We have heard this story time and again: Joseph and Mary traveled to Bethlehem, and when Jesus was born, he was wrapped in swaddling clothes and laid in a feeding trough because there was no room at the inn. In sum, Jesus was born homeless.
During this Advent season, as preparations are made for Christmas and the celebration of Jesus’ birth, we are reminded that there’s no place like home for the holidays. But for many, the physical house is a challenge.
22% of New Jersey households face eviction.
Economically speaking, homeownership provides opportunities for intergenerational stability. Although not necessarily an indication of significant wealth, owning a home improves a family’s economic status over time.
Whether a home is owned or rented, everyone deserves a safe, clean place to live.
In New Jersey, there is not enough housing to go around and the problem is even greater for middle and lower income families. This makes the community support provided by housing ministries in the Diocese of New Jersey crucial.
We hear echoes of the Biblical story in the story of Joanna and Dave, a couple helped by Trinity Asbury Park’s Radical Wellbeing Program (RWbP). They were referred to the program by a community partner organization. At the time of their first meeting with the program, Joanna, an immigrant to this country, and her husband, Dave, were both unemployed with no income and living in Dave’s parents’ basement. Once the social worker made a goal-oriented, collaborative plan with both of them, the couple was empowered to start their journeys towards mental well-being and financial stability, knowing that they had the RWbP to support them when they had concerns or questions.
A few weeks went by, and significant progress was made. Dave found a job that met the RMbP’s sliding scale income criteria, and housing resources were extended to them. After a few months of meetings, coaching calls, emails, and actively looking for housing, Joanna and Dave found an affordable apartment in Matawan. Their caseworker spoke with the landlord and wrote a promissory letter confirming Joanna and Dave were in Social Justice at Trinity’s housing program and the program would be paying for the security deposit and first month’s rent, using funds from their Episcopal Community Services of New Jersey (ECS-NJ) Fall 2021 grant.
This is the first time either one of them had rented their own apartment, and it will allow Joanna and Dave to build credit and have autonomy from their parents. But probably most importantly, these new living arrangements are much better suited to Joanna’s recovery from mental health and substance use disorders. During the caseworker’s most recent call with Joanna, the RWbP learned Dave had gotten a promotion at work and Joanna was offered a part-time job as a dog groomer, a career she is passionate about and the focus of many of her coaching calls.
Joseph and Mary traveled alone to Bethlehem. Because we have put our vow to seek and serve Christ in all persons into action, Joanna and Dave are not travelling alone in their journey towards housing security, financial stability, and overall wellbeing.
Photo courtesy of Infrogmation of New Orleans, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons