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Member Spotlight

The strength of the Anti-Poverty Network is our members. We speak with a strong voice because we speak together. We advocate for thoughtful, practical recommendations for state action because we dialogue about how best to invest limited resources. And we present a clear, compelling depiction of poverty in our state because we are informed by the work being done on-the-ground every day.

This blog series provides the chance for us to celebrate the work being done by individual partners, to learn more about specific efforts, and to explore the ways that all of our work are linked together.

If you would like to share about the work being done by your agency, please contact Elizabeth at elizabeth@antipovertynetwork.org.

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  • 07 Jul 2016 11:11 AM | Anonymous

    Alexandra Mansonet-Cross, the CEO of the The Jewish Renaissance Foundation, spoke to APN about their work:

    What does the organization do?

    The Jewish Renaissance Foundation (“JRF”) strives to overcome poverty and hopelessness throughout Middlesex County by providing individuals, children and families with essential health and human services, community development and youth programs regardless of cultures, faiths, or economic status.

    Who does the organization help?

    Since becoming a Community Action Agency in 2009, the JRF provides case management and direct financial assistance through our Family Assistance Center (“FAC”) to approximately 5000 individuals annually who are living at or below 125% of the federal poverty level. In addition, through our Family Success Center (“FSC”) and our school programs – School Based Youth Services, Civic Justice Corps, and Step Up – we provide families and youth with programs and services which assist in strengthening the family unit and help to direct youth on a path to achieve their goals. In 2015, the JRF became a Federally Qualified Health Center for the Homeless, and looks forward to the opening of the JRF Community Health Center this year. The health center will assist in helping families, especially the homeless, in receiving quality medical care.

    What does poverty look like in the agency’s work?

    Through a variety of services which are offered at the JRF, the organization is able to provide a comprehensive approach to addressing the needs of low income individuals and families. For the JRF, poverty is often seen as the family who struggles to put food on the table, pay rent, and pay daycare, while working two jobs. Poverty is also seen as multiple families who have to reside in the same house and/or apartment in order to be able to meet the basic needs of the individual and/or family. In addition, poverty is seen as the person who puts off addressing their medical needs because they cannot afford to pay for medical care, and keep a roof over their head.

    Why is The Jewish Renaissance Foundation a part of APN?
    APN is a resource for information on the issues which impact the population the JRF serves. Through its meetings and events, APN provides an opportunity for JRF staff to meet and partner with other organizations who are working with low income families and individuals. In having a JRF staff member serve as a member of the Board of Trustees and as the Co-Chair for the APN Structural Racism and Poverty report, it allows the JRF to lend its talents and leadership to the fight to end poverty in New Jersey.

  • 01 Jun 2016 2:03 PM | Anonymous

    Johanna Calle, the Executive Director of the New Jersey Alliance for Immigrant Justice, spoke to APN about their work:

    What does the organization do?
    The New Jersey Alliance for Immigrant Justice (NJAIJ) is a statewide membership-based coalition that creates and achieves policies in New Jersey that welcome and support immigrants to become rooted economically, politically and socially within the state. NJAIJ will use the power and strength of its member organizations to ensure that New Jersey’s immigrant communities are leaders in the development of policies that impact their lives and the lives of all New Jersey residents. Through the work of NJAIJ and its members, New Jersey will ensure access to services, support family unity, and develop policies and strategies that provide opportunities for immigrants to fully participate in civic life. The human, civil and labor rights of New Jersey’s immigrants, both documented and those seeking status, will be protected.

    Who does the organization help?
    The organization works to support immigrant communities in the state of New Jersey, documented and undocumented. 

    What does poverty look like in the agency’s work?
    Low income immigrants have added challenges when it comes to access to services, benefits, or information. Lack of language access and cultural competency can mean an immigrant family doesn't know how to find a shelter, or where to get food, or that their child qualifies for medical services. Undocumented immigrants might fear government agencies and therefore are less likely to seek help. They are unable to adjust their status, not just because of a broken immigration system, but due to a lack of resources or access to legal services. In our quest to support and help immigrant communities in NJ, we must focus on every community member, including those who are dealing with poverty in their daily lives. 

    Why is NJAIJ a part of APN?

    Those working on poverty issues benefit from hearing from the immigrant experience in order to make sure those voices are also represented in the dialogue around poverty. The specific issues that affect immigrant communities need to be analyzed, while also making sure that those areas of overlap are taken into account when we advocates for our causes. It is also important for NJAIJ to be part of APN so we best support our members and partners who support low-income immigrant communities.

  • 05 May 2016 9:13 AM | Anonymous

    John Franklin, CEO of United Way of Northern New Jersey, spoke with APN about their work:

    What does the organization do?

    In pursuit of achieving the common good, United Way of Northern New Jersey mobilizes the caring power of communities to improve the lives of ALICE® and those in poverty.


    Who does the organization help?
    United Way believes that improving life for all starts with improving life for ALICE. An acronym for Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed, ALICE represents the 890,000 New Jersey households that are working, but cannot afford the basic necessities of housing, food, child care, health care, and transportation. Together with those households defined as in poverty, 1.2 million New Jersey households –37 percent – are unable to make ends meet.

    What does poverty look like in the agency’s work?

    United Way is looking beyond temporary fixes and instead seeking to find solutions that result in long-term, sustainable change for the betterment of all families. We believe that all residents deserve access to the basic building blocks of a good life — a quality education, family sustaining wages and good health.

    Why is United Way of Northern New Jersey a part of APN?

    United Way believes that no one organization can accomplish these tasks alone; it takes diversity of backgrounds, experiences, and talents to achieve the greatest outcomes for those most in need.

  • 07 Apr 2016 10:03 AM | Anonymous

    Jesse Burns, Executive Director of the League of Women Voters of New Jersey, spoke to APN about their work:

    What does the organization do?

    The League of Women Voters of New Jersey is a nonpartisan organization that encourages informed and active participation in government.


    Who does the organization help?

    The League believes a strong democracy depends on civic engagement. Therefore, we help everyone that is looking to more fully participate in their government. This can range from voting, to making public policy changes, to demanding transparency and holding elected officials accountable.


    What does poverty look like in the agency’s work?

    The League makes an effort to help underserved communities have a greater voice in their government and we also advocate for policies that benefit these communities.


    Why is the League a part of APN?

    The League greatly respects the membership body of APN and we have found that we can learn from all of their individual expertise to better serve our state. Working in coalition with APN makes us all stronger.

  • 17 Mar 2016 9:05 AM | Anonymous

    Renee Koubiadis, Advocacy Coordinator for the National Association of Social Workers-NJ Chapter, spoke with APN about their work: 

    What does the organization do?
    We are a membership organization for social workers in New Jersey. We represent over 7,000 members in the state. Our mission statement declares: “Through advocacy and public policy, NASW-NJ affects progressive social change and social justice for individuals, families, and communities.”

    Social work has always had a focus on social justice issues. NASW-NJ is the state chapter of the National Association of Social Workers. The national organization defines three priorities as critical to the professional organization. One of those pieces is advocating for social change.

    Who does the organization help?
    It helps our members and it helps the people that we serve in all aspects of the community. Our history was in the tenement houses as friendly visitors finding out what people needed. We started out with a social justice focus and that's always been a strong part of social work. We practice at the micro level working with individuals and families. We also work with communities, and on a more macro level on the state level, in terms of policy and legislation.

    What does poverty look like in the agency’s work?
    Social workers are working with people who are economically disadvantaged every day and struggling to meet basic needs. We are front line workers. Social workers are the primary mental health care providers in the country. Nationally, social workers provide over 60% of behavioral healthcare.

    Behavioral health is a big factor in poverty as well. Not only do people who struggle with those issues have a higher percentage of being in poverty but how many people are we medicating for depression simply because of their economic status? They’re struggling so much day-to-day and become depressed as a result of their circumstances. We have folks struggling with issues because they are in poverty and they turn to substances and then we punish them for that, unfortunately, which leads to the criminalization of poverty.

    Why is NASW-NJ a part of APN?
    As a profession we see so much of poverty’s effect on people. We realize we can help individuals and families obtain basic necessities, but the systemic situation won't change until the policies change and we can provide more funding and opportunities for people. So while we help people and families individually, we will always be advocates as well.

  • 02 Feb 2016 9:41 AM | Anonymous

    Cecilia Zalkind, executive director of Advocates for Children of New Jersey, spoke with APN about their work: 

    What does the organization do?

    Children can’t vote. They have no political influence. They can’t tell our state leaders what they need. That’s why we’re here. Advocates for Children of New Jersey (ACNJ) works with local, state and federal leaders to identify and implement changes that will benefit New Jersey’s children.

    Our work results in better laws and policies, more effective funding and stronger services for children and families. This means more children are given the chance to grow up safe, healthy and educated. A cornerstone of ACNJ’s success is its independence. We are strictly non-partisan and accept no government funding for advocacy, freeing us to focus on our sole mission – helping children.

    Who does the organization help?

    Our work primarily benefits low-income children across New Jersey. This includes ensuring that all children have access to quality early education, healthcare, nutrition and other essential supports to help them learn, grow and be healthy.

    In addition, ACNJ’s work focuses on ensuring that children and youth who become involved in the child welfare and/or juvenile justice system are provided with appropriate supports and services to address the issues that caused them to become involved with these state systems.

    What does poverty look like in the agency’s work?

    Much of ACNJ’s work is focused on addressing the disparities that poverty causes for children. Children from low-income families are more likely to succeed in school when they have quality child care and preschool, breakfast at school and health coverage.

    Why is Advocates for Children of New Jersey a part of APN?

    A critical part of ACNJ’s work is to partner with other organizations and coalitions to advance messages and measures that benefit New Jersey’s children and families. The Anti-Poverty Network is one of many coalitions that ACNJ supports, recognizing that when we band together with a common cause we are more likely to achieve real-life results for children.

  • 05 Jan 2016 12:22 PM | Anonymous

    Alexandra Staropoli, Policy Manager, New Jersey, for the Drug Policy Alliance spoke to APN about their work: 

    What does the organization do?

    The Drug Policy Alliance (DPA) is a national nonprofit advocacy organization that works to reduce the harms associated with the drug war. DPA envisions a just society in which the use and regulation of drugs are grounded in science, compassion, health and human rights. DPA is actively involved in the legislative process and seeks to roll back the excesses of the drug war, block new, harmful initiatives, and promote sensible drug policy reforms. Our work falls into three main categories: (1) promoting health, reducing harm; (2) reducing the role of criminalization; and (3) responsible marijuana regulation. DPA’s national headquarters is in NY and we have state offices in New Jersey, California, Colorado and New Mexico. We also have an Office of Legal Affairs in California and an Office of National Affairs in Washington, DC.

    Who does the organization help?

    DPA’s work in New Jersey has touched thousands of people across the state. Our New Solutions Campaign most directly impacts people living in poverty. Focused on criminal justice reform, our campaign motto is “promoting fair and effective criminal justice, strengthening families and communities.” We know that the criminal justice system in New Jersey disproportionately affects people of color and families living in difficult situations. Although Blacks and Latinos make up only 27% of the population, they make up 80% of the population of those who are incarcerated. We launched our New Solutions Campaign shortly after publishing a report on the hidden costs of incarceration. The report showed that as a state, New Jersey was spending more than 300 million dollars a year to incarcerate nonviolent drug offenders. The report also documented some more hidden costs, including the fact that individuals who have been incarcerated earn 30-40% less over their lifetime than individuals who have not been incarcerated. Through our advocacy campaigns in New Jersey, DPA works to dismantle the systems that threaten the stability of our families and communities and strives to achieve a more fair and effective criminal justice system.

    What does poverty look like in the agency’s work?

    In 2013, DPA published a report that showed that 75% of the 15,000 people held in New Jersey jails are there awaiting trial rather than serving a sentence—in other words, these people have not yet had their day in court, nor have they been convicted of a crime, but they remain behind bars. 40% of the people held are there solely because they cannot afford the bail that was set for them and 1,500 people cannot afford a bail of $2500 or less. So basically, even though these individuals are not a risk of flight or to public safety, they are incarcerated simply because they are poor.

    Most recently, DPA worked, in collaboration with a host of coalition partners including APN, to address this issue and successfully pass bail reform in New Jersey. This important legislation will create a fairer, safer and more cost effective bail system by allowing the supervised pretrial release of low-risk individuals who do not threaten the security of their communities. Most importantly, under the new system, which will go into effect in January 2017, release decisions will be based on an individual’s risk level, not on their ability to pay bail. Families and communities will be strengthened under the new system because low-risk individuals will be able to remain with their families, keep their jobs, and get connected to services, including drug treatment, pending trial.  

    Why is DPA a part of APN?

    DPA advocates for effective drug policies based on science, compassion, health and human rights in New Jersey and around the country. The failed war on drugs is intricately linked to the equally failed wars on people of color and people living in poverty. It would be impossible for DPA to do the work we do without recognizing the cross-section between failed drug policies, economic justice and race. APN plays such an important role in bridging the gap between so many New Jersey organizations that work on distinct subjects within the larger context of poverty and race. There is tremendous value in having such a network to help advance progressive policies in New Jersey and we are so thankful to have APN as a partner.

  • 02 Dec 2015 8:42 AM | Anonymous

    Doug O'Malley, the director of Environment New Jersey, spoke with APN about their work:

    What does the organization do?

    Our mission is to protect New Jersey’s environment. We represent more than 20,000 citizen members across the Garden State. We advocate to protect our air, water and  open spaces and expand clean energy, whether we’re working to expand protections or defend them. The last five years we’ve been playing more defense than offense with the Christie Administration, in the Legislature, regulatory agencies and the courts. While we continue to stand up to Christie Administration rollbacks, we know the winds of political change are in the air. We want to start sowing the seeds of a green agenda for a new administration of either party. The rollbacks of the Christie administration are out of step with our state and we hope we can catch up for lost time in a new administration.

    Who does the organization help?

    We represent and serve our dues-paying members but it’s clearly more than that. We serve every resident of New Jersey. We’re working to expand environmental protections and we represent fellow travelers who are supporters, members and activists.  We have a lot of people who couldn't join us or haven’t heard of us either. I like to think we represent them too.


    What does poverty look like in the agency’s work?

    If we look at New Jersey’s population, there are way too many people living at or beneath the poverty line, or just above it -- struggling in ALICE land. I  know there are members of the business community who think the way to help the state’s economy is to slash environmental protections. We couldn't disagree more. Protecting the environment also protects the most vulnerable populations, the people who can’t elevate their house in a floodplain, or can’t leave their home during flooding.

    We have advocated against the continual raiding of the Board of Public Utilities Clean Energy Fund. Every ratepayer in the state pays a small Societal Benefits Charge, so New Jersey can fund energy efficiency programs that ultimately reduce our energy bills. But the Christie Administration has raided more than $1 billion dollars over the last five fiscal years. That’s a huge amount of dough! The Clean Energy Fund should create green jobs in our neighborhoods, reduce our energy bills and make our homes more comfortable -- not be annually raided during the budget process. We need to ensure these raids don’t become a permanent fixture of our state’s budget process.

    Why is Environment New Jersey a part of APN?

    APN is increasingly an incredibly vocal and visible part of the NJ advocacy landscape. APN is doing outreach, connecting constituencies and showing their muscle on the state stage. We are proud to be a member.

  • 05 Nov 2015 11:30 AM | Anonymous

    Kate Kelly from Monarch Housing Associates spoke with APN about their work:

    What does the organization do?

    Our mission is to expand the supply, accessibility, and variety of affordable, permanent supportive housing through development, planning, advocacy, and partnerships.

    Who does the organization help?

    We operate three mission driven programs that help us fulfill our vision that every person will have quality affordable, permanent housing that fosters freedom, independence and community integration. We have a team that works to end homelessness and a housing production team that consults in the creation of affordable and supportive housing. In addition, Monarch advocates for public policies and increased funding to end homelessness and create affordable housing.

    What does poverty look like in the agency’s work?

    We coordinate the annual NJ Counts, which is a count of individuals and families experiencing homelessness in the state of New Jersey. In 2015 NJ Counts found that there were 10,211 homeless men, women, and children across the state of New Jersey.

    In New Jersey, 36% of households are renters and 26% of renters have extremely low incomes. The National Low Income Housing Coalition calculates that in New Jersey, a household must earn $25.17/hour to afford a two bedroom apartment and not pay more than a third of their income on rent and utilities. This exceeds by far the state minimum wage of $8.38.

    Why is Monarch Housing Associates a part of APN?

    Monarch is proud to be part of the network and a partner in ending poverty.  The homeless are some of the poorest and most vulnerable individuals and families in New Jersey. Housing is one of our most basic needs and we know that helping people meet their basics needs is important to APN.

  • 16 Oct 2015 2:26 PM | Anonymous

    Jewish Family Service of Atlantic & Cape May Counties, an organizational member of APN, shared with us about their mission and why they chose to join APN: 


    What does the organization do?


    The mission of Jewish Family Service is to strengthen and promote Jewish individual, family and community well-being. In keeping with Jewish values and spirit of tikkun olam (healing the world) we are committed to providing services to the entire community regardless of race, religion or ethnicity.


    Jewish Family Service (JFS) encourages strong families, thriving children, healthy adults, energized seniors and vital communities. JFS impacts thousands of lives throughout Atlantic & Cape May Counties each year. 


    Who does the organization help?


    We are committed to providing services to the entire community regardless of race, religion, or ethnicity.”  The agency services individuals from 3 months to 103 years old living throughout Atlantic & Cape May Counties.


    JFS offers programs that prioritize outreach to hard to serve populations including the homeless, individuals returning to the community from correctional and psychiatric facilities, isolated older adults, welfare recipients and individuals with disabilities.


    What does poverty look like in the agency’s work?


    JFS addresses the issues of homelessness and hunger every day. Across all of our programming we see first-hand the struggle individuals and families are in to meet their basic needs. Through the people JFS serves we see that survival is precarious and one seemingly small event can destabilize a family’s budget (i.e. being scheduled for fewer hours at work, a cut in food stamps).  Many experience a daily and prolonged crisis related to a lack of affordable housing, less than living wages, and trouble accessing healthy food.  JFS works to be proactive and responsive to the community’s needs through services and advocacy.


    Why is JFS a part of APN?


    JFS understands that to address poverty in our community and across the state, we need partners to share best practices with and to advocate for change.



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