CAMDEN — Joseph's House of Camden is marking 10 years of providing emergency food, shelter, and other services to the area's chronically homeless.

The charity grew from a seasonal one, just for the winter, to a round-the-clock operation housed in a 17,000 square foot building.

The last year in particular has presented situations that have proven particularly challenging for Joseph's House: How can people be safely sheltered while keeping COVID-19 spread down? What gets lost in translation if people can't meet face-to-face to express their needs?

Development director John Klein said although at first it appeared the "wheels fell off the wagon" when the pandemic hit, the organization has quickly adapted and is ready for its next 10 years.

That is to say, he would welcome a shorter run if it meant the problem of homelessness in and around South Camden was cured.

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Still, throughout this past year Joseph's House has stayed open seven days and nights a week and has kept those who need it safe, whether that be for meals, showers, clothing or social services including housing placement.

Homelessness does remain the umbrella issue, Klein said, but with it come other concerns including mental health, addiction, and medical problems.

"People that we're working with who are carrying an awful lot of baggage and so many complicated issues, at least we can still welcome them in," he said. "It's still a warm, safe, friendly, hospitable place."

Despite limited access to the community experts and professionals that usually assist them, in many cases because their own programs have been cut or suspended, Joseph's House has succeeded at developing its own hybrid approach to the pandemic, making some things virtual even though Klein said many issues are best addressed in person.

"I'm glad that we have the connectivity, and they're glad that they have that connectivity, so we're still able to move forward," he said. "It just takes a little more effort."

With money tight everywhere, Klein said funding to Joseph's House has taken a hit, but the organization's mission in the Camden County area remains vibrant and vital as its second decade begins.

For more information, visit jhoc.org.

Patrick Lavery is New Jersey 101.5's afternoon news anchor. Follow him on Twitter @plavery1015 or email patrick.lavery@townsquaremedia.com.

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