IHN of Somerset County Will Mark 20 Years of Service
November of 1992 introduced a new non-profit agency to Somerset County whose focus was assisting the increasing population of homeless residents. Interfaith Hospitality Network of Somerset County was the result of a dedicated group of clergy and residents who recognized the need for a community interfaith response to homelessness. The agency offered emergency shelter with support services through a network of nondenominational houses of worship and a Director who coordinated host and support volunteers. Houses of worship literally hosted clients at their facilities and the term “guest” referred to the clients. Based on a national model that initiated in Union County, NJ under the direction of Karen Olsen, the emergency shelter stressed human dignity of the clients and offered an extended family of caring supporters. As we celebrate our 20th anniversary this Fall, Interfaith Hospitality Network of Somerset County continues with the same target population, host and support congregations that provide the actual shelter, an emphasis on human dignity and empowerment of the clients and an extensive network of volunteers who are a “community response to homelessness”.
As the homeless population increased and the challenge of independence loomed larger, it became apparent that it was not enough to offer only immediate shelter and basic needs. With a renewed commitment to providing a permanent solution to homelessness, the first steps were taken to offer additional services to our clients. In Sept., 2003 North Branch Reformed Church committed to letting our agency use a house on their property as our transitional living facility. “Sunrise House” continues to offer agency-subsidized housing to clients who are ready to discharge from our emergency shelter but not able to move to their own permanent affordable housing. It became apparent that previously homeless families were at extremely high risk for relapse without case management, financial counseling and practical supports. This spawned the Phase 2 Transitional Support Program in 2004. In 2006, we successfully applied to the State for vouchers of Section 8 rental assistance attached to identified apartments that would be utilized by families discharging from our shelter. Named Phase 3 Permanent Supportive Housing, we offer 2 units in North Plainfield that have permitted clients to move from the Emergency Shelter Program. Our final addition to services was in 2008 when we were able to secure funds to provide our own direct mental health services. “Sound Minds” added a mental health professional to our staff. Rennie Rothpletz, LCSW, LMFT came to us from a career in Family Intervention, experienced in working with juvenile and adult clients. She continues on staff today, providing flexible counseling and crisis intervention that meets the special needs and schedules of our clients. As we celebrate our anniversary, IHN of Somerset County is providing a truly permanent solution to homelessness through a complete continuum of care.
Watch our website with information pertaining to our celebration of 20 years in service.