Edison, NJ -  Mission First Housing Group, along with representatives from Middlesex County and the nonprofit Coming Home Middlesex County, celebrated the re-opening of forty-six apartments for homeless individuals and families at Imani Park and Amandla Crossing in Edison on Thursday.

In 2015, the Mission First Housing Group formed a strategic alliance with Making it Possible to End Homelessness (MIPH) to further its mission of ending homelessness in Central New Jersey.

“We were invited to come in and recover the assets and reposition the assets to serve other challenged members of the community. Over the 6 years, we were successful to do it. That’s why we are re-opening these houses as permanent housing for formerly homeless individuals in  Middlesex County,” said Alfredo de la Pena, CEO of Mission First Housing Group.

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According to Mission First, it recapitalized and made necessary property upgrades to MIPH’s transitional housing properties, Amandla Crossing and Imani Park, to ensure long-term viability. Mission First converted Amandla Crossing and Imani Park to permanent supportive housing for homeless individuals and families in Middlesex County.

 “Our task was to take these two properties and convert them from a transitional type of project to a permanent supportive type of project,” said Melissa Mascolo, Director of Program Management for the Mission First Housing Group. “Essentially it’s chronically homeless individuals and families that we serve here. So people that have great difficulty in accessing housing but then also people that have great difficulty in retaining housing. So this is why this permanent supportive model works better,” she said.  

According to Mission First, Amandla Crossing and Imani Park provide forty-six safe, affordable and permanent housing apartments combined with on-site support services where residents can access the resources they need to increase health, independence and housing stability.

Tammy Winky, one of the speakers at Thursday’s event, shared her story.

“Since coming to this program, I have made new friends and have started to become involved with different communities and programs. My income has increased through social security, and my son, a recent graduate of Middlesex County Votech School, maintained excellent grades and has won awards,” said Ms. Winky who said that she became homeless in 2016.  “I feel we have grown immensely since we have been here, and I am proud to call this my home,” she said.

The newly renovated Amandla Crossing opened in the fall of 2017 and Imani Park re-opening in the fall of 2018.  Both properties are managed by Columbus Property Management, a member of Mission First Housing Group.   

“It was important for us to have key partners at this event. It took time to schedule the event so everyone could be present to celebrate. We also wanted an opportunity to have residents move in and provide perspective on the new program,” said Becky Lang Staffieri from Mission First.

“We worked the State of New Jersey, Department of Community Affairs, New Jersey HMFA, we worked very closely with Middlesex County who’s here today, we worked with other partners including Volunteers of America to basically put together a group here, sort of a partnership to serve forming homeless households,” said Mark Deitcher, Senior Vice President for Mission First.

Kenja Jackson, who has been living at Imani Park since December 2018, discussed the impact of the housing facility on her own life.  “Prior to moving to Imani I had been homeless for 8 years. As a single parent, I was struggling to maintain rent. Throughout the 8 years we stayed at different locations such as the Ozanam family shelter, hotels, and with friends. Since entering the program, I feel like I have improved a lot,”  she said. “I’m glad I’m where I am at today. I feel like I’ve grown a lot, I ‘ve been through a lot of stuff.”