“When people think of [assisting] the homeless, they think of donating food or clothing. They usually don’t think about children and their need for a life, their need to be kids,” said Brenda Pulaski, director of housing services for Catholic Charities.
So each year it is with great joy that Pulaski and her team at Hope House in Jersey City host a day with Santa during which the kids and their mothers receive gifts from the CarePoint Health Foundation. This year, CarePoint – the nonprofit charitable wing of Christ Hospital, Bayonne Medical Center, and Hoboken University Medical Center – donated $5,000 worth of gifts and goods to Hope House and the residents living there.
“I believe this is the third or fourth year that CarePoint has donated to Hope House,” said Pulaski.
One of several housing programs run by Catholic Charities in Hudson County, Hope House, located downtown at 246 Second St., provides shelter to 20 families. The families who come to Hope House have often been evicted or have lost their living situation and have nowhere else to go.
“These are women and children who might have been evicted, or they may have living doubled up with friends or family and they can no longer stay there,” Pulaski said. “They may have been living in a place that is unfit for human habitation. We’re actually the only emergency shelter for women and children in Hudson County.”
‘We’re actually the only emergency shelter for women and children.’ – Brenda Pulaski
Once accepted into the program, the families can stay for 45 days, a term that can be extended as necessary, depending on the needs of the individual families. It’s not unusual for clients to receive two additional 45-day extensions, after which Hope House might make a longer term commitment to women who are on the verge of obtaining permanent housing or a job.
The program also helps women land jobs, find job training opportunities, and locate child care.
Unfortunately, Pulaski said, “there is some recidivism here. A lot of people are just mired in overwhelming poverty and it affects almost every area of their living. Many employers don’t give full-time employment now. So [the employees] don’t get enough hours. They don’t get health benefits. If they are working more than one job, then child care becomes a big issue. They also then don’t have the time to take a course that could lead to a better job because they need the two jobs to have enough income to live. And of course we all know the cost of housing in the metropolitan area. It’s the highest in the nation.”
Most of the women who Pulaski works with receive housing assistance, either in the form of a Section 8 voucher or temporary rental assistance. Still, it’s not unheard of for some former Hope House clients to fall behind in their rent and face homelessness again. A few even return to the Second Street shelter for another period of time.
Just regular kids
During Santa’s visit last week with the children from Hope House, CarePoint donated food, house ware items, and other gifts – some of which will be used during the families’ stay at the facility, some of which the women and children will take with them when they leave.
“We are happy to help those individuals who are less fortunate and it is our hope that this donation will help the mothers and children residing at Hope House have a little brighter holiday season this year,” said CarePoint Heath Foundation President Dan Kane.
The hospital-aligned foundation isn’t the only local organization that gets involved with Hope House and its mission, however.
“For me, one of the most heartwarming donations that we get is from a Girl Scout troop,” said Pulaski. “We have a Girl Scout troop that every year donates Halloween costumes for the children living here. It’s really touching because our children don’t want to be different from other kids. They want to go out trick or treating and they need to do the same things their peers are out there doing, and that’s living and just being kids…And that’s why this visit with Santa Clause was so important as well.”
For more information regarding Hope House, Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Newark, or for ways to contribute to their work, contact Wendy McNeil at (201) 420-1070.
E-mail E. Assata Wright at firstname.lastname@example.org.