By Journalist Ms. Jones
MONTGOMERY – On Friday, December 21, 2018, Project L.I.F.E. (Living Independently For Everyone) held their 1st Annual Christmas Recognition Banquet at Colden Manor at Spruce Lodge. Newburgh Interfaith Emergency Housing (N.I.E.H.) opened Project L.I.F.E. in 1993 to provide shelter to homeless families in Orange County.
“We want to let them know that they are worth investing in… We figured we would come together to let them know we are with you,” said Pastor Jesse Howard, President and CEO of N.I.E.H. The theme for the Christmas Recognition Banquet was “the heart of service.” “Because we are ministers, the board is Christian… we volunteer. You have to have a heart of service.”
Families stay at Project L.I.F.E. for six months and are then moved to permanent housing. Project L.I.F.E. has supplied housing as well as support services to more than one thousand families.
Staff members were recognized for their years of service with certificates and monetary bonuses. Eileen Robertson was celebrated for twenty-one years of service.
“I like to meet people where they’re at and whatever their problem is or whatever I can do for them, that’s what I’m there for,” said Robertson, Director of Project L.I.F.E. Families are referred by the Orange County Department of Social Services. “The one thing all the families have in common really is poverty. Many of them have additional problems on top of that… domestic violence, substance abuse, mental health, lack of education, lack of training… For the most part, most of the families that we have have experienced a high level of trauma.”
Robertson also cited the lack of affordable housing as a major problem in the community. Senior Case Manager Haydee Giametta agreed and believes the homeless should be treated with respect.
“A lot of people think that the homeless are lazy. That’s not the reason [they are homeless],” said Giametta who has been serving for sixteen years. “There are different issues… losing their job, fires… sometimes they’re living with their parents and they put them on the street.”
Project L.I.F.E. provides furnished apartments with bedding, bath, kitchen, and household items. Their goal is to build a new facility in the future.
This article originally appeared in the Hudson Valley Press.