When Pastor Terrence K. Porter, senior minister of Pilgrim Baptist Church (PBC) of Red Bank spearheaded the church’s original Warming Center, the mission was simple: offer a warm, comfortable shelter to homeless men in Monmouth County on Code Blue nights – when temperatures drop to 32 degrees or below.
The undertaking proved highly successful. It became the “go-to” warming center, serving an average of 21 guests on Code Blue nights. But when Pastor Porter and other community partners like the Jon Bon Jovi Soul Foundation saw a greater community need, the Warming Center was rebranded to the JBJ & PBC Hope & Comfort Center, with the support of Monmouth ACTS and social services.
Here, men and women guests are provided with a safe, comfortable and secure location during Code Blue nights, Code Red days and inclement weather. Through community partnerships including Charitable Pharmacy, Reentry of NJ and Red Bank Police Department, services offered to guests include overnight lodging, laundry services, shower and clothing, hot meals, transportation, social service resources, physical health examination and mental health services.
Since November 2022, the center has provided services to more than 600 guests – a testament to the community need as well as the successful collaborative undertaking.
“We’ve developed an effective community-based model that brings all the stakeholders together to provide services,” Pastor Porter said. “We see firsthand how we’re making a positive impact for our guests and hope and pray other communities will replicate our initiative.”
James, a guest at Hope & Comfort Center, said, “I finally found a place where people really care about what happens to me!”
Porter continued, “What’s rewarding is that partnerships are developing into additional partnerships.” Every Thursday evening on a Code Blue night, partner agency Monmouth CARES’ community group Empower Me helps guests access social services throughout Monmouth County, including obtaining personal documentation like birth certificates and driver’s licenses. Through a partnership with Parker Health Center, representatives provide physical exams and check guests’ vaccination status. “This has really paid dividends because once guests feel more comfortable, they are open to receiving healthcare services.”
In one case, a man’s life was saved: a podiatrist offered services at the center for two nights – guests were welcome to stay those nights as long as the podiatrist could examine their feet. As an incentive, guests would receive a free pair of boots. It was a great success as the podiatrist saw 95 percent of guests. What’s more, as a result of the exam, one guest with severe diabetes was rushed to the hospital. The guest is now a patient at Parker Health – a testament that the process is working.
“It is incredibly inspiring to witness the positive change that occurs when community leaders partner to help their neighbors in need,” said Commissioner Sue Kiley, liaison to the Department of Human Services of Monmouth County. “By joining forces and working toward the common goal of providing health and safety resources to those seeking help, everyone benefits, and lives are saved.”
To learn more about Monmouth ACTS, visit MonmouthACTS.org.