If you’ve waited two years to host Thanksgiving, why not get a jump start?
On Wednesday, as people gathered around roasted turkey, ham, and potatoes, they were celebrating much more than just a national holiday.
It was the beginning of a new era for the Bergenview building in which they dwell, which today offers each formerly homeless individual a genuinely autonomous living experience and amenities such as a dining area.
The McGinley Square building, once a YMCA, has served as a homeless shelter for more than 20 years, with single occupancy to transition into inexpensive, stable studio flats.
Its renovation represents an investment in the community, which it has fostered by ensuring that each resident has their own kitchen and bathroom, as opposed to the dorm units in which some formerly resided, as well as by providing access to a new gym, bike room, and a redesigned community room with games, social services, and a property management suite.
Historically, holiday celebrations have been an integral part of the Bergenview experience, but they were placed on hold during the renovations.
“Today, our objective is to provide them with a sense of family and belonging and to demonstrate that we care,” said property manager Claudia Lopez. “We did so every holiday. Due to COVID and construction work, we have not been allowed to assemble in the last two years.”
And for many formerly homeless, it is their sole Thanksgiving celebration, a key resource during the holiday season when despair can worsen for those who are estranged from their families, according to Bergenview social services supervisor Mike Bratton.
Some inhabitants, such as Charles Hyman, have lived in Bergenview for twenty years.
Even though Hyman’s apartment was recently renovated, several of his framed photos are already back on the walls of the room he moved into in 2002.
The 76-year-diverse old’s personal style is reflected in the room’s decor, which includes silver rings on nearly every finger. A vintage boom box is emitting hip-hop sounds.
Others have recently made it their home. Lopez stated that in order to obtain an apartment, one must be homeless, and the building’s 111 units are currently 98% full, with a waiting list of 239 people.
Stanley Robinson stated that a breakup left him feeling uneasy at home and forced him to stop working due to foot difficulties. He found the balancing act of crashing with family difficult, as they frequently expected more than he could pay in return, and the accommodations he attempted were overcrowded and chaotic, with some folks sleeping in the kitchen.
When the Garden State Community Development Corporation, non-profit social services and housing organization in Hudson County, assisted him in applying for a Bergenview apartment, he indicated that he could move in practically quickly.
Robinson stated, “After all these years of enduring all of this adversity, being here was probably one of the nicest things that have happened to me.” “You possess your own safety. You have a space of your own.”
Even though he has a brother who resides in Jersey City and may meet nieces and nephews on Thanksgiving Day, he thinks that the Bergenview luncheon may be his most significant Thanksgiving event.
Many of the staff members are formerly homeless and provide social assistance to the building’s tenants. The building is owned by Community Builders, a non-profit real estate developer, which is now constructing a new project, the Fairview Apartments, adjacent to commercial and affordable housing.
With an abundance of businesses and eateries in the neighboring blocks, the location is ideal for cane-using residents like Alfred Reaves.
After a back ailment caused him to lose his work as a truck driver, the 54-year-old stayed at St. Lucy’s Downtown Shelter for two months.
Now, eight years after his stay at Bergenview, he values the sense of stability it provided.
In his studio, he watches television on a large screen, and on his kitchen table is a model boat he constructed in high school.
When he was residing in an emergency shelter, he recalls being given a tour of his flat for the first time.
“I thought, ‘I don’t even need to see it,'” remembered Reaves. “Where can I get the keys?'”