Seth and Stephanie Kaper-Dale, co-pastors of the Reformed Church of Highland Park, led congregational support for a church family who became a foster parents . Awareness was heightened in the community regarding foster care and the hardships faced by youth “aging out” by hosting a NJ-conference featuring youth speakers.
Pastor Seth formed a steering committee to explore the possibility of creating affordable housing for such youth atop the church’s administrative building.
The RCHP Affordable Housing Corporation received 501c3 status in May 2006 and the first Board of Trustees formed. As a Community Housing Development Corporation under federal law, at least 1/3 of the board consists of representatives of the low income community we serve.
RCHP-AHC opens Irayna Court, a $2.3 million addition to the church building that is now home to six young women who have aged out of the foster care system. Since its inception, members of the congregation have reached out to provide compassionate care and neighborly concern for the young women.
A single-family home adjacent to the church was put up for sale and RCHP-AHC requested funding from HMFA and Middlesex County HOME to purchase and renovate the property to create permanent housing for a homeless single parent with children. A rental subsidy was obtained, supportive services were secured, and in July 2008 a homeless mother and her children who had been living in a transitional housing program moved in. The congregation \ reached out to their new neighbor, engaging the mother and her children in community activities.
SEPTEMBER 2009 – JUNE 2010
SHIIMTI APARTMENTS: Reaching out to Newark’s youth
In September 2009, because of our experience providing quality supportive housing for homeless individuals with special needs, the Corporation for Supportive Housing requested that RCHP-AHC become the developer of 10 units of supportive housing for justice-involved youth in Newark. Essex County had already set aside 10 Shelter + Care vouchers, which link rental assistance to supportive services for very low income, hard-to-serve homeless people with disabilities (e.g. people with serious mental illness or chronic substance abuse).
In June 2010 RCHP-AHC purchased 2 two-family houses in Newark, comprised of two 3-bedroom apartments each. This project, called Shiimti Apartments (“shiimti” is Sumerian for “house where the wind of life is breathed in”) now houses ten formerly homeless youth age 18-21, together with mentors who serve as role models and help provide community linkage for the tenants. The Mental Health Association of Essex County provides case management and referral services. In addition, RCHP-AHC is working with local faith-based organizations including Masjid (Mosque) Waarith ud Deen, providing a critical component.
RCHP-AHC is committed to our tradition of providing housing for low- and very-low income people. By partnering with local and faith-based groups, we not only provide four walls around a person, but also a warm and welcoming community to embrace them.
RCHP-AHC secured $2.9 million in funding from NJHMFA and Middlesex County HOME to purchase and renovate a vacant church, located two blocks from RCHP, in order to create eleven units of supportive housing for homeless veterans. An agreement was entered into with University Behavior Health Care/University of Medicine and Dentistry of NJ (UBHC/UMDNJ) to provide supportive services to the tenants. Working in close partnership with the Veterans Administration/ Lyons Hospital and UBHC/UMDNJ, ten single veterans and one single mother and child were selected and moved into the All Saints Apartment complex in January 2011. Members of the congregation, local schools, and the community at large have reached out to welcome their new neighbors to the community and to help them feel a sense of belonging.