Camden, NJ—The Camden City Zoning Board approved variance requests for two charitable institutions at its meeting on Monday, June 4.
Saving Grace Ministries, a “community-focused” ministry that provides supplementary support for families with grieving children, was seeking a use variance to establish an emergency shelter for teenage mothers and their children at 309 Erie St.
According to Nyzia Easterling, founding director of Saving Grace Ministries, the home would board up to three moms and their child at a time, and provide 24-hour supervision of the young mothers. The mothers would be allowed to stay for 12 to 18 months under the supervision of a full-time paid “house mom,” and a volunteer.
Melanie Levan, the attorney representing Saving Grace Ministries, said there would be no signage on the property indicating that it was a shelter, and would “look like any other house on the block.”
“We want the girls who will grow into young women feel they are growing up in a home, and we want those children to feel like they are growing up in a home and … to feel that they are in a neighborhood that loves and supports them,” said Levan.
The zoning board approved the variance, along with a bulk variance for parking, with the condition the variance will remain with Saving Grace Ministries and not carry forward if they were to leave the property.
The zoning board also approved a use variance for LUCY Outreach, a nonprofit that offers educational, social, spiritual and service‑oriented programming to Camden youth, to operate out of the property it recently acquired at 3201 Federal St.
According to Michael Floyd, attorney representing LUCY Outreach, the nonprofit is not be making any new site improvements to the three-story residential home.
“We’re really just focusing on getting the computer labs up and going … doing some minor repairs to the roof and kitchen and simple painting projects,” said Kristin Prinn, executive director and founder.
According to its website, LUCY Outreach “was established to address the particular challenges and setbacks–teen delinquency, gang and drug recruitment and involvement, substance abuse in the home, teen pregnancy, a struggling public school system–faced by urban youth."