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Navigating Those in Need Through Tumultuous Times

VOADV’s Homeless Navigator Program Continues to Adapt and Serve

The worldwide coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak has caused unprecedented levels of damage and disruption to everyday society. The greater, lasting impact it will have on our communities and way of life is just beginning to be felt and understood. While restrictions are being lifted and some are returning to work, countless individuals have lost their jobs and homes, putting them and their families at risk of homelessness due to uncontrollable, unforeseen circumstances.

According to a recent study conducted by a Columbia University professor, homelessness in the United States could grow as much as 45% in one year post-COVID-19. This means an additional 250,000 people would be without permanent shelter within the next year, compared to the 568,000 individuals who were recorded to be experiencing homelessness in January 2019.

Although there is much economic hardship yet to come, there is also so much hope.

Volunteers of America Delaware Valley (VOADV) has been working harder than ever to provide essential support and protection for our communities, clients and staff throughout the pandemic. VOADV’s Navigator program has been especially critical to our COVID-19 response, ensuring that those who have been or are in danger of being displaced due to the virus are provided with the vital support, supportive structure and guidance needed to get them back on their feet.

With offices located at 1812 Federal Street in Camden and at the Pine Hill Police Department (48 W 6th Avenue in Pine Hill), VOADV’s Navigational Resource Centers offer a wide range of social services to those in Atlantic and Camden counties, including: medical treatment, legal assistance, educational opportunities, employment, and safe, affordable housing. Each day, Navigator’s Impact Teams are mobilized from these offices to provide targeted, streamlined outreach, engaging individuals proactively and providing them with essential services they previously did not have access to or knowledge of.

The program’s dedicated, professional staff have continued to serve individuals and families experiencing homelessness and in need of assistance since the pandemic’s inception. However, the Navigator program also relies on a number of creative partnerships with local community agencies, law enforcement departments, hospitals and local businesses. These community partners allow Navigator staff to engage with as many individuals as possible, as quickly as possible.

Last month, VOADV formed a new partnership with statewide nonprofit New Jersey SHARES Inc. (NJ SHARES), to offer an assistance program for vulnerable Camden County residents: the SHARES Mortgage Assistance Rent or Taxes (SMART) Program. The goal of the SMART Program is to provide vital funding for rent or mortgage assistance to individuals that are currently facing eviction or foreclosure. This program ensures that more of our communities’ vulnerable families do not lose their homes during this time of economic hardship.

VOADV’s Camden County Navigator program will serve as the singular referral source for the SMART Program in Camden County – pre-qualifying households and assisting vulnerable homeowners with the grant application process. With the support of NJ SHARES, VOADV and the Navigator program will be able to provide much needed assistance to a greater number of individuals in need throughout the county.

“Streamlined service delivery and personalized assistance is the heart of the work we do at VOADV,” explains Daniel L. Lombardo, President and CEO of VOADV. “The COVID-19 pandemic has created serious economic hardships for many households. The SMART Program is just another example of how organizations can collaboratively work to meet the needs of struggling families and individuals – providing critical assistance for those facing potential homelessness and setting them back on a path towards independent, self-sufficient living.”

For more information on VOADV’s Navigational Resource Centers and our Navigator program, visit: https://www.voadv.org/navigational-center.

For more information or to apply for the SMART Program, please call (866) 657-4273 or e-mail njsmart@njshares.org.