First county-based program of its kind in New Jersey includes outreach and guidance on additional resources for unhoused persons to achieve self-sufficiency.
Union County, NJ – The Union County Board of County Commissioners has launched the Fresh Start mobile program, providing shower, laundry and restroom facilities to persons who are unhoused, along with guidance and resources on additional services that foster self-sufficiency.
The new program is the first mobile service of its kind to be offered in New Jersey.
“Personal care is something that is easy to take for granted, but for unhoused individuals it is a major challenge that makes it difficult to find a job, seek an education, or accomplish other important tasks,” said Commissioner Board Chairman Alexander Mirabella. “With the mobile Fresh Start unit, we can bring these essential services to those most in need, including children as well as adults.”
“We are constantly looking for new and innovative ways to empower those among us who need a helping hand, and we anticipate that the Fresh Start service will make a significant difference. With the participation of our community partners, Fresh Start will enable us to reach out and connect unhoused individuals with additional resources and services,” said Union County Department of Human Services Director Debbie-Ann Anderson.
“The mobility aspect makes the Fresh Start program stand out from others, in terms of ensuring that individuals in need can connect with services offered by Union County and our partners. The program brings essential resources to individuals in their communities, relieving them from the cost and constraints of having to arrange travel to centralized locations for assistance,” said Commissioner Sergio Granados, who is the Commissioner Board’s Liaison to the Union County Human Services Advisory Council.
The Fresh Start program is part of Chairman Mirabella’s “Union County Rising” initiatives for 2021, aimed at maximizing countywide resources for response to the COVID-19 pandemic while addressing emerging needs in the areas of fiscal planning, public safety, education, economic development and opportunity, and inclusion and diversity in addition to human services.
The centerpiece of Fresh Start is a mobile trailer equipped with bathroom and shower units as well as laundry facilities. It is operated and maintained in accordance with standards for preventing the spread of COVID-19.
The Fresh Start trailer serves as a portal and contact platform for a continuum of resources leading to self-sufficiency, including emergency shelter and clothing in addition to ongoing resources including mental health, housing, and employment assistance.
The trailer can also provide essential services to Union County residents who are displaced by natural disasters and other emergencies, in addition to providing services to those in financial need.
In collaboration with community partners, Fresh Start coordinates a wide variety resources within County government including the Division of Social Services, Division on Aging, Office on Women, and Office of Veterans Services.
More than a dozen external partners have already engaged with the program including Elizabeth Coalition to House the Homeless, Salvation Army (Elizabeth, Union and Plainfield branches), Urban League, Gateway Family YMCA and YWCA Union County among others.
Chamber of Commerce partners include Gateway Regional Chamber, Suburban, Elizabeth, Union and Cranford. The Social Security Administration and the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs have also partnered with the program.
The Fresh Start trailer visits locations throughout Union County on request. Agencies and organizations that are interested in a visit can send a request via email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Additional details are available through the Union County Department of Human Services at https://ucnj.org/dhs/fresh-start.
For information and updates on all Union County services during the COVID-19 outbreak, including free vaccination, free testing, emergency food distribution and other support services, visit ucnj.org/covid19. General information about COVID-19 is available through the New Jersey Department of Health at nj.gov/health.
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