Ocean Township teen Zac Levy has started a project to bring donations and clothing to those who need it.
By WILLIAM CLARK
Zac Levy of Ocean Township is a junior at High Technology High School in Lincroft. He aspires to become an engineer one day.
It’s a main component of his studies. Find the problem and identify the root causes. From there he gets to work building a solution.
He took those same concepts and set forth trying to help those experiencing homelessness in the area.
“I have always very much been involved with volunteering in my community,” Zac said. “It’s always been a fundamental part of my life.”
Now, the 16 year-old has started Project Unhoused where he and others go out into the community and bring aid directly to those who need it.
He and his group have completed four distributions to those in need in Asbury Park. Most recently, the teen gathered and made available jackets at the peak of winter.
When Zac set out on his mission, he reached out to initiatives to receive advice.
“Everyone was so helpful,” he said.
Some had over a decade of experience in the field. He also went straight Levy also went straight to the source by interviewing the unhoused and hearing their perspective.
“What stuck with me was just how easy it was for people to have a series of unfortunate events that lead them to a bad situation,” the teen said.
He spoke to one man who had a steady job, a place to live and great relationships. He was mugged one night and had his jaw broken. After being given morphine to manage the pain, his dependence on the drug led to use of heroin and within a few months he found himself couch surfing and falling deeper into addiction. During that time he suffered family trauma when his brother had passed away.
“Less than a year earlier he was a normal guy,” Zac said.
He encourages others to help, even if it is something simple. He understands anyone’s hesitation about going up to a person living on the street, but said that what he does is not the only way to reach out.
Established organizations in the area need financial donations.
“There’s a lot of opportunities in this area,” he said.
For those that may want to give in a more tangible way, he said your home is a good place to start.
“What I’ve been recommending is just clearing out house, getting rid of clothing,” he said. “You can save someone’s life by giving an old jacket.”
He continues to plan more distributions around Asbury Park and wants to expand his operations to other young people around the country. Project Unhoused could take hold in other high schools in New Jersey and beyond, he believes.
“I want to start a correspondence program where like-minded students can bring Project Unhoused to their school,” he said. “Groups can purchase curated bags that have items that are most needed and frankly not very much provided to the communities.”
He is currently strategizing how to create the infrastructure so that others can purchase these kits at cost.
Those that are interested in helping with Project Unhoused can call or text him at 917-617-2176.