On April 4th, Eugene’s housemates and caretakers held a party in his honor. They called it a Moving On Up celebration. There were gifts, plenty of food, including all his favorites, and a cake to mark the occasion. Eugene, who had been cared for at the Intensive Residential Program’s (IRP) Fern Lane campus in Hammonton for 16 years, was moving into an assisted living facility.
At 68, Eugene said he was ready for the next chapter. His new home is only five minutes away from the house he shared with four others. “I will miss everyone,” he said, “but I’ll be close by.” For the past five years, Eugene’s eyesight has been getting blurrier and blurrier, to the point where he is now legally blind. In his new living situation, he’ll have more support.
A Place for Transition
Heather Alexander Mark, the Director of Partial Care Services, worked with Eugene when she was the Program Director for the IRP South Residential and Partial Care Programs. She noted the seven group homes on the Hammonton campus provide housing services with 24-hour supervision, seven days a week for individuals with severe mental health issues. Staff members help the residents with their independent living skills, they help them manage their mental illnesses and they help them put the skills they learn in the Partial Care program into practice in day-today situations.
“We serve a population that is often marginalized and stigmatized,” said Alexander Mark. Many of the residents in the IRP program are transitioning from hospitalization in a psychiatric facility. “It can be difficult to make that transition. We provide them with a home — a place where they can make decisions and choices in a safe atmosphere,” she said.
Eugene said he’s going to miss the people who have been caring for him. “The whole staff is great. There are four people here who could be chefs. The lunches and dinners are amazing. They really go all out. I will definitely miss the food,” he laughed. He will also miss Housing Specialist, Jeanne Echols who has been working with Eugene since he first arrived. “Jeanne has always been interested in whatever I am doing. And when I really needed help, she was there,” he said. And the feelings are mutual. “I am going to miss Eugene,” said Echols. “I am glad this move is finally happening; he has been waiting for a long time. I wish him the best.”
Eugene has fond memories of his days in IRP. “I remember going to Atlantic City and listening to a concert on the boardwalk. One time, everyone was dancing. It was fun,” he said. “And we used to go to the marina at Fortescue. I never did catch a fish, but I loved being outside by the water. I liked to feed the seagulls the little clams.” There were also outings to the mall, the Berlin Farmers’ Market and to Cannoli Express, where Eugene would make his own cannoli.
Before moving into the IRP group home, Eugene had been a patient at Ancora Psychiatric Hospital. “This was a good place to be after a bad situation,” he said. “Everyone here treated me like a person.”
FOR INFORMATION on Catholic Charities’ Intensive Residential Program, contact the Program Supervisor Raqia Crawley at (609) 561–7670 or email [email protected].
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