75 Students Attend Conference on Homelessness
Tuesday, November 2, 2010 • 6:52am
Seventy-five high school students from 29 highs schools and religious institutions attended Bridges Outreach’s second Teens Tackle Homelessness conference on Saturday, October 23, 2010. The conference was planned by a high school steering committee representing students from several area high schools. Oak Knoll School of the Holy Child hosted the conference.
Jennifer Velez, Commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Human Services was the keynote speaker. Ms. Velez’ extensive experience in the fields of health and human services combined with her compassion for the people she serves made her an inspirational presenter for the conference. Her message urged audience members to be non-judgmental and to resist stereotyping people was well received.
In addition to the keynote speaker, the conference offered three workshops:”Homeless Teens” presented by Mr. Bilal Muhammad, Homeless Unit Liaison with theNewark Public Schools; Suburban Homeless addressed by Julia Orlando, Director of the Bergen County Housing, Health and Human Services Center in Hackensack; and “Prevention and Solutions” was offered by Jose Ortiz, Deputy Director for Essex-Newark Legal Services. Students said they learned, “homelessness is close to home” and “just how hard it is to be in foster care.” Many came away feeling more inclined to help others in need and to not to judge people they see sleeping on the streets.
Roundtable discussions over dinner gave the teens a chance to meet and have a conversation with people who have personally experienced homelessness. One teen commented, “It opened my eyes to the different ways someone can find themselves homeless and how it can happen to anyone.”
Teens Tackle Homelessness was sponsored by the Verizon Foundation, Lena Willis Mission Fund, and Hilltop Community Bank and hosted by Oak Knoll School of the Holy Child.
Bridges is a non-profit organization based in Summit reaching out to homelessness in New York City, Newark, and Irvington for over twenty years. Bridges fulfills its mission to bring the housed and homeless together in community with the help of hundreds of volunteers every year.