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2000 Best Practice Awards

Best of the Best Winners: New Jersey

Best Practice: Brother to Brother: Isaiah House Residential Program


East Orange, New Jersey. Young male runaways in Essex County found few shelters open to them until Isaiah House opened its Residential Program for Adolescent Boys in 1996. Called Brothers with Brothers, the program supports 14 homeless inner-city boys aged 15 to 19 with housing, meals and full social, emotional and recreational services for up to four years.

Working with a population that few projects assist, the program has succeeded by drawing on the strengths of the boys, rather than trying to correct their deficiencies. “We found that if we trust them, they act trustworthy,” says Glenda Kirkland, the

Photo of Glenda Kirkland and Richard Green receiving award from Secretary Cuomo & Deputy Secretary Ramirez
Glenda Kirkland and Richard Green receiving Best of the Best award from Secretary Cuomo (l) and Deputy Secretary Ramirez (r)

project’s executive director. Contributing to the program’s success was commitment from the city of East Orange, which donated an abandoned apartment building that now houses the program, and operational funds from HUD through a Supportive Housing Grant.

The boys must attend school or a job-training program. An average of two residents per year enter four year colleges while their peers move on to self-sustaining jobs and other independent living programs. Through board members who are executives at United Parcel Services Corp., many of the young men have obtained part time positions that develop into full-time jobs upon completion of high school. The program accepts referrals from the State Division of Youth and Family Services. A professional staff, community mentors and volunteers provide a family atmosphere that allows the young men to develop into self-supporting, contributing citizens of the community.

The young men occupy an entire floor in the renovated building that houses Isaiah House administrative offices and other family service programs. Two young men share a room, have access to a lounge day room, a television room, study areas, a computer lab and an indoor gym and recreational area with weights, 2000 HUD Best Practices 6 The 100 National Winners punching bags and other athletic equipment. Each boy is given a full membership to the nearby YMCA. Residents share outings from sailing to trips to the stock market in two vans donated by the state.

This population is perceived to be difficult to help, but program staff found the perception does not match reality. “We have had a tremendously good experience working with them,” says Kirkland. Neighbors occasionally call to ask whether residents contributed to local problems, yet staff investigations have not found any related to the residents. The young men’s respectful behavior in the community is helping build a solid track record.

Isaiah House raised more than $2.7 million to renovate the donated building, including funding from East Orange, the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs, the Bank of New York, UPS Corporation, HOME and HOPWA programs, the Federal Home Loan Bank, New Jersey Housing and Mortgage Finance Agency, Local Initiatives Support Corp. and numerous foundations and private individuals. Funds from the State Division of Youth and Family Services supplement a HUD Supportive Housing grant that sustains program operations.

Maturiting from youth to adult remains the program objective, according to Executive Director Kirkland. “We believe in reaching deep rather than spreading thin,” she says, noting that many boys have been with the program since its inception in 1996.

The New Jersey Division of Youth and Family Services now licenses the program as a residential child care facility. Research and protocol materials and a statistical database system that track results are available from the program’s executive director.

Contact: Ms. Glenda Kirkland, Phone: (973)678-5882 Ext.3003
Tracking Number: 643
Winning Category: Program (Community Planning and Development)


Best Practice: New Jersey Housing and Mortgage Finance Agency Home Ownership for Permanency Program

Partnership Creates First of Its Kind Project to Reduce Number of Special Needs Children in Foster Care

Trenton, New Jersey. New Jersey has now placed homeownership within the grasp of more families seeking to provide permanent homes for children in foster care. The Home Ownership for Permanency Project creates affordable home ownership opportunities for low-and moderate- income potential adoptive families and relative caregivers to reduce the number of special needs children in foster care.

This $4 million project is the first of its kind to address the needs of lower income adoptive families and was created through a partnership of the New Jersey Housing Mortgage Finance Agency (NJHMFA)

Photo of Debra DiSantis and Gregory Adkins receiving Best of
the Best award
Debra DiSantis/Gregory Adkins receiving Best of the Best award from Secretary Cuomo (l) and Deputy Secretary Ramirez (r)

and the New Jersey Department of Human Services, Division of Youth and Family Services (DYFS). The Catastrophic Illness in Children Relief Fund Commission provided half of the program funding through a $2 million matching grant.

Under the Home Ownership for Permanency Project, NJHMFA provides homebuyer mortgages at below market interest rates of 1% to 4%, with 100% financing if needed, for low- and moderate-income adoptive parents and relative caregivers faced with inadequate or unaffordable housing. Financing for home improvements, rehabilitation and refinancing to enhance or enlarge a current home to accommodate new family additions is also available. The children adopted through DYFS are mainly children who were removed from their birth parents due to abuse or neglect. Many of the children have special needs, such as behavioral and emotional problems or developmental disabilities. Some have physical disabilities as well.

The program abandons the common assumption that HUD must increase funding in order to foster programs. This initiative requires no new HUD funds but instead relies on making better use of funds available from other sources, including private investment, to increase housing opportunities for special populations. This program modernizes the outdated procedure of creating program silos or categorical grants with a more contemporary approach of adding incentives for merging housing and non-housing program ideas consistent with HUD goals.

Contact: Gregory Adkins, Phone: (609) 278-7457
Tracking Number: 2694
Winning Category: Program (Housing - Single Family)

Best Practice: Regional Opportunity Counseling Program

Housing Counseling Program Helps Low-Income Families Relocate

East Orange, New Jersey. The state of New Jersey’s Regional Opportunity Counseling Program helps low-income renters by increasing the number of housing units available to them and helps landlords by providing them with responsible renters. The program expands landlord participation, increases the diversity of neighborhoods where Section 8 recipients reside, encourages low-income families to move to low-poverty areas, identifies and addresses barriers to mobility and provides in-depth counseling to participating families.

The counseling program has enabled 37 low-income families to relocate to more

Photo of recipients receiving Best of the Best award
Fran Lawton/Roy Zigler/Jackie Grabine receiving Best of the Best award from Secretary Cuomo (l) and Deputy Secretary Ramirez (r)

racially and economically diverse areas that provide them with access to better schools and greater employment opportunities. More than 250 families have been counseled since the program’s inception in March 1998. More than 100 land-lords have agreed to participate in the program, and 25 landlords have attended workshops on the state’s weatherization program and upgrading of properties.

Although the program operates with limited staff, it partners with public and private entities to address the needs of both Section 8 participants and landlords traditionally reluctant to participate in the voucher program. The state’s University of Medicine and Dentistry developed “Good Housekeeping” videotapes and an extensive class curriculum to train public housing residents and Section 8 participants in how to become better housekeepers. Essex County College provides access to job information, training programs and other relevant courses for participating residents. Proctor and Gamble supplies written materials. Home Depot has conducted workshops on modifying venetian blinds and maintaining floors and kitchen and bathroom fixtures. La Casa de Don Pedro provides job training and apprenticeships. Rutgers University has set up a database system to analyze data provided by the state and the two participating housing authorities to determine where Section 8 residents live. The Essex County Division of Community Action supplies information on how residents can obtain money for bills when they cannot afford to pay them.

The program is so successful that numerous inquiries have come in from similar programs in Delaware, Texas, Pennsylvania and Louisiana. The program’s director has received a number of requests to present an overview of the program at various housing-related conferences.

Contact: Fran Lawton, Phone: (973) 266-8692
Tracking Number: 295
Winning Category: Program (Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity)

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Content Archived: April 20, 2011

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