Housewarming for Camden’s homeless

Joseph’s House holds ribbon cutting ceremony

CAMDEN – “Today, I feel a little more alive. Just being here, makes me feel like we’re participating in life.”
These were the words of rock legend Jon Bon Jovi here on April 1 as he re-affirmed his commitment to help the homeless at the ribbon-cutting ceremony for Joseph’s House of Camden.
With elected officials, local representatives and fellow contributors to Joseph’s House, Bon Jovi said the day was “an example of what can happen when we put forth the power of ‘we’ to work. We believe that now we can truly make an impact, (and help) the homeless men and women who may not have a safe place to sleep tonight.”
“Today is a beautiful day in Camden.”
The rocker’s Jon Bon Jovi Soul Foundation has been a leading funder for Joseph’s House.
Located on Atlantic Avenue, the year-round, 9 p.m.-9 a.m. facility opened in late January and has served 75 homeless men and women each night, providing shelter and social support services, all toward the goal of self-sufficiency. Since its opening, almost 500 homeless have stepped through its doors.
The musician’s celebrity status put him at the center of the event, but the facility has drawn wide support.
Camden Mayor Dana L. Redd said that her administration, with the support of city council, has contributed $125,000 in city funds to Joseph’s House.
Joseph’s House has partnered with Our Lady of Lourdes, Project HOPE, Center for Family Services, Living Proof Recovery, Twin Oaks, South Jersey Legal Services, Veterans Multi-Service Center, and the Camden County Board of Social Services, in its mission to aid the homeless.
Previously, Joseph’s House served as a temporary, six-month facility at a different location, 523 Stevens Street, offering food and shelter to homeless during the winter.
It opened in 2010 because a priest and a few others were bothered by the thought of men and women spending cold winter nights on the streets of Camden.
“Without money, resources or buildings, we let our compassion guide us to action on behalf of others” Msgr. Robert T. McDermott, pastor of St. Joseph Pro-Cathedral in East Camden, wrote in an article for the Catholic Star Herald in December 2010.
“Joseph’s House is a start, a small, slow one but a start nonetheless,” he wrote at the time. “We will need your prayers and support to not only begin this ministry but to help it grow into more than just a drop-in center in the future.”
After the ribbon-cutting for the new facility, guests took a tour of the house, which includes a kitchen, serving dinner and breakfast; dining room/recreation hall; offices; rooms for medical and social services; a bathroom and shower; laundry room; and 75 cots.
One of the shelter’s frequent guests, “Jamaica,” spoke to the crowd and shared his story of losing both his legs after being hit by a train in New York, and now being unemployed on the streets of Camden.
“Homelessness does not choose color, race, creed or gender,” he said.
Msgr. McDermott, board chairman of the Joseph Fund, said that the shelter is “more than a place to stay on a night-by-night basis.”
“Through help from our community partners, we connect individuals with the services they need to achieve independence. We’re helping each of our guests end their individual cycle of homelessness,” he said.
“Joseph’s House has a lot of space – and dignity,” said Father Michael McCue, OSFS, of the Parish of the Immaculate Conception, Camden, and a board member of Joseph’s House.

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