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REPOST: FROM ASBURY PARK SUN ...Members of the New York Giants will be on hand Nov 14 for the dedication of Rights of Passage II, a collaborative homeless prevention program between Interfaith Neighbors of Asbury Park (IFN) and Covenant House NJ (CHNJ), the latter has confirmed.

It is star running back Saquon Barkley who helped rally his team’s support for Covenant House by not only choosing CHNJ as his charity of choice but by hosting three program participants at every home game.

“Over the last year, Saquon has taken a special interest in CHNJ and been a terrific supporter of ours,” Executive Director Jim White said. For the last two years, he has provided us with tickets and an on-field experience for 3 youth and a staff member.  Earlier this year, he hosted a bowling/dinner party for roughly 40 of our youth.”

Thursday’s dedication comes one year after Rights of Passage I, a mirrored transitional home for young men on Prospect Avenue in the city’s southwest neighborhood, opened its doors.

“The Rights of Passage homes are special places, intended to ease the transition from homelessness to independence for Asbury Park youth,” Interfaith Neighbors Executive Director Paul McEvily said. “They exist today courtesy of the support of many but most especially because of the compassion and decades-long commitment of Meg Flores to those less fortunate among us.”

CHNJ began working with Asbury Park’s homeless youth population in 2012, often through collaboration with Flores, IFN’s youth program specialist. The 28-year employee also serves as operations manager at Kula Café, roles that helped her identify a need to address youth homelessness in a more direct manner.

“Their safety is always a concern because of where they are, who they hang with, but also because of what their next step could be,” Flores said. “As a community, we need to believe in the youth. They have a great spirit and we need to trust them so they can trust us.”

Rights of Passage II will open its doors to five young women; just in time for the Thanksgiving holiday, IFN Director of Real Estate Development Patrick Durkin said.

“This is a transitional living home for young women in the community who have been experiencing unstable housing conditions,” Durkin said of the new home. “The whole idea is to take young people who have been
struggling with their housing situation and give them the tools to be able to move on and live independently in a successful manner.”

Administered by CHNJ, Rights of Passage is an 18-month long, semi-independent, life skills training program that requires its residents to return to school and/or seek stable employment.

“Asbury Park is clearly on a path of revitalization,” said White said. “How extraordinary it is that the concerned citizens and leadership of this city have included homeless youth in their plan to improve the [community].

“We are excited about the early success that our Covenant House program in Asbury Park has achieved,” he said. “Today, all of our young people are working or going to school; some are doing both. We know that if young people who experience homelessness are given a safe and supportive environment, they can move beyond homelessness and go on to live a productive life.”

Designed by Shore Point Architecture of Ocean Grove, the Rights of Passage homes are constructed by IFN and leased to CHNJ. The neighboring homes consist of five en-suite bedrooms, two sets of washer/dryer units on the second floor, a large kitchen with secured lockers for nonperishables, communal living and dining rooms, and a 24-hour Covenant House manned office.

Along with the New York Giants, program supporters include Provident Bank Foundation; Eastern Monmouth Area Chamber of Commerce; WithumSmith + Brown, PC; St. John’s Episcopal Church in Little Silver; Covenant House Asbury Park Program Board; and Bob’s Furniture, who donated furniture for the home. Support also came from members of the community, who joined the Sleep Out movement by hosting a series of overnight awareness campaigns across Monmouth County and beyond.

For Flores Rights of Passage I and Rights of Passage II are exactly what she envisioned 13 years ago.

“There’s a house and there’s a home,” she said. “A home is something that’s filled with love, and I felt the love there before it was even done.”

[This piece is by Monmouth University intern Alyssa Kelly, a senior majoring in English with minors in psychology and journalism. Kelly also works as a peer tutor at the college’s writing services lab and hopes to pursue a career as an editor.]

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