The Isaiah House is Full of Love and Art
I first learned about the Isaish House from Viktorija Bowers Adams, who was the makeup artist for our Elliott Sailors Cover feature. She told me of this beautiful homeless shelter that her and her husband helped paint murals all over! As a person who has volunteered in a few different homeless shelters across New York City, I thought, what a wonderful idea! All the shelters I have been in are dreary and a bit depressing, how exciting would it be if they were colorful! If the people were happy to come home to them, and inspired by the walls and community. I just had to reach out and learn more. Please read our exclusive interview with the Isaiah House here!
Foreword by Kira Bucca, Editor in Chief of Jejune Magazine.
When did the Isaiah House open?
Isaiah House was incorporated in 1986 but officially opened its doors in 1988.
It looks like the Isaiah House has many focuses, what do you feel is it’s main focus?
Our main focus is combating homelessness and hunger. Via our shelter and food pantry, we provide stable and safe housing to individuals and families 365 days a year and feed hundreds of people 3 meals per day, 7 days per week.
Can you please tell us about the Brothers with Brothers Program? What age range do you focus on?Brothers with Brothers is a residential program for adolescent males who are under the care and supervision of the Department of Children and Families/New Jersey Division of Youth and Family Services. Our mission is to provide a structure and safe environment for our youth so that they may grow and develop into responsible adults. Our goals are to provide opportunities for academic success; to provide positive reinforcement; to encourage cultural competence; to promote the development of self-esteem and encouragement to attain positive personal goals.
The program is designed to serve male’s aged 14-18 who have been abandoned and those who have difficulty being placed in foster care. The youth we serve are considered at risk because of their background of abuse, abandonment and neglect from family as well as institutions. Based on the residents experiences BWB Program must deal with many issues such as, low-self-esteem, depression, resentment, loss, anxiety, substance abuse, conduct disorder, gang activity and violence.
Why did you decide to focus on young men for this?
Well the actual focus was on all youth and we used to have the sister program, Teen MAP up until 2016 when we could no longer afford to operate the program. That program was housed in another building and the overhead was more than we could manage so we had to shut it down unfortunately. It was for pregnant and non-pregnant teen girls ages 14-19 as well. We did receive new funding in 2017 for a Basic Center Program that we call the YES! Program (Youth Empowered to Succeed). We can take homeless and runaway youth between 12-17 in this program so we have been able to reincorporate girls again fortunately.
What made you decide to set up a HIV/AIDs Residential Program? Can you tell us a little bit about it?
This program was in place for many years prior to me coming to Isaiah House in 2004. It was in response to the growing epidemic of HIV/AIDS in the African American community and the impact the disease had on the dissolution of the black family. Our goal was and is to provide support to women experiencing the illness with no place else to turn. We provide a supportive, communal environment that encourages medication adherence, proper nutrition and stability.
Jejune finds your Community Creche program very important and touching. Can you please tell us a bit about it and what made the Isaiah House decide to start this program?
Once again, this program has been in existence for over twenty years and was in response to the need at that time. Community Creche is a residential program for infants and toddlers who are under the supervision of the New Jersey Division of Child Protection and Permanency (DCP&P) and their mothers. Our mission is to reduce the length of hospital stays for "boarder babies" and to provide parenting skills and life skills instruction and supervision to the mothers. The mothers are considered to be at high risk for neglectful behavior due to a lack of family/community support and/or due to prior substance/alcohol abuse. The program has a capacity of 8 mothers (over the age of 18 years of age) and 8 children. The women referred to the Community Creche program have a variety of needs not directly addressed by our residential program: financial, health, educational, vocational, therapeutic, and ongoing substance abuse monitoring. As a residential program, we address socialization and organizational skills needs on a daily basis via staff insistence on establishing and maintaining routines, direct instruction, and staff modeling. Our program capitalizes on the mothers' motivation to gain legal custody of their children by defining all their work with us as leading to an improved life for their children., a goal which they readily subscribe. Although their stay can be short-term (less than a year), we provide close supervision of their parenting abilities, allowing little free time once the children are released from day care. The mothers are immersed in bonding experiences with their children with staff available to observe, advise, correct, and reassure in a small intimate setting.
How many infants do you care for at a time? Do you have nurses on staff?
The Community Creche program maxes at 8, however we have multiple programs within our facility including a family unit that at times has babies as well. We do have a full time nurse on staff.
How do you know the right time to move mothers and their infants from the hospital and into Isaiah House?
Clients are referred to the Community Creche program via their DCP&P worker. DCP&P worker's will contact our program to see if they are any vacancies in the program. If there is a vacancy, a referral form along with a copy of the program brochure is faxed to the DCP&P worker. Once the referral form is received, the program director will contact the worker and an interview will be scheduled with both the DCP&P worker and the client. A decision is made usually within 24 hours of the interview. Once the client is accepted, a date is scheduled for the client's arrival. The only immediate denial into the Community Creche program is if a client is NOT 18 years of age.
Can you please tell us a bit about how your Emergency Shelter works?
Some of the groups served by the emergency shelter include abused children, handicapped people, illiterate persons, battered spouses, and of course, low/moderate income families. Many of them demonstrate low self-esteem, guilt, neediness, passivity, depression, poor organizational skills, wavering motivation, and residual adolescent rebellion against structure and authority. They often come from economically disadvantaged backgrounds and their schooling and medical needs may have only sporadically been attended to by their guardians. They have at times been exposed to substance/alcohol abuse within their immediate families and have experienced many losses in their families through untimely deaths and abandoment. As a residential program, we address socialization and organizational skills needs on a daily basis via staff insistence on establishing and maintaining routines, direct instruction, and staff modeling. Our program capitalizes on the families motivation to move out and live on their own independently, a goal which they often subscribe. Isaiah House's priority is providing shelter to the homeless and providing support services that prepare them for stabilized living. While we do not guarantee placement into permanent housing, we maintain linkage agreements with affordable housing properties. We have managed to construct a solid network of social service support and confident in our ability to utilize such a network to the benefit of those seeking guidance. Isaiah House prides itself on being a trusted and well respected service provider.
How long can your residents stay?
Length of stay varies per individual/family. No two situations are identical and each program has it’s own set of requirements. We’ve had clients stay as long as 4 years, but this is not the norm.
How do you help your residents get back on their feet?
Isaiah House works diligently to ensure that the family unit remains in tack. Our unique approach is based on a firm belief that individual progress and development is enhanced and augmented by the assistance of loved ones. We strive to help our clients establish an intricate network of social service support in order to empower the individual through a feeling of independence and self-sufficiency, in addition to minimizing the probability of a return to a lifestyle that may be detrimental to then or their children. The various programs that we offer are bolstered by the successful outreach efforts and hierarchical construct designed to meet the needs of a diverse clientele. Regardless of the particular problem, Isaiah House staff understands that once shelter and food are secured, a client is far more receptive to potential change in their outlook, attitude, and behavior.
The families referred to the family shelter have a variety of needs not directly addressed by our residential program: financial, health, educational, vocational, therapeutic, and ongoing substance abuse monitoring. It is our responsibility to ensure that linkages are made to a network of community providers and to maintain communication with, and require attendance and progress reports from those service providers. In this role, we see ourselves as the coordinator of such services for the residents while we teach them to organize services themselves. Our programs objectives are to enhance the growth and development of each client by providing a structured safe and healthy environment, nurturing, skill building which would lead them to become self-sufficient, self-knowledgeable and self-competent. As aforementioned, while we do not guarantee placement into permanent housing, we maintain linkage agreements with affordable housing properties.
Can you please tell Jejune a bit about why you decide to get artists involved in the Isaiah House?
Art is happiness. It inspires joy, conversation, laughter, and overall good feelings regardless of what type of art it is. For our clients it is often therapeutic and creates an environment that is special and inspirational.
Who were the artists you had involved?
We have had many artists involved, but our top two that have given so much of themselves and their artistic talents are the married duo extraordinaire Michael and Viktorija Adams. They have painted murals, designed rooms, created videos and taken photographs all to the benefit of Isaiah House. They are family to us and we have gained so much from what they have offered to us. And they have NEVER considered charging us a penny for their magnificent talents!
How do you feel the Isaiah House has changed after having artists give it their loving touch?
It’s brighter, more beautiful, happier and prideful. Art is love.
How do the residents respond to the art?
Believe it or not, the clients really want to take care of the artistic things because they can appreciate their value. They always ask to participate in artistic activities so we bring them here. We’ve had jewelry making, paint nights and make up lessons. They love it!
Do you find that the art is healing?
Very much so. As I said, art is love. It’s open to interpretation so whatever meaning it has to the individual is just they need from that art.
Please let me know how our readers can get involved/donate.
There are several ways to get involved with Isaiah House and we have them all listed on our website under “Get Involved.” Opportunities range from volunteering to sponsoring a pizza night.
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