New Jersey Deaf Housing

Our Story

We’re glad that you’ve come here for a visit. Please grab a mug of your favorite beverage and then sit down to learn what we’re all about.

We have a goal and we’re aiming to make it come true. The goal is to establish an adult housing facility, built primarily for those who are among these diverse groups:

  • Deaf
  • Hard of Hearing
  • DeafBlind
  • Late-Deafened

OUR ROOTS…..

Motivated by a passion for social justice, Newark Archdiocese’s Catholic Ministry with the Deaf first identified the need for specialized Deaf housing early in the 1990’s. The primary tenet of Catholic Social Teaching calls for “respect for the dignity of the human person.” As part of our social and pastoral missions, we regularly found many isolated Deaf seniors whose living situations were anything but dignified. Whether socially isolated in their homes or in extended care facilities, their daily needs were frequently neglected due to language and attitude barriers. In many cases, we witnessed significant deterioration of physical, mental and spiritual health, due to nothing more than ignorance, patronization and/or misunderstanding on the part of caregivers and service providers.  

In 1996, our Ministry began Project Open Spirit (a.k.a The Deaf Nursing Home Project), staffed by Deacon Tom Smith and a small crew of dedicated volunteers, including Bob Queenan,  Lila Taylor and Donna Kovach. We took a pro-active approach to identifying and addressing the growing need for supportive housing among our Deaf seniors. We conducted numerous “Deaf Awareness” trainings for administrators and staff at various senior care facilities. Project Open Spirit also surveyed the eight Catholic extended care facilities within the four most-densely populated counties of Hudson, Essex, Union and Bergen, to determine how Deaf residents’ communication needs were being addressed. We found that most were socially isolated and had little or no access to TTYs, closed captioned televisions, interpreters or any form of Deaf Culture. Modes of communication between Deaf residents and staff varied from exaggerated gestures to note-writing, with little or no use of ASL or assistive technology.  

 

OUR PROGRESS…..

By 2003, we had evolved into the Deaf Senior Citizen Nursing Home Committee. Officially recognized by the New Jersey Department of Human Services/Division of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, and still highly motivated by our continued exposure to the mental and physical suffering caused by the lack of basic human contact and participation in their own healthcare, we approached St. Clare’s Hospital in Dover, NJ with a plan. The administration helped us establish a pilot project to enhance services to Deaf patients in one of their extended care facilities. Unfortunately, after a short stay, the Deaf woman placed there passed away and no other Deaf patients were admitted. The program folded.

In 2004, under the leadership of Lila Taylor, a grass-roots committee as formed and dedicated to materializing our dream of a comfortable, safe home for New Jersey’s Deaf seniors. We called ourselves New Jersey Deaf Senior Housing, and regrouped our efforts in 2006 becoming a subcommittee of the New Jersey Association of the Deaf (NJAD).

 

Learning from Arizona’s OBSTACLES (legal and financial)…..

The 2008 financial crisis caused delays for Cardinal Capital Management, our development partner, in putting together tax credits for the Arizona project (Apache ASL Trails) and complicated our own funding plans.

Cardinal Capital Management (CCM) spent a great deal of time and money stabilizing the Arizona project, since the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) officials disputed the legality of limiting residency to Deaf and Hard of Hearing people, even though $20 million (including a great deal of federal funds) was used to build a specifically “deaf-friendly” facility.  During our partnership with CCM, NJDSH learned a lot about negotiating successfully with politicians, standing up to government officials, anticipating funding obstacles, researching zoning restrictions and community organizing to create public awareness around the residential needs of the Deaf community.

Having studied the demographics at the time and thoroughly surveyed NJ’s Deaf community at community events, we decided to look for land in Morris County. CCM hoped to purchase this land by the end of 2011. However, HUD continued to cause serious legal problems for CCM in Arizona, so they were reluctant to move ahead with the New Jersey project. CCM partnered with the Arizona Housing Authority and initiated an awareness campaign by the National Association of the Deaf. Eventually, due to these efforts, HUD backed down and no longer resists the rights of Deaf people to live together in an ASL-friendly environment. New Jersey got “the green light” again!

 

OUR MILESTONES…..

In 2012, we met with the NJAD board to discuss NJDSH becoming an independent organization. Early the next year, we became incorporated as a 501(c)(3) non-for-profit corporation, allowing us greater autonomy and the ability to receive tax-deductible donations.

In 2014, Andy Oh and Lori Timney set up the NJDSH website.

 

OUR VISITS….. 

The NJDSH Executive Committee met with Cardinal Capital Management executives in Wisconsin in June, and represented NJDSH at the grand opening of Apache ASL Trails in November 2011. Subsequently, Lila and Tom visited Apache ASL Trails Deaf Senior Housing in Tempe, AZ in January 2012. They were very impressed with both the high-tech amenities and the obvious well-being of the residents. CCM executives and staff visited NJ numerous times during the last 10 years to brainstorm with NJDSH board members and meet with government officials and real estate agents. In 2013, Lila represented our organization at the Deaf Seniors of America convention and Erich Schwenker of CCM gave a presentation on Deaf Housing to NJAD.

Awareness Raising & Fundraising EVENTS:

  • October 6, 2012, a Community Forum (sponsored by NJ Relay and DDHH) held in Montville Senior Center. A variety of Deaf service organizations were represented, all of whom agreed to advocate with  a letter writing campaign on our behalf to congressmen, senators and other government officials.
  • Tricky Tray and Fashion Show on May 18, 2013.  
  • Oktoberfest Bazaar and vendor sale – October 2013.
  • NJ DEAF SENIOR HOUSING NOW forum attended by hundreds from NJ Deaf communities at Rahway Library – March 17, 2014. Explanation of goals, and networking very successful.
  • Exhibitor’s Booth at Union County College’s annual ASL Festival every year, 2009-2018.
  • Holiday Luncheon fundraiser at Bottagra Restaurant in Hawthorne on December 13, 2014.
  • Valentine Luncheon at Lake Valhalla Club in February, 2016.
  • Exhibitor’s Booth at Meridian Health Care’s Deaf Awareness Fair, 2016.
  • Picnics – Our first fund-raising event was a community picnic in Kinnelon on July 30, 2012. In 2013, we had an “indoor picnic” in August in Montville. And, in August, 2014, a fund-raising picnic at Foster Fields Farm in Morristown. In May, 2015, Northwest Jersey Association of the Deaf sponsored a picnic fundraiser for NJDSH.
  • June 17, 2017 – Walkathon at Christ Church in Rockaway.
  • Fashion Shows: Starting with a small fashion show and gift-bag auction in Montville in 2012, we’ve held Deaf Fashion Show/Gift Bag Auction fundraisers at the following locations: Molly Pitcher Inn, Red Bank in May 2015, Pines Manor, Edison in May 2016, and in October 2017, our largest and most successful fundraising event to date, our 5th FSGBA at Ocean Place in Long Branch, during which we raised over $20,000.
  • November 19 2018, a Community Forum was held at Our Lady of Peace Church in North Brunswick to share news of our progress with the community.

A DARK DAY…. A New Leader…..

On February 22, 2018, we lost the woman who spearheaded our organization, when our beloved Lila Taylor “passed into spirit.” The memory of her courage, passion and stamina continues to inspire us to greatness. She remains our mentor and patroness, as we are more determined than ever to complete the dream she first envisioned some 20 years ago. When we break ground for our new residence, it will be called “Lila’s Place,” in her honor.

In March of 2018, Kathy KadyHopkins, at Lila’s request, assumed the role of president and has been leading us onward with the same spirit of hope, respect and hard work so embodied by her friend Lila.

 

A New Name, New Board Members, and a New Logo…..

Recognizing that our dream of comfortable, safe, affordable housing for NJ’s Deaf should include people of all ages, on July 26, 2018, the State officially recognized our new name, New Jersey Deaf Housing. Realizing that our demographics had changed considerably, our land search has broadened beyond Morris County, to include properties in Union and Middlesex counties, while still keeping our eyes on a centralized site that offers proximity to medical facilities, shopping and public transportation.  

Gina Maria Correia, Kevin Munn and Kathy Gabry, all well-known and respected advocates and leaders in NJ’s Deaf Community, joined our Executive Board this year. (See Board Members link above).

Kevin, our new V.P. of Publicity, created our new logo, beautifully symbolizing NJDH’s focus on diversity and hope within our Deaf, Hard of Hearing, Deaf Blind and Late Deafened Communities.

Faces, logos and names change, but our “story” moves steadily forward… with the same motto Lila used so many times:  

Teamwork Makes the Dream Work