Dear Friends of IHN,

The Board and Staff at the Interfaith Hospitality Network for the Homeless of Essex County, Inc. stand in solidarity with the parties protesting to end structural racism in our country. In the strongest terms possible, we condemn the recent murder of George Floyd and so many other black and brown people that came before him, particularly at the hands of those who are charged with protecting and serving our localities. Our thoughts and prayers go out to all victims of racial violence, their families, friends, and their communities. We must ALL stand up against this oppression and structural racism.

How does this violence and oppression connect to the work we do at IHN? Structural racism lies at the center of disparities in homelessness and the impact of COVID -19 in Essex County. One need look no further than poverty statistics, incarceration rates, access to healthcare, economic opportunities, education and yes, homelessness, to see that black and brown people are disproportionately represented across the board in these ranks. For instance, the 2019 Point in Time Count reported that while persons identifying as Black or African American made up 13% of the state's general population, and 24% of the population in poverty, they made up 49% of the population counted as homeless. In New Jersey, black residents are put behind bars at 12 times the rate of white residents, the largest gap of any state in the country. Moreover, in the Garden State, communities of color are disproportionately affected by poverty. Data shows that 18.1 percent of African Americans and 17.4 percent of Latinos were poor in 2017, while poverty rates of whites was 5.9%.

In order to realize our goal that every family, no matter what race, gender, sexuality or creed, has access to affordable and safe housing, we must acknowledge and address the institutional racism that exists in our communities. Here at IHN, we re-commit ourselves to ending disparities in the homelessness sector by providing the highest quality shelter, prevention and youth and family programming possible for our clients. While your support to IHN is crucial to our survival, we also encourage all of you to join us in supporting organizations like Black Lives Matter , NAACP Legal Defense Fund , the National Bail Fund Network and the National Domestic Workers Alliance . Now more than ever, we must do everything we can to ensure that this movement for change is elevated and supported so that this senseless, racist violence stops.

With gratitude,

Jackie Baillargeon

Interim Executive Director
Please check your mailboxes in early July -- there is exciting news coming about IHN's name change.  The Interfaith Hospitality Network for the Homeless of Essex County, Inc. will be changing its name effective on or about July 1, 2020 to Family Promise of Essex County, Inc.  Family Promise is a shorter, more memorable name that is shared with our national office and hundreds of other affiliates across the United States. While we are changing our name, our mission will be EXACTLY the same.  We will continue to make a difference – one family at a time. The email in early July will let you know when the name change roll out makes it official.
COVID-19 Fundraisers Update
HUGE THANKS to everyone who contributed to our COVID-19 fundraisers. IHN’s budget is largely dependent on donations from our congregations and our individual donors. Given COVID-19, the things we normally do to raise money and to keep us afloat from year to year, such as the IHN Breakfast Event, the IHN Gala, or the Broadway Night Event, will not be possible this year. Your gifts are helping IHN persevere during these difficult times.
Emergency Shelter Program Update
Shortly after the COVID-19 crisis began, through what can only be described as “divine intervention,” we were able to settle all four of the families that were in our shelter program into permanent housing complete with beds, kitchen tables, and other necessary household wares. Since then, we have been exploring different ways to try to keep our Emergency Shelter Program going while our congregations are closed down.

We are pleased to report that we have been approved for grant money from the Emergency Food and Shelter Program (EFSP) and the CARES Act. Once these grants are received, we will again welcome families into our fold by using hotels with kitchenettes to house them until they work through the program and permanent housing is located and secured. While EFSP and CARES will only allow one month of funding per person, we plan to leverage these funds with other grants and donations to house as many families as possible until our congregations are able to open back up and host families.

As we struggle to keep going during this crisis, we are also working towards the time when our rotational congregational system is back up and running. To that end, in less than a month on the job, Melissa Perales has already recruited two new congregations to join us in our mission. We are pleased to announce that Redeemer Church of Montclair and Temple Sharey Tefilo-Israel of South Orange will begin hosting our families once we are able to fully open our rotational system again.

At a time when it takes effort to see a silver lining, we see the power of love, commitment and hope that shines through the volunteers that make-up the IHN family. Thank you for your true concern for families with children in our communities who are hurting and in desperate need of support, a fresh start, and renewed hope.

Home for Good Program Update
During COVID-19, IHN's Home for Good Program has been the cornerstone of our effort to help families maintain family and housing stability. IHN continues to provide case management and supportive services to families in permanent housing. The Social Service staff is working remotely and onsite to help families navigate this new normal. Many parents have lost jobs due to the pandemic and lack childcare. We are helping families navigate systems to address food insecurity, obtain community resources, and seek employment opportunities. For instance, the IHN Driver, Belinda Bryant, drops off food and other donations to families that don’t have their own transportation. The Social Service staff recognizes the fragility of life, so it is very important for us to keep our door open, even if it’s just to let a parent vent their frustrations during these challenging times. 

Our second Annual Mother’s Day Luncheon was canceled because of COVID-19, but Tracy Voca and her volunteers put smiles on IHN mothers' faces with a delivery of Mother’s Day gift baskets.  IHN acknowledges the needs of children in our Home for Good Program, especially in this era of distance learning, so we want to thank our volunteers for providing snack bags to our families - a little treat goes along way.
Since March 15, we helped five homeless families move into permanent housing with funding from Essex County Emergency Solution Grant and Social Services for the Homeless. Stephanie Edwards, Housing Stabilization Case Manager, organized furniture donations and other housing goods to help alleviate the financial stress in purchasing much needed items.
For the community at-large we are accepting applications for rental assistance. If you know someone in need of help, please ask them to call Stephanie Edwards at 973-746-1400, ext. 2 or send an email to . Rental assistance is determined based on funding guidelines. 

Donor Profile: Why I Give

“IHN has been providing an effective pathway to safe housing for 30 years; doing this work with care and love. I hope more people will join me in helping continue this critical work.” - Margo

Margo Greenfield is a 30-year volunteer, current IHN Coordinator at St. Stephen’s Church in Millburn, and one of IHN’s earliest donors. Margo began volunteering with Interfaith Hospitality Network Essex County in 1988. “It was the end of the Reagan years when it seemed homelessness was a temporary problem, reflecting slashes in government spending for social services. None of us thought we’d be doing this work for 30 years,” Margo explained. 
Margo described how IHN was a “shoestring operation” back then, with a van and a part-time Director/Social Worker, who screened applicants and guided IHN clients in their search for housing and jobs. “When our kids were young, we volunteered with IHN as a family. We prepared and served meals, helped with homework and played with the children in the program. My kids saw it as simply playing and sharing their games with children whose families were in a temporary, difficult situation.” Margo's children are grown now, and still see the importance of volunteering and sharing what they have with their neighbors. According to Margo “If children are raised with an understanding of how important it is to give back to the community, it becomes a part of who they are.”

As the years of volunteering went by, Margo and her family knew they wanted to give in a more considerable way. She began to donate, including making yearly pledges and recurring monthly gifts for special projects.  She felt her consistent gifts would supply IHN with the financial security to be able to focus on developing more programs and for future growth. “I want to give where I can have a direct impact and know that my support makes a difference. I have seen IHN lift families into a better quality of life.”

Long term donors, like Margo, are an essential part of the IHN community. With their consistent, predictable support, IHN can make plans for the future to more effectively assist families.

Margo leaves us with this thought: “IHN, with its supporting congregations and volunteers, has been providing an effective pathway to safe housing for 30 years, and doing this work with care and love. I hope more people will join me in helping continue this critical work."

To join IHN’s giving program, visit:
Upcoming Virtual Event

Introducing Night Without a Bed
June 20, 2020

Eight-year-old Abby never expected she’d be doing her homework in a motel room every night. But when her dad lost his job, her family had to give up their home. They moved into a motel, and Abby went from having her own bedroom to sharing one room with her entire family. It was hard for her to focus on school or imagine a happy future.

Abby’s not alone. One in 16 children in the U.S. experiences homelessness by the first grade. They and their families can be found sleeping in motel rooms, with friends, or even in their cars. And kids who face homelessness suffer in other ways, as well. They’re more likely to drop out of school, repeat a grade, suffer from depression, and attempt suicide.

You can show your support for children and families battling homelessness and raise awareness of this crisis by joining Interfaith Hospitality Network of Essex County and Family Promise’s first national Night Without A Bed sleepout on June 20, 2020.

Put up a tent in your back yard. Make a fort in your living room. Wrap up in blankets on the sofa or in a sleeping bag on the floor. Give up your comfortable bed for one night and share the experience with friends and family. Post photos of your Night Without A Bed on social media using #NightWithoutABed, tag IHN and Family Promise, and ask sponsors to support your efforts to help families battling homelessness.

Stay tuned for more information about this event.
Sponsor a Kid to Go to Camp
Summer camps in New Jersey are now able to open! IHN will continue its tradition of sending as many IHN children and teens to camp as possible.

Camp experiences can positively change a child's life forever. They learn valuable skills and foster relationships that are life changing. Children come to camp excited to learn, make new friends, and discover new talents they didn't know they had. These experiences are especially important to our children given the “stay at home” orders required during COVID-19.

Your donation will help provide a child with a rich learning opportunity that many of our families could not otherwise afford.  

Please consider a donation to IHN's camp scholarships. 
Donation online or send a check to:
46 Park Street
Montclair, NJ 07042

*Please be sure to make a note that your donation is for camp scholarships
IHN Families Wish List
Call for in-kind donations!
IHN families are in need!
If you can donate any of the following items,
please contact Melissa Perales at
Thank you!
We Appreciate All Our Donors and Volunteers!
Thank you to Maria Koukoularis for donating over 40 Easter Baskets to IHN children! This annual donation has brightened many childrens' Easter Sunday with a gift from the Easter bunny!
Over 100 snack bags went out to IHN families! THANK YOU to Suzanne Klar, David and Marc Brummer, The Groffman Family, The Kaluski Family, Beth Klar, Lynn Glantz, Jeff and Lynn Sternstein, Jill Neff, Robert and Holli Ehrlich. These snack bags were so helpful for the families not able to get their usual food and snacks from school due to COVID-19 school closures.
Our Girl Scout Troop participated in World Thinking Day by representing the country of Tonga. The girls passed out root vegetable chips to represent the country's typical food. Nicole Warren, the troop leader, lead the girls in this fun event! Congratulations to the girls on their new badge!
Tracy Voca and the Caldwell United Methodist Church donated 30 gift baskets for Mother's Day with a sweet message which read, “Plant these bulbs as a promise of brighter and more beautiful days to come.” The baskets were accompanied by face masks and health and safety protocols for COVID-19.
Thank you to Belinda, IHN driver, for delivering 25 homeschooling backpacks to IHN kids during this time, while schools are still closed. We hope this will help make the homeschooling process more successful!
Welcome Our New Staff
Melissa Perales , Manager of Community Engagement, joined the IHN team in April 2020. Prior to working for IHN, she worked as Lead Trainer and Advocate Supervisor for CASA of Essex County, coaching volunteer advocates as they worked with children in foster care. Melissa has over 15 years of supervisory experience and 12 years of non-profit experience. Melissa worked as the Program Director at The Bowery Mission Women’s Center in New York City and as the Executive Director of a long-term, residential women’s recovery program in Pennsylvania. Melissa has a long history of volunteering, primarily working with women and individuals experiencing homelessness. She currently leads an activity group at her church in Montclair.
Call For Host Congregations for 2021
Our Families Need Hosts!

Prospect Presbyterian Church, a pillar of our emergency shelter network, has hosted families for 32 years! Thank you to all our host and support congregations!
We are looking for congregations to host families for weeks in 2021. If your congregation is able to host, please contact Melissa Perales, Manager of Community Engagement.

Email Melissa Perales at
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