Homelessness and Community Efforts

The frustration in Youth Outcry founder and CEO, Al-Tariq Best’s voice was quite apparent.  He was neither yelling nor commanding anything from who would be his driver for the evening; yet, as there was frustration in the pitch of his voice, there was also empathy.  Questioning whether his efforts were too small and not as impactful as he wishes, Best concluded the conversation by stating he’ll do as much as possible to shelter the homeless on an ice-cold night in February.  This conversation brings forth a critical question of the best method cities like Newark, NJ can take to address the chronic issue of homelessness.

As an organization based out of an open ground floor space on Prince Street, better known as the H.U.B.B. (Help Us Become Better) community center, it is clear that Best has resources to help those less fortunate. However, the impact citywide would stretch further with a culmination of organizations coming together to fulfill a shared purpose of eradicating homelessness.

Cots and warm flannel blankets were laid out for the evening.

Cots and warm flannel blankets were laid out for the evening.

According to a 2010-15 HUD Consolidated Plan made specifically for the City of Newark, approximately 1716 individuals are homeless in Newark.  This number is from a “Point-in-Time Count” conducted by the City of Newark of individuals entering shelters, whether emergency or transitional housing, leaving shelters, and being found at public transportation hubs like Newark Penn Station.  This count is conducted twice per year to ensure that cities receiving federal funding to combat homelessness are accurately captured to deliver appropriate services.  Newark, according to the City of Newark HUD Consolidated Plan has the highest number of homeless individuals in the county of Essex.

Youth Outcry is an organization based on strengthening families through entertainment, education, and empowerment.  How the three come together is through the entertainment programs that Best has established for children and students, such as the graphic design and performing arts courses.  As an individual who has worked in the musical industry, Best knows first-hand the impact of the arts on a young individual.

CEO and Founder of Youth OutCry, Al-Tariq Best 

CEO and Founder of Youth OutCry, Al-Tariq Best

In addition, there are various education programs that provide academic support.  Lastly, the organization empowers the community through family based programs that promotes self-sufficiency of the family unit.  This program, said Best, “was created to address the needs of youth and families living in public housing or underserved communities, but wanted to progress.”   That is why, he continued, “my ideal partnership would be with the Newark Housing Authority.  The Authority works with the population I feel my organization can best serve .”  Youth Outcry has also worked in the past with organizations such as Stop Shootin’, United Way, and Supporting our Sisters.

With record low temperatures, one cannot help but to think about the homeless.  It is during moments like the past few blistering winter months, where many individuals succumb due to hypothermia and other weather related illnesses.  And so, to combat this problem, various organizations like Youth Outcry and city agencies in Newark have taken the initiative to house the homeless.  While they have individually taken on such a benevolent but arduous task, the follow up to the critical question at hand becomes whether their fellow comrades are aware that the other agencies are driving around the city, talking to those who’ve made makeshift cardboard beds, convincing them that they will have warmth, safety, and a hot dinner.  The question of whether a community partnership exists comes to mind.

“I believe we, as organizations, whether public, or private can work together to address homelessness, but on both the public and private side, it’s important to keep the ego out of it.  These are moments when you are being asked to go beyond the call of duty,” said Best.

 Founder of Youth OutCry, Al-Tariq Best sits down with NBC4 reporter, Pat Battle

Founder of Youth OutCry, Al-Tariq Best sits down with NBC4 reporter, Pat Battle

A challenge of community partnerships is oftentimes the competing demands of organizations and determining accountability of large initiatives.  However, while challenges will exist, the advantage of distributing financial responsibilities and building a stronger presence of your organization in the community trumps them all.  “What would work in the benefit of the city of Newark is for all organizations to work together, whether it’s with the local government or other organizations” said Best.

Two more drivers, one, a graphic designer, and the other, a dedicated community resident, came by the H.U.B.B. and informed Best that they will also lend a hand and pick up any homeless individual in need of a warm bed and dinner.  The frustration that was quite apparent in Best voice began to dissipate.  Following that, two individuals from a local church, Franklin St. John’s brought fresh bagels, fruits, juice, hot chocolate, and other treats to welcome the city’s displaced individuals home.

**I hope this story shared inspires you and your community to create solutions to eliminate homelessness.  Indeed, the madness of politics can find its way into this, but I hope this feature encourages you to find ways.  In the meantime, I thank you for taking the time to read my posts and look forward to hearing your feedback.**

You stay HOPEful, folks,

Laur, HOPEster-in-Chief