The New Jersey Haitian Family Resource Center, which will operate in the lower level of Union County College’s Sidney Lessner Building at 12 West Jersey Street, will serve as a hub for on-site referrals and support services provided by both public and nongovernmental agencies for the large Haitian population in the area.
“New Jersey has a large community of Haitian-Americans who have been impacted by the devastation of their homeland,” Governor Chris Christie said. “This center is an example of how government, private sector agencies and volunteers can unite to provide the most efficient and compassionate response possible during a time of unimaginable turmoil and tragedy.”
The center will be staffed by representatives from a wide range of state, federal and nongovernmental agencies who provide support services to Haitian-Americans and Haitian nationals living in New Jersey. Services include interpreters, assistance with immigration issues, family assistance applications, child custody matters, legal information, grief counseling as well as access to computers and telephones to help constituents obtain more information about those in their homeland.
The federal Department of Homeland Security has extended humanitarian relief to qualifying Haitians currently in the United States, and the New Jersey Department of Human Services Office of Emergency Management (OEM) is charged with coordinating and operating the resource center and facilitating repatriation and relief efforts. In addition to several non-government agencies, including the Salvation Army and American Red Cross, DHS has been working with the New Jersey Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness, the Emergency Management section of the New Jersey State Police Homeland Security Branch, Union County Department of Human Services and college officials to set up the center.
"DHS has specific capabilities during times of disaster such as providing shelter, mass care and mental health counseling,” said Commissioner Jennifer Velez, who helped triage earthquake evacuees at McGuire Air Force Base in the days following the earthquake. "In these horrible stories, we have seen strength, courage, endurance and hope." stated Velez.
The commissioner also thanked staff and officials from the state, Union County, the college, the city and all of the nonprofit agencies for their hard work in preparing for the center’s opening and operations.
"As the relief efforts progress in Haiti, New Jersey will continue to assist members of the state's Haitian community who have been affected by these tragic events," said Charles McKenna, Director of the New Jersey Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness (OHSP). "The Family Resource Center will serve as the focal point for humanitarian assistance and will provide direct support services to community members."
DHS has a Memorandum of Understanding with Union County College for up to three months, or as necessary for the community. The college is donating the use of the 3,000-square-foot space for the center.
“Union County College has been actively working to support our Haitian students and the members of the New Jersey Haitian community. When Union County and State officials approached the College about establishing the Resource Center on our Elizabeth campus, we knew it was the next step in providing support to those in need,” said Victor M. Richel, Chair of the Union County College Board of Trustees.
There will also be resource tables located in the center with informational materials from a variety of sources, some of which are available in English, Creole, and French. These include questions and answers pertaining to Adoptions, Temporary Protected Status, Community Seminars, and Fraud/ Scam prevention.
Initially, the center will operate from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Mondays through Fridays and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturdays.
Please note - based upon intake and service provider availability, as of Monday, March 8, the Center hours/days were modified to:
Open - from 10a.m. to 4p.m., Mondays - Fridays
Closed - Saturdays and Sundays
The Center will not take donations of cash or goods, but staff will provide information to those interested in donating to established Haitian relief organizations.
Staffing will include representatives from: NJ DHS for social service referrals and NJHelps demonstrations, mental health counseling/referrals and overall management and coordination of welcome center services; American Red Cross for intake and family locator services, Salvation Army for food and clothing; Department of Children and Family Services (DCF) for information on child care providers and adoptions; U.S. Citizens and Immigration Services for assistance in immigration-related issues; the faith-based community; and NJ4Haiti.
Because of confidentiality considerations, press will not be permitted in the center while families are present.
Referrals also are available by calling 211 or online at www.nj211.org
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