Written by Carl Peters
There was music, food and ice cream to accompany the inspirational message of the day. But the surest sign of hope came in the figure of a 10-month-old girl whose parents had once been guests at this home for the homeless.
Thomas and Amy Berrios had slept on cots at Joseph’s House in Camden City for about six months, moving out in May 2017. The couple have been on their own, living in their own place, since that time.
When they returned to visit, they brought their daughter, Ariana, who was an immediate source of contagious joy.
“When they came, it really brought a sense of new hope to the day,” said Trish Vastano of Joseph’s House.
John Klein, executive director, said the couple “came back to tell their story and give encouragement to others.”
Located at 555 Atlantic Ave., Joseph’s House offers emergency shelter, but the facility aims to connect its “guests” with medical and social services, with the ultimate goal of getting them off the streets permanently.
At the annual Homecoming BBQ, held this year on July 17, formerly homeless guests come back to offer encouragement to those whose battles with addiction, mental illness, poverty or simple hard luck have led them there.
Five former guests talked to those who for whom Joseph’s House is the closest thing to a home and supportive family. They talked about losing jobs and homes — and some also talked about losing their judgmental attitudes about the homeless once they found themselves in dire circumstances. Most importantly, they offered hope for starting a new life.
Joseph’s House operates on the belief that a better future is possible for individuals if they receive a little help — and are willing to deal honestly and directly with whatever issues they have. In its annual summary, Joseph’s House says it has offered shelter to 554 individuals, and served 53,278 meals in 2017. With staff help, 42 percent of the guests were able to find stable or supportive housing.
Food for the homecoming was provided by P.J. Whelihan’s and Mister Softee.