Scores of kids stretched out on the paving stones near Exchange Place on July 24, sketching everything from animals and stick figures to self-portraits as part of the annual Chalkfest. The annual event is a fundraising effort to benefit the York Street Project, a local group that helps homeless and economically disadvantaged women and children.
The group attempts to break the cycle of poverty by providing housing, education, childhood development, counseling, and life-skills training.
Chalkfest, according to Joy Deblin, a counselor at Kenmare High School, is a sidewalk art festival that allows kids to work with local artists and volunteers from local businesses, to express themselves, and raise funds for the project’s programs.
“People and businesses sponsor each of the kids,” said Deborah Hurley, development director for York Street. “This helps raise money for our four basic programs for homeless women and children.”
“People and businesses sponsor each of the kids.” – Deborah Hurley
York Street Project’s umbrella organization operates four interrelated programs that include St. Joseph’s Home, Kenmare High School, the Nurturing Place, and St. Mary’s Residence. These are located at 81 and 89 York St.
Four parts of a whole
Hurley said the programs tend to work together. St. Joseph’s Home provides a safe and structured environment for homeless single mothers and their children that guides and supports them as they transition to new independent lives.
The Nurturing Place is a licensed child development center for children from 4 months to 6 years old, and often these are the children of women at the St. Joseph’s Home. St. Mary’s Residence, meanwhile, provides housing and support for women with limited incomes. Kenmare High School is an accredited alternative high school for women age 17 and over who want to complete high school and receive their diploma, and offers education as well as practical training in job and life skills.
Celebrating its 25th anniversary, the project recently brought together more than 450 women and their families who were helped by the programs. More than 600 families have called St. Joseph’s home since 1989, when it was founded by Sisters of St. Joseph of Peace to address the homeless problem that was plaguing the country.
“It was determined that a holistic approach in combating poverty would be a good idea, by providing life-skills training, education, and housing under one roof,” Hurley said.
“St. Joseph’s Home was very helpful to me and my son,” said Tyria Myricle, who was homeless at the time. “It gave me stability when I needed it.”
A resident of the program in 1994, she is currently employed by the Jersey City Board of Education.
“They took care of me and my son, even after we left the program,” she said.
Susan Byrne, executive director, said that York Street brought back as many of the former residents as possible, but also former staff, and founders of the program.
“We really are just one big family,” she said. “What amazes me is how many of these women keep in touch with each other after they leave our program. They have a close bond with each other.”
To find out more, call 201-451-8225.
Al Sullivan may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.