RED BANK – When you’re in the business of saving lives, your work is never done.
Such is the case for the Red Bank-headquartered 501(c)3 nonprofit organization HABcore, which in 2018 is celebrating 30 years of providing stability, dignity and hope for homeless residents of Monmouth and Ocean counties.
For three decades, HABcore has helped countless families and individuals acquire and maintain stable, safe and structured living environments.
These settings offer residents an opportunity to take advantage of helpful and educational community resources that further develop their occupational skill sets, as well as increase their earning potential.
With a more solid and stable foundation to build upon, HABcore then helps facilitate a more perma- nent and independent living situation.
It’s a process that has proven successful year after year and though Steve Heisman, HABcore president, is pleased his organization can positively impact the lives of so many, 30 years is still a sobering benchmark indicating the issue of homelessness is alive and well with no end in sight.
“There’s been a lot of growth, which on one hand is great because we’re able to reach and help more people,” Heisman said. “But on the other hand it’s not so great because there are still so many people who are still in need.”
“I can speak for my family when I say that the organization’s growth over 30 years is incredible,” said Liz Mancuso a HABcore Legacy Trustee, whose mother Margaret and father Gerard helped purchase HABcore’s first home in 1988, and served on the group’s board of trustees. But she points out that homelessness is still a problem. “It’s unsettling that year after year there’s more work to be done, instead of less.”
HABcore’s immense growth since 1988 speaks to the prevalent issue of homelessness in Monmouth and Ocean counties, as an organization that began with just five residents is now supporting approximately 300. In 1988 Lunch Break supported the nascent effort with a grant and loan, and in September of that year, HABcore, Inc. was incorporated. The “HAB” in HABcore was derived from the first initials of the last names of three homeless men who died in the streets of Red Bank during the 1980s.
The group currently operates two boarding homes, one located in Red Bank and the other in Asbury Park, which house 51 residents and many other “graduates,” or independent but supportive apartment dwellings.
HABcore’s Independent Living Program has several components, including organization-owned prop- erties in Red Bank, Keansburg, Eatontown and Beachwood – which house 39 residents – and several other properties spread throughout Monmouth and Ocean counties that have been leased through New Jersey’s Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).
Those properties are leased from HUD house nearly 150 residents from the Bayshore area to Spring Lake Heights.
These programs and the need for assistance have forced HABcore to double in size in just the last four years.
“This need for rapid growth is why we’re trying to help as many different populations as possible,” Heisman said. “We’re hopeful at some point that homelessness is not going to be such a prevailing issue.”
“We’re hopeful that there’s going to be enough initiatives, education and models in place to help people move out of homelessness and into something that’s more permanent and affordable for them. But it’s not likely our work will be done anytime soon.”
HABcore is known for its work with individuals and families that have fallen on hard times and is cur- rently providing support to 52 families, including 86 children.
However, Heisman credits the accelerated expansion to the increase of special needs and military veterans communities.
“It runs the gamut of what the special needs are. There are certainly people with cognitive and developmental disabilities that come to us, but we also serve people with mental health issues, sub- stance abuse issues, physical disabilities, all three of which can be a result of somebody going to war to serve our country.”
According to the group, the average length of stay for residents in one of their facilities is about 6.5 years, though 96 percent of residents maintain or increase their total income as they work toward independence.
“Each new year you hope you’ll be able to make such an impact that homelessness in the area will level off, but instead we keep adding more and more people each year,” said Tom Mancuso, who serves on the HABcore Advisor y Board. “I am proud of this anniversary and what the organization has been able to do over 30 years, but it’s a mission that doesn’t seem to be close to finished.”
HABcore boarding homes receive no government funding, as the organization relies on support from individuals, corporations and foundations. They will hold a Jazz by the River event June 8 at the Channel Club in Monmouth Beach and the 30th Anniversary Gala Oct. 5 at Navesink Country Club in Middletown. For more information visit habcore.org.
This article was first published in the May 31-June 7, 2018 print edition of The Two River Times.
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