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New homeless shelter to provide improved services for the community

The Archdiocese of Newark will soon be getting a new state-of-the art homeless shelter in Jersey City that will provide greater resources and assistance for the marginalized.

The new 60,000-square-foot building will be constructed across the street from St. Lucy’s Emergency Shelter, which is operated by Catholic Charities.

Since 1986, Catholic Charities has leased the Grove Street property from the archdiocese. The property consists of the former St. Lucy church building, rectory and school. The school is utilized as a 120-bed homeless shelter for single men and women, and the former rectory serves as a transition home for those afflicted with AIDS. Five affordable housing units were also constructed across the street on the site of the former parish parking lot. In June 2008, the archdiocesan college of consultors agreed to once again extend the lease to Catholic Charities for an additional 10 years.

“The need for homeless [services] has grown,” said John Westervelt, chief executive officer of Catholic Charities. “We’re the only shelter in Jersey City, the largest in Hudson County and the oldest in the state of New Jersey.”

According to Steve Belloise, the executive director of the archdiocesan Office of Property Management, in September 2015, the archdiocese conceptually approved an agreement between Catholic Charities, the city of Jersey City and 619 Grove Street Corporation, an LLC formed by developers, for the exchange of property and subsequent development rights, pending zoning, historical and planning board approval, which was ultimately granted this past summer.

The church side of the property will be sold to developers based on increased zoning density provided by the municipality of Jersey City, which has authorized construction of 443 new market-rate housing units, Belloise said. In turn, on the parking lot side of the property, the developers will construct a new homeless shelter, which will be designed by an architect retained by Catholic Charities who is familiar with their needs and programming.

“The setting will include 150 beds, 14 units of transitional housing for men with HIV, five supportive housing units for homeless families and 15 permanent affordable housing studios,” explained Westervelt, noting the bigger facility will also allow for more services and additional staff. “It’s a benefit for the homeless people for us to better assist them. And a positive for us to get people moved onto permanent housing, which is the ultimate goal.”

Construction of the new shelter is estimated to cost $15 million, which will be covered by the developers. The contract stipulates that the new building will be completed prior to the razing of the current shelter location. The current residents on the parking lot side will be relocated nearby.

Westervelt pointed out that that was an important stipulation of the deal. “There’s no place for us to relocate if we don’t have the new building up and running right away,” he said. “Our building would be fully built before they touch across the street.”

The property will be sub-divided. The developer will acquire the former church, rectory and school, of which each façade will be incorporated into the new design. The archdiocese will retain ownership of the parking lot side where the new shelter will be constructed and subsequently leased to Catholic Charities for 99 years.

“I think overall they’ll be ecstatic to be in a new building with more services,” Westervelt said of the clients who will utilize the facility.

“Jersey City has been very supportive. The mayor has been very supportive. It’s going to be something the community will be proud of,” he added.

Groundbreaking is expected to take place before the end of this year. The new shelter is anticipated to open during the second half of 2022. Construction of the market-rate housing units should be completed during 2024.