LITTLE EGG HARBOR – A transitional living facility where unhoused people could spend up to a year while learning skills to get them back on their feet is one step closer to reality.
The property for the facility was donated to nonprofit organization Just Believe from the Leary family in Little Egg Harbor.
The program will be able to house six to eight men for up to a year following New Jersey Department of Community Affairs guidelines. Volunteer life coaches and interns from Ocean County College, Social Work Program and Journey Health and Wellness will help them, said Paul Hulse, CEO of Just Believe. A case plan will be given for each individual which will be re-evaluated every 30 days.
They will be taught life skills, and they will be helped in finding employment. Some might have volunteer or employment opportunities at the Just Believe Boutique. Hulse said all of them will be required to find employment within 60 days of their first day with them.
Random drug testing will be used and residents will be required to detox or be removed from the program. Other off-limits behavior includes fighting or bringing home intimate partners.
The guests will help with chores, maintenance, and other things around the house. Businesses and members of the public can help sponsor people that enter the program.
The facility will be named after Hulse’s childhood friend Larry Robertiello. He served two tours in Kuwait and Baghdad during Operation Iraqi Freedom. He served from October of 2001 to July of 2004, reaching the rank of Specialist in the Army and receiving four medals. He worked as a plumber in his civilian life.
“While he was in Kuwait and Baghdad, Larry would call me once or twice a week on a satellite phone to talk about home,” Hulse said. “He was traumatized from his time serving during the Iraq war and suffered from PTSD. In struggling with PTSD, Larry also battled addiction and it ultimately took his life on April 9, 2022.
“Larry is survived by his 10-year-old son. He received treatment for his addiction from the (Veterans Administration) but struggled with the aftercare. If he had access to a facility such as our new transitional home, he may have lived to see his son grow up. That is why Larry was the inspiration for Just Believe Inc. building Larry’s Home to help veterans and at-risk individuals in honor of him and his service,” he said.
As a result, veterans will be getting priority placement in Larry’s Home.
Ocean County is currently the only county in New Jersey without an official shelter, leaving homeless to be collected by religious and other welfare groups. At one point, Atlantic City sued Ocean County because they were taking care of Ocean’s homeless.
The Commissioners who run the county said that they aren’t opposed to the idea, but they don’t want to be running the daily operations.
A few years ago, Just Believe Inc. started running an overnight shelter for extremely cold nights. Volunteers and staff who worked with the homeless population have said that they need consistency. Having one place where they can get services and referrals makes all the difference.