Monmouth housing program gives families stability

You’ve probably heard it before – someone joking that things have gotten so bad that they’ll have to live out of their car or under a bridge.

For Stephanie (pictured, right), that joke was never funny.

Not long ago, the New Jersey native was living in Florida, struggling to extricate herself and her four children from her abusive husband.

Last December, she and her kids returned to New Jersey, bouncing between friends’ and relatives’ homes until she discovered Linkages, Catholic Charities’ emergency transitional housing program for families, in August.

Help when it was needed most

Without Linkages, Stephanie said, moving her family onto the street was a distinct, terrifying possibility.

“Where do you go, when there’s nowhere to go?” she said. “If we weren’t here, where would we be?”

Linkages houses 28 homeless families in the old London Motel in Tinton Falls, where beach-bound tourists used to vacation. Monmouth County bought the five-acre site about 30 years ago, and Catholic Charities has operated the Linkages program since 2011.

All referrals come from the Monmouth County Board of Social Services. The program quickly focuses on a housing stabilization plan and employment options through intensive case management. Once employed, families can apply for Rapid Rehousing vouchers through Monmouth County.

As one of just a few transitional housing programs statewide, Linkages is special in that it offers families experiencing housing crisis apartment-like living quarters, with a kitchen and separate bedrooms in every unit and laundry facilities, a playground, a community room, and 24/7 staff on site.

A homey setting

“It provides a home-like atmosphere for families, where they’re able to really feel comfortable, and intensive case management to secure permanent housing,” said Stacey DePoe, Linkages’ director. “They don’t get that atmosphere or support in a one-room motel.”

The need for such a program is so great that Linkages has a waiting list.

Stephanie said it was a rough adjustment, initially, for her family.

“It was hard to accept the fact that I had nowhere to go,” she said. “Even being here with a roof over your head, you’re still homeless. You feel like you have failed your children in a lot of ways.”

A brighter future ahead

But Linkages gave her the stability and support she needed to turn their fortunes around.

She now works in a convenience store and is working to reinstate her New Jersey nursing license so she can eventually bring home bigger paychecks. She recently found a home to rent and retrieved the family’s belongings from storage and moved there with her children.

“It’s alleviated some of our stress and put stability and consistency in my children’s lives,” Stephanie said of her time at Linkages. “I feel like the future looks better. I needed help to get there. Without the help we received at Catholic Charities, we wouldn’t have a chance.”

For more information, contact Stacey DePoe, program director, at (732) 922-0400, or Dana DiFilippo, communications, at (609) 394-5181, ext. 1153.

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