THE BOARD OF TRUSTEES IS FORMED (1970)
The founding board of the Somerset Home for Temporarily Displaced Children
(Somerset Home) were members of the evening membership division (EMD)
of the Somerville Civic League. The EMD formally disbanded in 1990.
The EMD were the core board members from 1970 until the first program
of the Somerset Home, the Somerset Youth Shelter, opened in March 1973.
At that time, the board became more diversified with a cross section
of members from the community.
SOMERSET YOUTH SHELTER (1973 -1975)
Garretson Road - Bridgewater, NJ
The Somerset Youth Shelter was first
located in a rented, historic home (a former inn) on Garretson Road
in Bridgewater. The owners of the house, Larry and Kathy Martin, shared
the house, living in an apartment on the first floor, and were the first
set of "house parents". The capacity at that time was twelve.
Often, because there were no domestic violence shelters, homeless shelters
or other support systems all ages were welcome including infants, children
with extreme cases of autism, and their mothers. The Board of Social
Services (then the Somerset County Welfare Board) and DYFS (then the
Bureau of Children Services) were the primary referral sources.
In 1974, the Martins, no longer interested
in being "house parents" because of the long hours, resigned
and moved out but continued to rent to the Somerset Home. Over the next
few years, three sets of "house parents" held the job.
Then in 1975, two major changes occurred. First, the Somerset Youth
Shelter abandoned the house parent model in lieu of around the clock
child-care staff. And second, the Martins decided not to renew the Somerset
SOMERSET YOUTH SHELTER (1975-1976)
North Bridge Street - Somerville, NJ
In 1976, the corporation rented a single-family
house in Somerville and began to pursue purchasing a building for the
shelter program. This rented facility was located on North Bridge Street.
Also in 1973, the State of New Jersey
deinstitutionalized status offenders (youth who ran away from home were
no longer able to be locked up in detention). There became a great need
for programs for youth who were running away from home because of family
dysfunction including abuse and neglect. The board decided to specialize
in providing shelter to abused and neglected adolescents. The capacity
was lowered to eight and children below the age of twelve were no longer
admitted. DYFS had adequate foster homes for the younger kids and inadequate
resources for older kids.
Later that year, a house on Cliff Street
in Somerville was purchased where major zoning issues and several months
of Superior Court litigation were encountered. The final ruling was
against our plan. The building was later purchased and converted to
SOMERSET YOUTH SHELTER (1975-1976)
Cliff Street - Somerville, NJ
After unsuccessfully attempting to convert a house on Cliff Street in
Somerville for the shelter program, a property in Bridgewater was purchased.
It was known as the "Palazzo Boarding Home". This building,
also the former Bradley Gardens Firehouse, was purchased for $77,000
and is the building at 49 Brahma Avenue where the Somerset Youth Shelter
SOMERSET YOUTH SHELTER (1976-2005)
Brahma Avenue - Bridgewater, NJ
SOMERSET YOUTH SHELTER - ROLE STUDY - 1982
In 1982, the Somerset Home's board of
trustees conducted an in-depth "role study". This study examined
the role of the Somerset Youth Shelter program in the community to determine
the continued need for its services. The report documented there was
a community need for the program and found a need for new leadership
as well. A search for a new executive director was underway and in May,
1982, Jeffrey Fetzko, was hired.
Once program operations were stabilized,
a yearlong assessment of the facility took place. Program stabilization
was a priority from 1982 to 1985.
A facility study took place from 1985
to 1986. This study concluded repairs to the facility were needed and
a comprehensive renovation project began in 1987 and ended in 1989.
The total cost of the renovation was $250,000. During this same period
professional social workers and educational staff were added to the
In 1986, after extensive research about
the needs of the adolescents being served by the Somerset Youth Shelter
program, it was determined a program for older adolescents was needed.
Pathways and Passages programs were envisioned to focus on life-skills
issues for youth that would be turning 18 and moving from the "substitute
care system" to the community. Since the agency was not in a position
at that time to begin another residential program, Pathways Life-Skills
Education program was implemented. It was the first nonresidential,
in-house support program for the agency. A life-skills education curriculum
is taught through workshops, outreach, newsletters, and life-skills
Clark Street - Somerville, NJ
The next five years were consumed with
fundraising and planning for a permanent agency owned facility for Passages,
the residential component of the life-skills program. In 1987, Passages
opened in a rented house on Clark Street in Somerville for five young
women. During this initial time, the program was fine-tuned and a set
of detailed policy and procedures were developed.
Fourth Avenue - Bridgewater, NJ
In 1991 the Pathways/Passages building was constructed at 16 Fourth
Avenue in Bridgewater. The following year, Passages moved from Somerville
to Bridgewater and expanded it capacity to five young men in addition
to five young women. The Pathways program, which was located at the
Somerset Youth Shelter, relocated to the new facility as well.
Area Expansion (1999)
SOMERSET YOUTH SHELTER
Counseling Office Expansion (1999)
Once the Pathways/Passages
building was finished the need for additional space at the Somerset
Youth Shelter became the next priority. In 1995, $65,000 was spent on
capital improvements once again to the shelter facility. That same year,
the board of trustees approved a plan to expand counseling office space
at the shelter and to purchase the house next door at 47 Brahma for
additional recreation and parking space. A $550,000 capital campaign
was initiated and split into two phases. Phase I consisted of purchasing
adjacent property and completing the necessary site work to use the
property for parking and recreational space for youth. Both phases of
construction were completed by the end of 1999 accomplishing several
of the major goals included in the Vision 2000 Strategic Plan.
PATHWAYS PREGNANCY PREVENTION INITIATIVE
In 1998, a pregnancy prevention initiative
was awarded to the Pathways program. This program has both an adult-to-youth
and youth-to-youth mentor component. Pathways has expanded its life
skills expertise into peer counseling and mentoring with the goal of
reducing teenage pregnancy under this initiative. This program was abandoned
after three years and Pathways returned to focus on the broader issues
of life-skills education and housing.
PASSAGES KITCHEN PROJECT
The Passages residential facility will
also be the recipient of a major renovation during 2000-2002 with a
capital investment of more than $100,000 to upgrade kitchens and fire
STREET SMART - STREET OUTREACH PROGRAM
In 1998, our street outreach program was
begun and has identified 100 homeless youth (16-21) each year since its
inception. So many youth have been identified that the need for transitional
housing for older youth has become evident.
HOMELESS YOUTH ACT
The passage of the "Homeless Youth
Act" in 1999 by the State of New Jersey has provided increased
funding for basic center, transitional living programs and street outreach
programs. The effect of this new law has significantly affected the
capacity of the agencies throughout New Jersey to serve the "walk-in"
population and will also expand services to older youth ages 16-21.
The increase of federal funds in the area of Transitional Living Programs
and the IVE (Chafee) Independent Living initiative will bring new dollars
in new funding into New Jersey for the types of services provided by
the Somerset Home.
One of the major steps in the history
of organizational development is the accreditation by the Council on
Accreditation in 2001. This accreditation was part of an 18-month process
and accomplished one of the major goals outlined in the Vision 2005
EXPANSION OF TRANSITIONAL LIVING SERVICES
The second major goal included in the
Vision 2005 is the expansion of transitional living services. My Place
is envisioned as two group homes (My Place I and My Place II) serving,
serving ten older youth (18-21) who are in need of transitional housing
and life skills education.
My Place - Third Avenue - Bridgewater, NJ (2005-current)
Whitney House - Whitney Drive - Bridgewater,
Youth (18-21) live at My Place and Whitney
House for up to 18 months while learning life skills and preparing for
independence. My Place opened in May of 2005 to five young men and Whitney
House opened to five young women in March of 2006.
BRAHMA HOUSE (2005-current)
Brahma Avenue - Bridgewater, NJ
the Somerset Youth Shelter changed it's name to Brahma
House provides assessment, crisis intervention, family therapy,
basic skills education, recreation, outreach and family stabilization
in a residential treatment milieu.
an expansion of services in the form of a new service was begun. Bridge
House is a residential, supported-housing program for young adults,
ages 18 – 21 at the time of admission that makes available all
the services needed to support the tenant living independently, enabling
them to realize their full potential. Bridge House fills a need identified
as a result of Somerset Home’s experience providing transitional-living
services since 1988. The homeless older youth Somerset Home has served
are the driving force for this project. These older youth have progressed
beyond the need for 24/7 supervision and are ready to take the next
step toward adulthood. Most have aged-out of the state’s child
welfare system. Without affordable, long-term independent housing options,
they will likely be unable to build on their successes and go on to
reach their goals, such as completing college or vocational school,
finding full-time employment and becoming part of the community.
An interim Bridge House opened December 11 as the ultimate goal is to
build a 10-unit apartment building at agency-owned property at 8 Third
Avenue. Three apartments were rented at Brookside Garden Apartments
in Somerville and two tenants moved into the home on 8 Third Avenue
Bridgewater (between My Place and Passages).