By JOANNE L. PAPAIANNI
The Asbury Park Board of Adjustment wants to see evidence of success in Covenant House’s men’s program before approving a similar facility for women.
The home for the Rights of Passages program is located at 520 Prospect Ave. with a vacant lot owned by Interfaith Neighbors located right next door.
The men’s program which provides housing for five young adults between the ages of 18 and 21 has been in operation for one year.
Patrick Durkin, Director or Real Estate Development for Interfaith Neighbors, testified that the program in its first year has been successful.He said a total of nine men have participated with four leaving the program in the first year.
Participants who are approved for the program are only permitted to stay for up to 18 months.
Board members debated whether having four men leave the program in the first year indicated a lack of success.
Paul McEvily, Executive Director of Interfaith Neighbors, said two men left to return to their families, one moved out of the area and another decided the strict guidelines imposed by the program were not for him.
Both men said they did not believe that constituted a failure of the program and Board Member Dan Harris agreed.
“The upkeep has been impeccable….I don’t think four leaving in one year is not a success,” he said.
Durkin also testified that no police reports were filed at the location.
David Hall, Associate Executive Director for Covenant House, also testified that the men in the program were all adhering to the program guidelines and were working.
One, he said, is working full time and attending college.
Hall, who also oversees the Newark and Atlantic City programs, visits the Asbury Park site twice a month.
He said the program uses a wholistic approach teaching life skills, cooking, making their beds as well as access to the Covenant House drop-in center located at St. Peter Claver Center, if they need assistance.
Board Chair Chris Avallone said, however, he wanted more testimony as to the success of the program asking what follow up measures are in place.
“Success for us is different, we are taking young people off the street,” Hall said.
He also said there is a waiting list for those wishing to enter the program.
McEvily said, “The first order of business is that young people are housed.”
But once they leave the program it is up to them whether or not they want to stay in communication with the program, he said.
Interfaith Neighbors owns and builds the facilities and partners with Covenant House which runs the Rights of Passages program.
Hall also testified that residents of the building are not allowed to drink or use drugs at the home.
“They are not partying; they have downtime to watch TV or play video games,” he said.
The home has five en suite bedrooms and two sets of washers and dryers.
The women’s home, if approved, would be an identical structure that mirrors the men’s home.
The application was carried to the Jan. 22 meeting.