Home Essex CountyThe OrangesEast Orange A Local Shelter Making A Difference in the Essex County Community

A Local Shelter Making A Difference in the Essex County Community

by Jordan and Joelle Hernandez
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Isaiah House, located at 238 N Munn Avenue in East Orange, is a charitable organization whose mission is to decrease the prevalence of homelessness, hunger, and unemployment in Essex County. Montclair Girl had a chance to connect with Gianna Santelli, Director of Development, to learn more about this incredible organization.

isaiah house

(Photo credit: @isaiahhouseeastorange)

The Mission

According to a recent study by Monarch Housing Associates, Essex County has the highest rates of homelessness in the state of New Jersey, making up 21% of the state’s total. Isaiah House is working tirelessly to do its part in supporting those experiencing life without a home and has been since 1988. “Our mission is to reduce the prevalence of homelessness, hunger, and unemployment throughout Essex County and more specifically, within the Oranges and Newark,” shared Gianna. 

Read More: Volunteering Opportunities in the Montclair Area | Winter 2021

Isaiah House is the only of its kind in the area and was born out of the need to support local citizens. “It’s the brain-child of an alliance between the Community Service Council of the Oranges and Maplewood (a division of United Way of Essex and West Hudson), the Junior League of the Oranges and Short Hills, and the Concerned Clergy of East Orange, Isaiah House remains the only shelter in East Orange and provides temporary and permanent lodging, food, social and financial services, as well as comfort and hope for families and individuals every year,” continued Gianna.

Providing Shelter

isaish house

^ Avery Winters, Senior Cook

(Photo credit: @isaiahhouseeastorange)

The core mission of Isaiah House is to provide shelter to unhoused individuals. Gianna explained, “We operate a shelter for four specific groups: families,  adolescents, single women, and mothers with newborns.” In addition to housing, the organization makes sure that residents are equipped with nutritious food. She went on to say, “Residents are served three free meals a day: a grab-and-go breakfast, and then a hot lunch and dinner made by our staff cooks.” 

In order to provide independence and the ability to have regular access to food, Isaiah House runs a food pantry. “Isaiah House also manages a community pantry. Community members can come to our food pantry to receive thoughtfully packed bags of groceries. We make sure to pack the bags to include items that are nutritious and can be used together as a full recipe. We work with partners like the Community Food Bank of NJ to distribute the food and have served over 3,760 households this year so far,” shared Gianna.

Programs

In addition to being a place of shelter, Isaiah House ensures that its guests are receiving the utmost care by providing programs that will enhance their lives.  While many think of homelessness as an isolated issue, Isaiah House understands the complexities surrounding every person.

“All of our programs come directly from understanding the needs of our community. Our programming has evolved since our conception in 1988, but our focus has always been our neighbors in need.” 

Gianna explained more about the groups supported through their programs. “Parents living in Isaiah House also have access to our free Tiny Tots Daycare.  This allows our parents to go to their appointments and jobs without the stress of finding childcare. We have housing programs outside of the building as well. We manage offsite residential programs for individuals with mental illness and individuals living with HIV/AIDS. In 2021 our programming housed 253 individuals, with 136 residents in our shelter and 90 clients in offsite housing programs. 62% of our 2021 residents who left Isaiah House were discharged into permanent housing situations.

Who Makes It Happen

Isaiah House is open to those who need its services 24/7. Gianna shares, “We never close!” This is because of its commitment to serving the community. She went on to note that much of the staff has been with the organization for decades, with employees becoming passionate about the work. Recently, Isaiah House did a 30-day feature of residents and staff members to showcase the community that has been fostered.

An employee featured was Theresa Ellison, Community Creche Case Manager. Theresa has been a pillar of the Isaiah House community for over two decades, “The residents and my coworkers motivate me. I feel like this is my calling to do my best. I try to give 100%.” Employees like Theresa, are what Gianna says the organization is most proud of.

Getting Involved

isaiah house

(Photo credit: @isaiahhouseeastorange)

Even with a reliable staff, Isaiah House relies on community members to provide resources to guests. Donating needed items is a great way to support this organization and monetary donations are always welcome. “We have an Ongoing Needs Amazon Wish List – whatever is on the list is always needed and welcome at Isaiah House. Monetary donations are the best way to help Isaiah House throughout the year. Donations provide the funding we need for emergencies and surprises,” shared Gianna.

See More: Human Food Needs Pantry: Helping Montclair Neighbors Since 1982

Because the Isaiah House focuses on the needs of the guests and residents, the building itself is often left in need of a little TLC, which is where monetary donations can really come in handy. “Isaiah House is a beautiful multi-story building in East Orange and is always in need of repairs and upkeep just like any other mid-sized apartment building in the area. Having money in the budget to swiftly respond to maintenance needs is very important to us as we take great pride in our residences. Monetary donations also help us respond to unexpected staff and program needs.

To make a donation to the Amazon Wish list, click here, and to donate monetarily, click here.

Isaiah House is making a difference in the lives of individuals and certainly doing its part to eliminate homelessness and hunger throughout Essex County.   

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