NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ – When you’re in the depths of addiction or homelessness, finding a path out might seem difficult.
A few weeks ago, TAPinto New Brunswick published a story about a couple whose shared heroin addiction put them on the streets. The story of Chelline and Rick sparked intense online conversations and reached thousands of people.
But it also begged an important question facing people who are homeless or addicted to drugs in the city: What can be done to overcome these struggles?
TAPinto New Brunswick contacted a number of people who work in or near New Brunswick’s sprawling web of social services. While what follows isn’t an exhaustive list, it does provide a strong starting point for people who want to leave homelessness and addiction behind.
The first thing that anyone with access to a telephone can do is call 2-1-1, said Frances O’Toole, assistant director of programs for Coming Home of Middlesex County, a nonprofit fighting to end homelessness.
As the state hotline for social services, this number connects callers with professionals who can immediately kick off the intake process. They ask questions to determine which services a caller needs, ranging from job training and addiction recovery to housing and more, O’Toole said.
Then state workers direct those seeking help to the appropriate providers.
If someone in New Brunswick is seeking housing only, they’ll likely be connected with Coming Home, she said. The group assigns case managers to individuals, maps out the way forward and tracks them until they either get back on their feet or request no further contact.
“We will all work together,” O’Toole said.
New Brunswick’s government has invested more than $1.6 million in five supportive-needs housing projects in the city, spokesperson Jennifer Bradshaw said. A sixth is in the works.
What does that mean? It is possible for homeless people to find a place to live in the area.
What’s more, Women Aware and Town Clock CDC, two city-based groups, also offer special housing for survivors of domestic violence and their kids, Bradshaw said. Women Aware can be reached at 732-249-4504. The number for Town Clock CDC is 732-993-1345.
In addition to housing, the aforementioned groups offer services related to mental and physical health, education, job training and addiction, Bradshaw noted.
Perhaps the most renowned social-services provider in New Brunswick is Elijah’s Promise. The organization serves two meals per day to anyone who ventures to its soup kitchen, 18 Neilson Ave.
But feeding the hungry is just one goal of Elijah’s Promise.
Jim Zullo, executive director, said his staff also helps people connect with the myriad social-services agencies available to people going through a difficult time. Elijah’s Promise assesses guests’ backgrounds, goals and challenges to accomplish that.
“There isn’t always an answer to every problem,” Zullo said, “but we’re going to try to find it if it exists.”
Elijah’s Promise helps people obtain identification, clothes and even temporary shelter. Medical professionals are often on site to provide healthcare to guests.
Robert Mason, who heads social services for the organization, said he’s willing to meet with anyone who comes his way. For addicts, he’ll discuss their drug of choice, their history and why they want to get clean now.
If people want to seek help, Mason will do what it takes to see that it happens, he said. He’s helped guests in the past with everything from government paperwork and getting into detox to court issues.
Elijah’s Promise can be reached at 732-545-9002.
The New Brunswick Counseling Center, meanwhile, helps people with substance abuse and mental health issues. The group can be reached at 732-246-4025 and is located at 320 Suydam St.
The city also works with Catholic Charities and the Robert Wood Johnson Chandler Health Clinic to help homeless residents.
Shelters in New Brunswick include Naomi’s Way (4 Roosevelt St.; 732-565-7974) and the Ozanam Inn for men (20-22 Abeel St.; 732-729-0850).
Any number of the city's houses of worship also help the downtrodden.