NCC Founder, CEO Joined By Officials Committed To Helping The Chronically Homeless
New Community Corporation officially broke ground on A Better Life on Sept. 28, 2016, joined by its funding and service partners as well as elected officials, dignitaries and community leaders.
The ceremony marked the public announcement of A Better Life, a 24-unit residence that’s New Jersey’s first “safe haven” supportive housing model targeting chronically homeless persons with severe mental illness who have been unable or unwilling to participate in supportive services. New Community Founder Monsignor William J. Linder and CEO Richard Rohrman were joined by Newark Mayor Ras J. Baraka and other dignitaries at the event. The $8 million project is slated for completion by June 2017.
“New Community is proud to be the developer of A Better Life and to work hand in hand with our many partners to make this supportive housing project a reality,” Rohrman said.
He described A Better Life as “a piece of a mosaic envisioned almost 50 years ago,” referring to New Community’s wide network of services, ranging from job training, healthcare, early childhood education and affordable housing that encompasses low-income seniors and homeless families.
“This project fills a gap in that mosaic,” Rohrman said.
The $8,041,235 project located on 14th Avenue in Newark’s West Ward is currently under construction and will feature 24 efficiency studio apartments with a private bathroom, kitchenette and living area. The two-story, 24,063-square-foot building will offer communal spaces designed to foster engagement and one unit designated for a superintendent who is on-call 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Referrals and other supportive services will be available to eligible persons who are not residents, on a drop-in basis. Individuals residing at A Better Life will not pay rent and are allowed 24-hour residence for an unspecified duration.
Stable housing is an important first step in the journey out of chronic homelessness and A Better Life will provide key support services, such as on-site medical and behavioral health services, crisis intervention and life skills development that are tailored to each person’s needs. Rutgers University Behavioral Health Care will be the primary service provider. New Community will provide property management, maintenance, security and an on-site supervisor. The supportive housing project aims to reduce the burden placed on the emergency care system at University Hospital. The hospital will identify high utilizers of emergency care and provide referrals to staff at A Better Life for review and placement.
This project to serve the chronically homeless, including veterans, has been six years in the making, which, according to Monsignor, took far too long. “It’s time to commit to doing better,” he said.
“A Better Life is one more project that allows HMFA to provide safe, decent and affordable housing that also provides supportive services,” said James Robertson, chief of Legal and Regulatory Affairs at the New Jersey Housing and Mortgage Finance Agency, the project’s largest funder.
Richard Roberts, Managing Director of Acquisitions at Red Stone Equity Partners, said that he enjoyed the opportunity to partner with “old friends” and also build new friendships during the long process to make A Better Life a reality. “I want to congratulate everybody involved,” Roberts said at the ceremony.
Newark Mayor Ras Baraka lauded New Community for its “tireless work in the city” and commended its work to reduce chronic homelessness. “Not to just fuss about it,” he said, “but to actually do something about it.”
Funders for the construction of A Better Life include the New Jersey Housing and Mortgage Finance Agency, an affiliate of the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs; Red Stone Equity Partners; Essex County HOME Program; Newark HOME Program; U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development; and the Federal Home Loan Bank of New York.
The project was designed by LWDMR Architects, an architecture, urban design and engineering firm located in Jersey City and Millville.