The true success for our families comes after they have transitioned into independent housing and have maintained that housing while utilizing IHNSC initiatives that are focused on long-term stability. How do clients get there when the odds are seemingly stacked against them with the cost of living in Somerset County being so high? The reality is that affordable housing remains a major hurdle for low-income and working poor families. In the past few years, we have noticed a trend of some families having no other choice than moving out of county to be able to financially maintain a household. This proves difficult for families, as they have established a foundation with IHNSC and have been connected with community resources.
We are addressing this issue with our long-standing partnership with North Branch Reformed Church (NBRC) through our Sunrise House Transitional Living Facility. This IHNSC initiative has served as a stepping-stone approach to affordable housing for families since 2004. Nineteen families, 52 individuals, have benefited from the stability that Sunrise House offers, while they work towards full independence. Allowing residents to pay subsidized rent and utilities enables them to focus on employment and education-driven goals while utilizing all IHNSC resources.
Why is it important for IHNSC to offer this initiative? The majority of our families fall into the working poor category, meaning that they are employed but do not make a livable wage. With 1 in 4 of New Jerseyans designating over 50% of their income to their monthly rent/utilities, this leaves our families in a constant struggle to maintain their households. The median rent for a one bedroom apartment in Somerset County alone is $1,360 a month, while a two bedroom is $1,746 a month. For many low-income families, this cost of housing is unattainable, let alone maintainable. This proves to be a defeating process when families are working so hard to rise above their crisis and gain momentum in their progress.
Located in Bridgewater, Sunrise House has been a staple initiative for IHNSC families. Case management, financial counseling and mental health support play an important role in building their foundations while working on continued goals. Basic need support and food security provides peace of mind for residents while they work on household budgets and emergent savings.
In the past five years, joint efforts between IHNSC and NBRC have awarded over $115,000 in grant funds through Somerset County Community Development Block Grants for building improvements. Improvements have included two bathroom renovations, window and door replacements, an updated heating system and house insulation. These grant funds have allowed for more energy efficiency throughout the house, while providing an improved comfortable home environment for the families that live there. Replacement of siding on the entire house is planned for Summer 2019, followed by the installation of a natural gas generator to ensure that there is an effective and efficient emergency plan in place that will benefit both Sunrise House and emergency shelter residents.
In 2016, Liquid Church generously made-over each room of the house to ensure comfortability and promote productiveness. Our Sunrise House Committee was established to keep the lines of communication open between NBRC and IHNSC and has played a positive role in ensuring that all needs are being met. A grant from The Provident Bank Foundation supported case management, while the ongoing generosity of individuals and congregational support allow us to ensure that we are able to offer this transitional living opportunity to families.
We would like to thank all who are involved with these projects and all who believe in and support our Sunrise House. IHNSC believes in establishing and maintaining initiatives that fill major gaps to independence and addresses the most crucial needs for our families as they work their way towards stability.