The department of Housing and Urban Development reports:
On any given night, there are over 600,000 homeless in the U.S.
8,941 people experience homelessness in New Jersey
Homelessness in NJ has decreased 12.4% since 2015
Sixty five year old Joseph became homeless in 1988 after a devastating fire destroyed his home and belongings of 25 years. With no family to turn to for help, he moved around finding shelter in the woods and abandoned buildings. For the past 10 years he called a small space under a bridge in Mercer County his home. This is where Joseph’s story begins to turn from tragedy to hope.
Our Project for Assistance in Transition from Homelessness (PATH) program first met Joseph in January of 2016. PATH provides outreach services to homeless adults with a serious mental illness with the goal of linking them to housing and formal mental health treatment. By March he agreed to services but was not yet ready for housing. Over the years, he transformed his space under the bridge to make it his own with organized sections to hang clothes, line up shoes and store food. He was comfortable and the thought of leaving his “home” was very scary.
PATH educated Joseph about all the positives that would come with housing and encouraged him to look at options. They found an apartment five minutes from the bridge that would make the transition a little easier. Thanks to the determination of PATH team members, on November 1, 2016 Joseph moved into his own apartment where he was able to celebrate his first Thanksgiving since 1988!
Leaving his familiar setting was extremely challenging at first, but now Joseph shares, “I’m happy here. I can promise you won’t find me at the bridge anymore!” Finding housing provided him with the safe, stable environment he needed to work toward a healthier future. Joseph now receives mental health treatment and looks forward to reaching his wellness goals.
On that night in 1988, Joseph lost more than just his home and belongings- he lost his sense of dignity. The PATH program works tirelessly to engage homeless adults like Joseph by visiting local shelters, transportation centers, parks, waterfronts and tent cities in Camden and Mercer Counties. In 2016, the program served 212 individuals and 38 were connected with permanent housing. Just one more outreach can mean the difference between a person lost and a full, meaningful, productive life.
For more information about the PATH program visit www.oaksintcare.org or call our Access Center: 1-800-963-3377.