February 2005

Dear Friends,

Blessings of God be with each of you.

No holiday would be complete without receiving letters soliciting your help with a multitude of good causes. Well, let us not be the exception. This is our annual appeal letter.

Each year we have highlighted one area that seemed to need more help than others. In our present society the time the health care facilities are allowed to give is so minimal. This year, with the help of the Department of Community Affairs, we began a new program in partnership with Bon Secours/ Saint Mary’s. This program is designed to work with those who experience problems with addictions and or mental health issues. The program is going well. Our participants seem grateful for the extra time and support to deal with their issues.

The shelter continues to feed 80 to 100 people a night. We shelter about fifty nightly. Our numbers both for shelter and feeding have gone up in this past year. I’m sure the shaky economy and budget cuts have exacerbated this. The evening meal is entirely staffed by volunteers. Generally this means there are at least four people working each evening, that adds up to more than 1,460 volunteers during the year. This is an awesome commitment, which many of have been doing for more than ten years. The spirit of the Shelter is one of hope and determination. This is exemplified by the good relationship between and among the shelter guests, the staff and the volunteers.

We continue to offer a Job and Life Skills certificate program along with our Arts program, drug and alcohol counseling and group meetings. At any one time we have 7 to 12 people participating. The challenge, of course, is to find “gainful” employment after earning the certificate.

Probably, the biggest issue this year (and I’m afraid for years to come) is the lack of affordable housing. Those on Social Security or other fixed income can only afford subsidized housing. The wait is one of years for those units. One of our residents, Ed, has been in the shelter for about one year. He is a senior citizen, who worked as a barber. He has applications in Senior Citizens’ units in Jersey City, Hoboken, Union City and Bayonne. Another of our former residents, Patrick, needed assisted living arrangements. After more that ten months and the help of three others agencies, he moved into a group home and is doing well. Another of our guests is working full-time, earning just above minimum wage. She is also going to school to get her High School Equivalency (GED). Although she has good savings, she cannot find even a room that she can afford.

Until the time comes when there is sufficient affordable housing, until there is a realistic minimum wage, until there is quality education for all, until we have comprehensive health care; shelters and soup kitchens will be needed and generous contributions from folks like you will be a necessity.

Please consider making your tax-deductible contribution to make a difference in the lives of those who come to the shelter, soup kitchen or our educational programs.

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