Homeless Providers Seeing Crisis With the Lack of Shelter Beds

What:  Third Annual Homeless Sabbath Weekend in Union County 

When: Sunday, Dec. 14-16, 2018

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Where:  Faith Communities Across Union County

Who will be participating:  Congregants across Union County

During the weekend of December 14-16, 2018, multi-faith congregations in Union County, New Jersey will participate in the Third Annual Homeless Sabbath Weekend.  This weekend is a “call to action” for multi-faith communities. The weekend offers congregations the opportunity to show faith in action by bringing attention to their neighbors experiencing homelessness.  

During Homeless Sabbath Weekend, congregations will collectively pray for all people experiencing homelessness and for the commitment to end homelessness in our community. Participation means sharing a prepared prayer or reading as part of a service, holding a drive for hats, mittens and scarves or other necessities, performing a short play or incorporating the theme of homelessness into a holiday display or live scene. Registered congregations will receive materials to help make their participation as simple as possible during this busy holiday season.

Community Access Unlimited, Elizabeth Coalition to House the Homeless, Family Promise of Union County, Gateway Family YMCA, HomeFirst, Iris House, the Urban League of Union County and Monarch Housing are organizing this year’s Homeless Sabbath Weekend on behalf of all people who are homeless in Union County.  Last year, almost twenty-five congregations from across Union County participated in last year’s Sabbath and the goal this year is to increase participation to fifty congregations.

On the night of Jan. 23, 2018, 459 people, including 41 people without shelter, experienced homelessness in Union County, according to NJ Counts 2018, the Point-In-Time count. The Homeless Sabbath Weekend organizers believe that no one should be homeless for the holidays or at any time of the year.

“The housing crisis is a humanitarian issue that we cannot ignore,” said Geleen Donovan, Executive Director, Family Promise of Union County. “Those of us providing homeless shelter and services witness the onslaught of desperation in numbers that are rising on a daily basis.”

The lack of affordable housing in Union County has precipitated a crisis causing working families to become homeless.  Due to cuts in state funding, shelter beds are being lost across the state and specifically in Union County.

The loss of the Plainfield YMCA shelter and the closure of Salvation Army shelter beds in Perth Amboy and some shelter beds in Elizabeth forces families and individuals experiencing homelessness to live in their cars, in storage units and in abandoned buildings. These individuals and families are being abandoned and forced to live in places that we would all consider uninhabitable. 

The Homeless Sabbath Weekend event aligns with “Homeless Persons’ Memorial Day Vigil,” hosted this year by St. Mark’s Episcopal Church, 1430 Park Avenue in Plainfield, NJ on December 20, 2018 at 7 p.m. The Vigil will take place the night before Dec. 21 is the longest night of the year and is a time to remember all people experiencing homelessness who died in the past year due to their lack of shelter or care.  

“More often or not, most of us have the opportunity to say good-bye to friends and family on or after our passing and have closure,” said Pastor Angelo Wildgoose of St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in Plainfield. “The annual Homeless Vigil offers the opportunity to remember those who pass on the streets. St. Mark’s Parish embraces the opportunity to have a hand in helping God’s children in any way we can.”

Click here to register your congregation for the Union County Homeless Sabbath Weekend and learn more about the Homeless Vigil.

You can follow the Homeless Sabbath on twitter and facebook at #HomelessSabbathNJ.