Tours Three Social Service Programs for Homeless Youth, Children with Developmental Disabilities & Violence Prevention
Essex County – Senate President Steve Sweeney toured three different social facilities in Essex County today, getting a firsthand view of programs that care for neglected and homeless youth, that educate children with developmental disabilities and an innovative hospital-based violence intervention program.
University Hospital in Newark is home to a violence prevention program that works with victims of violence to prevent the continuation of violence. The program was the first hospital-based violence intervention program in the state. It served as the framework for legislation (S3312) signed into law in August that requires all level I and II trauma centers to establish hospital-based violence intervention programs.
“It is great to see this team of people working together to end the cycle of gun violence that afflicts some of our most vulnerable and underserved communities in New Jersey,” said Senator Sweeney. “That is why violence intervention programs like this are so important. They create hope in tragic situations.”
“We want to express our sincere gratitude to Senate President Steve Sweeney, and all of the New Jersey Legislature for their continued support of the University Hospital Violence Intervention Program,” said Dr. Shereef Elnahal, President and CEO of University Hospital. “Violence is a public health issue, and we believe the best opportunity for treatment is by providing timely interventions and community based support.”
Senator Sweeney then visited Covenant House, also in Newark, which provides residential care and related services to help youth who have suffered from abuse, neglect, abandonment, homelessness, or human trafficking.
“This facility creates a safe space for a group of New Jersey’s youth that have experienced situations that no one should ever have to go through,” said Senator Sweeney. “These incredible children have faced abuse, neglect, abandonment, or even human trafficking. But they stayed strong, and with a little help from Covenant House they are finding ways to get by.”
Covenant House is on track to serve over 2,000 youth this year. It provides drop-in services to youth walking in from the streets in Asbury Park, Jersey City, Atlantic City, and Newark.
“Some of our young people successfully escaped their situation only to come face to face with another challenge that nobody in New Jersey should face: homelessness,” said Janette Scrozzo, Director of Development for Covenant House. “Of the 9,400 homeless men and women in New Jersey, at least 500 are unaccompanied youth.”
Senator Sweeney then visited The Arc of Essex County’s Stepping Stones School, in Roseland, which provides education and therapy services to preschoolers and children up to age 10 with intellectual or developmental disabilities.
“We know that 17% of New Jersey’s students have some form of disability,” said Senator Sweeney. “We need to ensure each of them has an equal opportunity for success in our school system. What equal opportunity comes down to is whether these students get the attention they deserve from schools like this.”
The Arc of New Jersey is the state’s largest organization advocating for and serving children and adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities and their families.
“Senator Sweeney has provided so much leadership and so much support on what is a shared mission,” said Tom Baffuto, the Executive Director of The Arc of New Jersey. “In the process, he is helping to show that those with disabilities should be treated with dignity and respect.”