Kim Davis-Phillips and her family were once homeless but their story appears to defy the norm.
Living in South Orange at the time, she and her husband, Christopher, lost their Section 8 housing voucher and found themselves with five children and no roof over their heads. They bounced around among several places but the family never split up and that, according to Richard Cammarieri, is truly remarkable.
Cammarieri, New Community’s Director of Special Projects, joined the couple and their daughter on the set of “The Lisa Durden Show” for an episode devoted to the topic of homelessness. A longtime employee of NCC, Cammarieri offered insight and a broader context to the discussion on homelessness, which revolved around one family’s story of survival.
“It was difficult but I wasn’t bitter,” said 21-year-old daughter Christen Davis. “It made me a stronger person.”
“Rather than turn to ash, you’ve been tempered,” Cammarieri said.
Many families get split up when they face such dire circumstances, he noted. Cammarieri highlighted Harmony House, New Community’s transitional housing facility for families that’s designed to keep them together. Davis-Phillips said her family did not know about Harmony House, located at 278 South Orange Ave. in Newark, and searched as far as Middlesex County for services.
Host Lisa Durden moderated the 60-minute conversation, which aired on Cablevision last month, weaving in and out of personal reflections from each family member, Cammarieri’s analysis of local and national homelessness statistics, and Durden’s own lively commentary.
“You guys are a smaller part of the bigger picture,” Durden said to her three formerly homeless guests.
The family recounted experiences like choosing to stay at cockroach-infested motels together rather than being split up.
“As a unit, we got closer,” the father, Christopher Phillips, said. But it was a dark time for him personally, he acknowledged, saying, “You feel like you failed.”
As a temporary measure, Davis-Phillips said the seven members of her family sought refuge with friends or relatives, but that didn’t last long. “You’re talking about a lot of us in one house,” she said.
Across New Jersey, about 14,000 people are homeless, including roughly 1,700 people in Essex County, according to Cammarieri, who called the impact on black families “disproportionate.”
The problem is significant,” Cammarieri said. “We’re still dealing with it. There’s not enough resources,” he added.