Everyone knows that a job search for those reentering society following incarceration is difficult. Finding housing can be just as challenging.
The New Hope Memorial Community Development Corp. — with support from the Profeta Urban Investment Foundation Inc. — is working to change that.
Earlier this week, they did a ceremonial groundbreaking on an eight-unit apartment property in Newark that will be named Mildred’s Bridge, a tribute to former longtime city council President Mildred Crump, one of the city’s most revered and trailblazing public servants.
The structure will be located in the South Ward at the southeast corner of Bergen Street and Custer Avenue — directly across from the Essex County home of the New Jersey Reentry Corp., the nonprofit led by former Gov. Jim McGreevey, allowing the facilities to work in hand-in-hand in support of those who are transitioning back into society.
In addition to Profeta, the project also is getting support from Union County Savings Bank, which is financing the project.
“We could not have done this without these great partners that we have,” said the Rev. Steffie Bartley Sr., senior pastor of the New Hope Memorial Baptist Church in Elizabeth.
Paul Profeta said Mildred’s Bridge project can help an enormous amount of people. He noted that the prison system does little to help those who commit crimes because of homelessness, hunger and other struggles.
“That’s why this is so transformative,” he said. “This McGreevey center helps them with their issues like addiction and helps them get a job, but there’s something that’s critical missing: If somebody comes here for help and then at night goes back to the neighborhood and their friends where they committed the crime, there’s a higher chance they’re going to commit another crime and go back to prison.
“If they go across the street to Mildred’s Bridge, where they’re going to have a nice, clean, safe, respectable domicile, they have a much lower chance of recidivism.”
Bartley, Profeta and others touted the project while paying homage to Crump, who in 1994 became the first Black woman ever elected to Newark’s city council. She won a councilwoman at-large seat 12 years later and achieved another milestone when she became the first female city council president, a post she would hold until she resigned for health reasons in 2021.
“I think it’s an incredible opportunity to celebrate somebody that needs to be celebrated while she’s still with us,” Newark Mayor Ras Baraka said. “And I wanted to come and wish my best on this project and whatever we can do to make sure that it happens in totality and make sure that generations to come will benefit from the fact that we are creating more housing in the city.”
Crump, who was on hand, was humble in accepting the accolades, noting: “Little did I know that my life would become so rich and worthy. God has given me an opportunity to give to others and that’s what I wanted to do in my life, to do for others.”