CAMDEN, NJ — Volunteers of America’s Delaware Valley (VOADV) provides resources and shelter for thousands of homeless New Jerseyans every year, operating six facilities in the state including three in Camden.
The fervor for helping the homeless, those returning from incarceration or anyone that is dealing with an addiction has only been furthered during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It's been all hands on deck. Our shelter programs are full, and we’re working to keep clients healthy by cleaning consistently and testing folks to make sure they're okay,” president and CEO of Volunteers of America Delaware Valley, Daniel Lombardo, told TAPinto Camden during an interview.
Lombardo, who has headed VOADV since 1988, says the wider availability of testing has helped shield guests from contracting the novel coronavirus but not without its own hurdles.
“The sheltering in place regulations has created a series of challenges we haven't had before,” Lombardo said. “For instance for folks that are with us...if they leave they can't take them back because we want to protect the entire population, and they may have been exposed.”
VOADV says it is working with other local organizations and government groups, such as the board of social services, to make sure everyone gets the help they need.
It has also worked to provide food for those impacted by the pandemic, including a partnership with the Food Bank of South Jersey and Camden’s Department of Public Works to distribute meals to over 100 families at an event a Pentecostal Church-Salmista last month.
The organization, founded in Philadelphia in 1896, has Camden shelters at the following locations:
Aletha R. Wright “Vision of Hope” Center - is a 69-bed low barrier, emergency housing program for single, adult men experiencing homelessness in southern New Jersey. (271 Atlantic Avenue, Camden, NJ 08104)
Anna Sample Complex - 93-bed Transitional Housing program serves single women and families in Camden County. (408-416 Line Street, Camden, NJ 08103)
Home for the Brave - a 30-bed, low demand transitional housing program for single, male veterans. Funded through the United States Department of Veterans Affairs, Home for the Brave is the only low demand housing program for veterans in New Jersey. (271 Atlantic Avenue, Camden, New Jersey 08104)
Right now, Lombardo said regular programs like helping guests find resources to treat mental health issues or connecting clients to employment resources has also been more difficult.
“When you're sheltering in place there’s very little opportunity to seek employment, it’s something we’ve been working through the best we can but of course the goal is for all to remain healthy,” he said.
In addition, for residents hoping to lend a hand the organization’s two most-valued commodities are protective masks and toilet paper.
“The little things count too,” he added. “Such as online gift cards so that once the pandemic is over people can use them to buy things they require.”
To donate to VOADV click here.
Anyone seeking help with homeless, re-entry or affordable housing services can click here.