Eva’s Village: From Soup Kitchen to Anti-Poverty Powerhouse

By: Ashley McCann

 

What started out as a simple soup kitchen in the basement of St. John’s Cathedral in 1982 is now one of the most efficient anti-poverty nonprofit organizations in New Jersey.

Eva’s Village, located on a three-block campus in Paterson, helps thousands of people every year with its community of recovery and support services. Whether someone simply needs a meal, is seeking shelter, or is taking their first steps to recover from addiction, Eva’s Village has a service that could help.

Their services include offering food, shelter, treatment help for substance use and co-occurring disorders, childcare to mothers in their recovery program, culinary job training to the community, sidewalk outreach for harm reduction, and supporting housing to those in Paterson, Essex, Hudson and Morris counties who need their help.

Their Community Kitchen, which started out serving hot dogs and beans out of a church basement to 30 individuals, now serves 400 meals a day from their expanded kitchen to community members experiencing homelessness and housing inequality. 

“We don’t turn anyone away,” said Donna Fico, Vice President of Supportive Services. “Extra food is distributed to community members on Fridays to help them get through the weekend. Couple that with our clients in our halfway houses and shelters, and we serve between 900 and 1,000 meals a day.”

Their sit-down breakfast and lunch service has transitioned to meals to-go to protect the health and safety of guests and staff during COVID. Breakfast can be picked up at their entrance at 370 Grand Street, Monday through Thursday at 9 a.m. and lunch at noon and 1 p.m. 

Eva’s Village Recovery Community Center at 16 Spring Street has helped more than 10,000 people looking for recovery treatment and support since they opened their doors in 2009. The center, run by volunteers, is a safe-haven for people during their ongoing recovery journeys. It offers help with admission to treatment and shelters, connections to peer recovery support, as well as referrals to detox or social services.

Fico says their programs help restore physical, emotional, relational, and spiritual health, as well as give each person a network of support to help them move towards an independent and purpose-filled life.

Not only do they feed the hungry and offer support for recovery and treatment, they also operate residential, Halfway House programs for men and women struggling with substance use disorders. Their Men’s Halfway House currently fits 120 men, while their Women’s Halfway House has capacity for 36 women. 

Separately, they also have a “Mommy and Me” Halfway House for mothers with children. The Childcare and Education programs that are offered allow these mothers to focus on their own recovery while still being able to keep their family intact.

In addition to being a place to live until individuals can get back on their feet, the homes also have three-phase programs that are staffed by certified alcohol and drug counselors and help their transition from addiction to a life of dignity and independence. To further assist their transition into life outside these homes, individuals also receive resume and interview training through the Workforce Development program, which gives them the knowledge and tools necessary to successfully find a job.

“Last year, Eva’s Workforce Development Program helped 82 clients prepare for job re-entry,” Fico said.

The services that Eva’s Village offer are especially crucial at this time, and the community’s donations have helped ensure that their residents receive the support they desperately need to survive. They are thankful for any donation, and say that it will make an impact no matter the size. Their Community Kitchen is also accepting dry/boxed goods and commercially packaged frozen items, as well as gift cards.

“Our founder, Msgr. Vincent Puma, believed that ‘When you take someone’s hand, you cannot drop it until they can stand on their own two feet.’ That is what we do here at Eva’s,” Fico said. “We are here to help anyone who needs it. We help people to stand on their own, but it starts with hope.”

If you or someone you love is struggling with a substance use disorder, reach out to Eva’s Village for help at 973-523-6220. For more information and ways to help, please visit www.evasvillage.org.

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