This year, eviction and unemployment rates in Paterson, New Jersey skyrocketed: nearly 300 families were evicted from their homes and had no way of travelling to their loved ones.
In response, YFCNJ launched a program to provide free transportation to those affected so that they can stay with family members or friends willing to house them. Alongside Donna Fico, the Vice-President of Eva’s Village, and Edward Boze, the Chief Innovation Officer tasked with policymaking at Paterson City Hall, we were able to strengthen familial bonds and restore dignity to the vulnerable.
Within the program, our group operated by interviewing clients who were in need of our services. On their behalf, we facilitated phone conversations with their friends and family, ensuring that their new environment would be safe and conducive to rehabilitation.
After verifying that clients were eligible for the program, we connected them with several local agencies, including Paterson Relief and Catholic Charities. These agencies were instrumental to the program’s success: they not only provided clients with free transportation to anywhere in the United States by car or bus, but also maintained their progress in drug addiction recovery programs.
Since the program’s approval from Passaic County, YFCNJ and Paterson continue to serve the residents of Eva’s Village emergency housing shelter.
Free Travel Benefit Initiative
Grocery Distribution Program
Throughout the pandemic, the residents of Paterson, New Jersey have suffered from food insecurity because of unemployment. Affording fresh but expensive produce was nearly impossible; residents were forced to purchase unhealthy dinners from fast-food restaurants and lacked access to grocery markets within walking distance.
In response, YFCNJ partnered with Black Lives Matter (BLM) Paterson, to provide Patersonians with healthy groceries that promote healthy eating.
Moreover, YFCNJ has volunteered with BLM Paterson's Everybody Eats Program; we distribute hot meals to those who pass by and hold conversations with residents in order to strengthen the Paterson community. By working in areas with high gun rates, YFCNJ and BLM Paterson strive to show love with those who feel forgotten.
Free Roomies and ID Heroes Initiative
To supplement the Free Travel Benefit Initiative, YFCNJ launched the Free Romies Initiative with Paterson City Hall. Roomies.com is a website that helps renters move into apartments by connecting them with roommates willing to split an apartment's cost. YFCNJ volunteers help clients create ads that showcase their best qualities as responsible roommates. Volunteers also help clients choose an apartment that is best suited to their needs. Finally, YFCNJ has streamlined the moving-in process by helping clients find transportation and employment training services.
Currently, YFCNJ is in the final stages of launching the ID Heroes Pilot Program, which will help the homeless recover vital documents like their birth certificates. ID recovery is important for our battle against the housing crisis because many citizens cannot receive proper services without their documentation.
Silk City Community Fridge
Alongside Black Lives Matter, the Palestinian Community Center, and Fatboy's Sandwiches, YFCNJ launched a community fridge that serves to provide Paterson residents with fresh produce and meals 24/7. This is made possible by donations from generous citizens, restaurants, and organizations like Know Your Rights Camp!