MORRISTOWN NJ - “I’m homeless. I lost my job four months ago and I’ve been living with friends and family, basically couch surfing, since then. The little bit of savings I had, well it ran out. I don’t know what to do, but I can’t keep doing this,” said a caller from Morristown who recently dialed 2-1-1, a statewide information and referral service and Morris County’s Homeless Hotline.
When a person dials the Hotline, they are connecting themselves with a continuum of service providers in Morris County committed to assessing each individual situation and responding accordingly. The system is intended to minimize traditional barriers to shelter and housing services by creating a single point of entry and providing additional support to access as needed. For those on the brink of homelessness, it means connecting them with resources that could prevent them from losing their home. For those in crisis it may require diverting them to the resources and case management needed to address immediate needs. For others who are literally homeless, it involves finding appropriate shelter and providing a path that will lead them to a sustainable future.
This county-wide initiative is a collaboration among 13 agencies, sponsored and managed by the Morris County Continuum of Care, that have come together to communicate a simple message: One Door Leads Home. If you are experiencing a housing crisis, the number to call is 2-1-1. The agencies know that climbing out of homelessness is virtually impossible without a community-wide response and have coordinated their efforts and services to meet the unique needs of Morris County community members experiencing a housing crisis.
Those in need of shelter and others who are experiencing a housing crisis can make the call to 2-1-1 themselves or go to one of two drop-in centers to get connected to the appropriate housing and shelter resources in the county.
Taking the first step: Dial 2-1-1.
NJ 2-1-1 is free, open 24/7, and accessible by phone, text and online chat. Homeless Hotline Specialists will work one-on-one to assess each person or household’s unique situation and will share this information with the network partners on this confidential web-based platform. This process helps to ensure that clients are matched with the most appropriate resources when shelter space becomes available and also enables individuals and families to be prioritized for help based upon the information they have provided. NJ 2-1-1 community resource specialists will also provide callers with referrals to agencies that may be able to assist with immediate basic needs like food, clothing, transportation and medical care. “NJ 2-1-1 staff refers to a database that has over 10,000 programs and services,” explains Chief Operating Officer Janice Kaniewski. “As the Homeless Hotline for Morris County, we are also able to assess and connect people to those local resources; beginning a process that we hope will lead them home.”
Visit one of Morris County’s Drop-in Centers
If a person needs additional support or access to a phone they can go to a physical location to start the process. Two drop-in centers are available in the county. Our Promise, located at The First Baptist Church, 51 Washington Street in Morristown, is open Monday through Friday from 1pm - 5pm, and offers case management and a social work staff who will assist with the phone call to 2-1-1. Our Promise also serves as a warming and cooling center during inclement weather, provides toiletries and hygiene items, benefits eligibility screening and application assistance, computer access, charging stations, and mail service. Edna’s Haven, located at the Trinity Lutheran Church, 123 East Blackwell Street in Dover, is also open weekdays from 12:30pm - 4:30pm, and will assist with a phone call to 2-1-1. Their social work staff will help people with basic needs, supportive counseling and provide access to phones, newspapers and mail service.
The use of a coordinated entry system like this is encouraged by the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and offers distinct advantages to past approaches. Regardless of where a person is located in Morris County, they now have equal access to the help they need when they need it most. The standardized assessment tool is unbiased and ensures that individuals and households are considered for Morris County programs based on vulnerability prioritization and their unique needs. The system encourages a coordinated referral to services that begins immediately, even if a housing solution is not currently available. All assistance provided is documented throughout the process and the system is designed to keep the information that has been gathered, private and confidential. This record keeping enables professionals to accurately assess the size and demographics of those experiencing a housing crisis and monitor the success of the program in achieving its goal of establishing stable living conditions for Morris County residents. Additionally, it facilitates program flexibility in meeting the needs of community members and filling traditional gaps in service provision.
“One Door Leads Home,” Jennifer Carpinteri, Director of the Morris County Department of Human Services emphasized. She continued, “The Morris County coordinated entry process is another prime example of Morris County public and private not-for-profit agencies working together to address a critical community need in a stigma free manner. Coordinated entry introduces a fair and effective process to house individuals most in need of shelter and/or permanent housing.”