent four years in the Army, then settled in North Carolina. She returned to New Jersey, to her mom's home in Marlboro, with an infant son and a friend in May 2008.
Torres said she registered for fall classes at Brookdale Community College and unsuccessfully looked for work. Then her friend did something to upset her mother.
"We kinda got put out," she said, with no job, no car and two weeks' notice.
Torres, her son, who is now 2 1/2, and her Army pal stayed in the shelter from August to December 2008. The staff told her to save as much of her income as possible and they would buy diapers, medicines and whatever else was needed. They even helped pay for her school books.
Family Promise helped the young women secure an apartment in Howell. They survive on Torres' $322 monthly welfare check and her friend's veteran's benefit.
High cost of living
Johnson said Family Promise paid her security deposit, first month's rent and partially furnished a one-bedroom apartment she found in Keansburg in August.
Johnson was denied government assistance, she said, because she earned about $32,000 annually at Taco Bell. She bristled at the memory of being told she made too much money.
"I understand there has to be salary limits, but if people looked at what it really costs to live around here," she said, referring to car insurance, rent and utilities, "you are left with pretty much nothing."
The high cost of housing in Monmouth County is often cited as the leading cause of homelessness among low- and middle-income families. A family's annual income must be more than $45,000 to afford the average rent here: $1,200 per month for a two-bedroom apartment. A minimum-wage earner would have to work 120 hours per week to afford that. Goldstein said her group saw a spike in potential clients last year. It had a waiting list of 10 families at any given time. The county's social services agency received a one-shot boost in federal homeless prevention aid so many financially fragile families could stay in their houses this winter. But she expects some of those families to knock on her door this spring.
The Rev. Vincent Rife of Grace Christian Church in Tinton Falls is one of the founders of Family Promise. He said the number of homeless families in the county has risen sharply during the past decade. Don't assume they're all at shelters, though, because many are sleeping on the couches of friends and relatives. And many more are on the brink of financial ruin, he estimates from personal conversations with his congregants and others who are more comfortable confiding their troubles to a man of the cloth.
"Not everyone who is homeless is sleeping under a bridge," Rife said. "The need has definitely increased as I see it."
A Family Promise caseworker still visits Torres once or twice a month to ensure she is maintaining good grades and properly caring for her son. (She recently completed her course work at Brookdale with grants and financial aid, and has another two years of schooling left to become a dental hygienist.)
She just started a dental assistant certification course that will enable her to begin working in a dental office this summer.
Johnson said her caseworker helped her apply and pay for online courses she's taking to learn medical billing.
"Who wants to work to two o'clock in the morning and miss out on everything?" she said.
Both Torres and Johnson said they don't know how they could have turned their lives around without Family Promise.
"'I honestly don't know what I would have done," Torres said. "I can't think of one friend who was willing to open their door to me."
Johnson, who has three siblings but none that were in a position to help her, cautioned that anyone could face her situation.
"I learned there's still a lot of good people in the world," Johnson said, sitting at a kitchen table she found on the side of the road. "I can't put it into words. I am so grateful that at least one person was willing to give me a chance because usually people just shut the door in your face.
"If there's anything in the morning that I can wake up and smile about, it's them."
Homeless Get a Home for Christmas at Ocean Place Resort
Company Contact: Shanna Goldstein 732-495-1050
LONG BRANCH, Dec. 25 – The beautiful Ocean Place Resort in Long Branch is warmly opening its doors for four homeless families this year.
J. is a single mom in Middletown who lost her job as a home health aide after a work injury and is now seeking work as a medical assistant. She and her two children are one of the four families who will visit at no charge from Dec. 24 – 26th with complete access to hotel facilities, including room service and the spa. Family Promise of Monmouth County volunteers will decorate the rooms and hide presents for the children in the closets. This is the 3rd year that the Ocean Place Resort has co-sponsored this program with Family Promise.
“We are so excited for our families,” said Shanna Goldstein, who was named Executive Director of the Middletown-based non-profit earlier this year. “This will make the holiday special for these families struggling with finding jobs and housing, who thought they’d be spending the holiday on the street.”
Although facing a challenging environment for fundraising at the same time that demand for its services is up, Family Promise of Monmouth County has three sponsors who will “adopt” our families this holiday season: St. George’s By the River Church, Marlboro Jewish Center and the Lindsey family from Belford. We are grateful for their generosity. This year Family Promise has turned away 73 qualified homeless families for lack of space. ”Presently, we are only able to handle 4-5 families at a time,” Ms. Goldstein said, “And our waiting list is growing longer and longer.” For 2010 Family Promise is looking to expand to house and care for 8-10 families at once. Anyone interested in helping with funding or volunteering should contact Shanna Goldstein at the above number.
About Family Promise of Monmouth County
Family Promise is the only shelter for homeless families in Monmouth County. It is committed to helping low-income families attain lasting independence. To date, Family Promise of Monmouth County has provided shelter, meals and services to more than 100 families and their children. Its success rate of permanency (the number of graduates of the shelter program who move into self-sustained, permanent housing) rose from 80% to 88% in 2009. It helps communities mobilize to provide safe shelter, meals and support services for homeless families and through programs designed to address the underlying causes of homelessness. For more information, visit www.familypromisemc.org.
Family Promise of Monmouth County Honors NJ Marathon Co-Founder at Well-Attended Seaside Fundraiser
Company Contact: Shanna Goldstein 732-495-1050
LONG BRANCH, Oct. 14 -- Family Promise of Monmouth County held its Second Annual Fall Fundraising Event October 4th at McLoones Pier House in Long Branch. This year’s fundraiser was even more successful than last year’s, and featured a gift auction and 50/50 raffle. Matching donations also continue to arrive.
In a surprise ceremony, Art Castellano, retired Long Branch teacher and NJ Marathon Race Director, was honored by Family Promise for his tireless efforts to help local charities. Family Promise has been a key beneficiary of the annual NJ Marathon in Long Branch since 2001. After getting over his initial surprise at being the night’s guest of honor, Castellano handed Barnett a $5,000 check (raised by the marathon) “for all the great work Family Promise does.” While accepting the award, a plaque presented by Long Branch Mayor Adam Schneider and Family Promise President Carol Barnett, Castellano thanked his supporters and mentioned the “3 P’s” for a successful race: “promotion, parking and porta-johns.”
Guests enjoyed gorgeous warm weather and a full moon, and took home 20 unique gift baskets of both products and services -- “a great outpouring of support from local businesses,” Event Chairperson Laurie Kraus said. Gifts included a stunning quilt handmade by board member Jill Niehaus, and a fun basket of “Art’s Favorite Things,” which included gift certificates donated by Hot Bagel Bakery in Oakhurst, and the North Beach Grill and Tuzzio's Italian Cuisine, both in Long Branch.
“Family Promise has a waiting list and it breaks our heart to turn families away, because we’re usually the last stop before the family is out on the street,” Barnett says. The organization is seeking to increase its capacity to help eight to 10 families at a time. It has stepped up fundraising and is seeking corporate and individual sponsors.
About Family Promise of Monmouth County
Family Promise, now celebrating its 10-year-anniversary, is the only shelter for homeless families in Monmouth County. It is committed to helping low-income families attain lasting independence. To date, Family Promise of Monmouth County has provided shelter, meals and services to 110 families with 367 children, and has seen its success rate of permanency (the number of graduates of the shelter program who move into permanent housing) rise from 80-88 percent. This is achieved by helping communities mobilize to provide safe shelter, meals, and support services for homeless families and through programs designed to address the underlying causes of homelessness. For more information, visit the company's Web site, http://www.familypromisemc.org
Atlanicville - Family Promise honors Castellano