HOWELL – Nearly four months after the Destiny’s Bridge homeless community was booted from their encampment on township land, the group is making strides towards helping themselves by helping others.
Through a newly established program called HELP (Homeless, Empowerment, Labor, Program), Destiny’s Bridge is finding a meaningful way to contribute to the community by employing the homeless.
As of March 18, those residing on the homeless encampment at 5998 Route 9 in Howell Township were required to permanently vacate after three years residing on the township’s land.
While they were given a small financial cushion of $4,000 each by the New Jersey Coalition to End Homelessness after vacating, this sum cannot last very long nor can it sustain a consistent rent or mortgage payment.
According to Minister Steve Brigham of Destiny’s Bridge, two of the former camp residents “still have indoor housing, and the others are in one form, or fashion homeless again. They have either joined another homeless encampment in the area, or sleeping in a vehicle.”
HELP is one way that these individuals can create a bit of financial stability for themselves to get back on their feet.
The idea is that members of the community can reach out to HELP for simple services they need done such as moving jobs, towing, lawn maintenance, etc. and these services will be provided and performed by homeless in need of work.
Brigham told Jersey Shore Online that the idea stemmed from a conversation with an old friend and former resident of the Lakewood Tent City. Brigham had the idea and his friend had the acronym: H.E.L.P.
The project began as a way of incorporating the homeless into the mailbox design business, crafting unique and individualized mailboxes upon request. This later became a business called First Impression Mailbox Design and Installation, where the homeless assemble craft mailboxes, and help install them.
“I realized there is so much you can do to make a mailbox and post that will reflect the personality of the homeowner. It can be stately, or funny, or tell about one’s interest or likes,” said Brigham.
This idea evolved into HELP, and has been expanded to incorporate other fields that the local homeless have talents in, said Brigham.
“One homeless person is an experienced tree worker. He is highly skilled, but ended up in Tent City when he lost his truck, and couldn’t get to work. Another homeless person has a degree in computer programming, and is helping to build our website,” Brigham added.
They have equipment on hand to do tree work, basic lawn maintenance, and they can perform small to medium size moving jobs.
“We also have a vehicle where we can tow almost anything,” he added. The vehicles HELP uses, Chevy Silverado and a mini bus, have been donated over time.
If you or someone you know have a job that needs to be done around the house or at a business, HELP can be reached for a helping hand at 732-364-0340. Offering reasonable prices, Brigham noted that all proceeds will go towards helping the homeless move forward.
You can also call First Impression Mailbox Design and Installation for a unique and individualized mailbox catered to you. And for a limited time for those who purchase and install a mailbox will be given “a complimentary free DVD of the award-winning documentary Destiny’s Bridge, which documents the life, and struggles of the homeless in Tent City,” added Brigham.
“So please think of H.E.L.P. the next time you need something done around the house, or business. At the same time you will be helping someone that needs a helping hand,” he said. “Please give me a call at 732-364-0340 to discuss the details of any job you need done.”
In the interest of running HELP as smoothly as possible, Brigham has since had to put a hold on an outreach program that he has been putting on at Lakewood Town Square for nearly two decades for lack of space.
For those who may not need a service done but still wish to help, the program is in need of a table saw for the mailbox business, and an enclosed utility trailer for other job related activities.