Interview with April and Caitlin founders of Just Human Inc.

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Caitlin Flood and April Hinkle of Just Human, Inc.
Photo by Mac Hartshorn/Hartshorn Portraiture

Providing help, support and homes for our most vulnerable community members.

It’s so nice to be speaking with you both. I have seen April a few times when I donated a few items for your clients. I am happy to be speaking with you about your mission and what you are doing! Just Human came to my attention as domestic violence and the impact on women and families is a subject close to my heart. You have started this right in the area makes me very happy to know this resource is available to such a vulnerable part of our population. Coming from social services (April) and criminal defense law (Caitlin), can you please explain a bit about the mission of Just Human and also what brought the two of you to form it?

April – I was born and raised in California but moved out to NYC in 2014. I’ve worked across the social services field with varied roles – Counselor in Rikers Island, Case Manager for housing program for homeless New Yorkers, Manager for a crime victim service team, Advocate for survivors of sex crimes, etc. I became a new mom last year right around the time I started thinking about launching this new, big idea. Building community and being a good human has always been a priority but becoming a new mom amplified my drive to do something impactful. Just Human is all about bringing locals together to support families transitioning out of family or domestic violence shelters.

 Caitlin- I am from Queens, NY, lived in Jersey City for three years when I was practicing at the Hudson County Office of the Public Defender, and now am back in Queens working at the Center for Court Innovation, a criminal justice reform organization in NYC. I am the oldest of 6 kids – the four youngest are now 15-18 years old. They keep me on my toes — and keep me somewhat relevant… I had to learn Snapchat to communicate with them 🙂 

Just Human overview:  Just Human (JH) creates a safe and warm home for families that have already been through a lot. And whatever the source of housing instability, families deserve a roof over their heads and a comfortable, welcoming environment to come home to. JH not only provides a direct service to families but also connects families and donors in a larger community where donors are seeing the impact of their contributions in real time. JH is supporting local artists and vendors and creating a space where people can really follow the progress through social media. We’re hoping to create a network of strong, happy, and healthy families. We are all someone’s child, sibling, cousin, aunt/uncle, grandchild and parenting is hard, even when a family is stably housed. (Caitlin) I am not a mom yet but I see my friends who are starting to have kids and even with a home, clothes, food, a supportive partner/family, parenting is so challenging and I can’t imagine providing for your child while worrying about providing a safe place to call home. The work of JH is really to take one burden away from a family and help them create a space they are excited to be in, where they can continue to grow and thrive.

With the advent of Covid-19 it must have been a terrific struggle for an organization just getting started! What was that like?

April– At first, we really did not know what direction to take. We couldn’t collect donations or set apartments up so everything felt stagnant but then we started to hear about a rise in family violence as stay-at-home orders were issued. This is when we created our crowdfunding campaign. We moved all the previously owned donations into the storage unit and cleaned them then focused on collecting brand new linens and funds to purchase essentials for post-COVID19 setups. Our Amazon wish list has been a great way for people to contribute brand new decorative items and ship straight to our storage unit but we also wanted to support local artisans who likely lost their employment due to COVID19. We purchased candles from a salon owner who pivoted to candle making from her home and we bought original artwork from local artists.

Now that things are starting up again, if you could create a wish list for Just Human, what would be on it?

Storage space! JH has such generous donors and we don’t want to turn anything away but with one small storage unit/our own apartments as pseudo-storage we need more room to accept bigger furniture like sofas and tables and chairs people continue to donate.  We’ve worked with donors who have donated money to support renting the initial storage space and are hoping to partner with some great people to share some additional space. We could also use a truck for picking up donated items and for move-in days. As much as my teenage brother’s little Subaru has been holding its own, we need a big truck 🙂

Also, a staple for these set-ups is tons of luxurious, brand new, beautiful bedding for full and queen-size bedding! We also love collecting area rugs, mirrors, curtains, artwork, and vases for the families we work with. If you use it to decorate your home, we can use it to decorate others’ homes.

What are your plans for the next 12 months for Just Human?

Our goal is to raise roughly $100k in capital through various funding streams including grants, scholarships, investors, and crowdfunding. This will allow us to scale the program and make Just Human a platform that translates to cities across the country. Domestic violence and housing instability are not unique to Hudson County and we hope to meet the needs of other communities. 

Farmer’s Markets Reopen- What to Expect When You Go

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The new normal for farmer’s markets: masks will be required and the booth owners will pack goods on your behalf. Photo: Mac Hartshorn

After months of living indoors and waiting on lines for basic supplies I have been waiting impatiently for the return of our favorite source of fresh fruit and vegetables, baked goods and flowers- Farmer’s Markets!

Like everything else these days there are changes to the way these outdoor markets are run to keep everyone safe while supporting hardworking local farms who work all year for the produce they sell in Summer and Fall. I spoke with Debbie Mangual Condi who is the Public Events Manager at CDS (Commercial District Services) and manages the Journal Square Green Market as well as the Artist & Maker Market in Journal Square to talk about the markets she is helping to open in Jersey City.

Debbie began her career as a vendor in the local street markets around Jersey City selling her handmade jewelry as well as handpainted leather clothing and luxury purses as Vera Vixeness. Her expertise in the markets make her an invaluable member of the team at CDS that brings street markets in the area to life. In 2015, Mangual-Condi founded the Artist & Maker Market, which is a Jersey City based pop-up event company, expanding from six markets a year with currently over 90 markets a year.  Mangual-Condi is passionate about empowering communities through collaborative strategies and discovering ways to reclaim and value their public spaces.

While non-food markets are still a question for the time being I talked to Debbie about what we can expect as the farmers markets reopen
Debbie, thanks so much for speaking with me! I’m excited to start getting fresh, local produce againWhat kind of restrictions should we expect when going to the market.
Nice talking to you as well Jennifer! We’re excited to be back. There are definitely changes to keep everyone safe. Farmer’s markets in Jersey City (and throughout NJ) have opened up with strict Covid-19 guidelines which include precautions such as vendors stationed 10 feet apart, masks required for both vendors and patrons,  practicing social distance, and an altered market layout which requires a one way traffic flow
Who’s coming back and what are they bringing? Is it just fruit and vegetables?
At the moment at Journal Square we have 2 farmers, a gourmet nut and fruit vendor and a certified farm-plant vendor. Both farmers have the usual home baked goods, fresh fruits and produce, eggs, plants etc. When you order in advance from the farm vendors you will see even more variety including meats, fish, fresh butter and much more.
Do we have to order in advance? If so, how does that happen?
You dont have to order online although shoppers are encouraged to pay online and to arrange for curbside pick-up at the market. To coordinate online purchases for Journal Square, please click here and follow links to individual vendors. In Hoboken here are additional links to those markets http://hobokenfarmersmarket.com/ For downtown Jersey City https://jcdowntown.org/index.php , Hamilton Park http://www.hpnajc.org/Farmers-Market and in JC Heights http://www.riverviewfarmersmarket.org/  

In Summit summitdowntown.org/events/farmers-market/ and Westfield (virtual for pickup only) gwaccnj.com/farmers-market/

Can we choose our own produce?
Observing the new guidelines, farmers must handle the products as the shopper specifies or points to what they want.

If I have bags can I use them?

Reusable bags are fine to use as long as the shopper bags his/her own products

What’s the best and safest way to pay?

Card/ Debit purchases are encouraged since it minimizes contact. Cash is only handled by one staff member. Staff must wash their hands and sanitize after handling any form of payment.

What else do I need to know?

The Journal Square green market is opened every Wednesday & Friday from 2pm until 8pm- however since NJ is at 8pm curfew our new operating hours are from 2pm-7pm

Any word on the future of artist and maker markets yet?

The city, erring on the side of caution, has not moved forward with non-farm food vending. As time goes on we can expect – admittedly optimistic-to see some of these strict guidelines lifted. 
As far as our artisan vendors are concerned, we plan to add more dates later this year or extend the season and times to make sure they have makeup opportunities throughout the year as we understand the market season is an important source of income to many of these vendors.

Thanks so much for all the work you are doing to make this happen and keep us safe!



Hidden Jersey Shore Gem

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One user on Yelp gave this beach 1 Star…

He said: “Five stars, but I am trying to dissuade people from going, because it’s the greatest beach in the world (IMO) and I don’t want word to get out.”

High praise indeed for Island Beach State Park- Please read complete details on what activities are available on each area of this paradise here.

The park is a barrier island that stretches for 10 miles between the Atlantic Ocean and Barnegat Bay, and it’s sectioned off by numbered parking lots. It’s important to arrive early, as the park closes once the parking lots reach their capacity — a measure that guarantees a comfortable environment and has been in effect even before the outbreak of COVID-19. 

Drive past the first 2 parking lots further down the tree-draped, secluded road and you’ll start to see a more natural landscape where, with minimal effort, you can find a patch of beach that feels like it’s been reserved entirely for you.

Island Beach is one of the last few places on the north Atlantic coast with such an undeveloped shoreline.

Pay the $10 per-car fee ($20 for non-NJ-residents on weekends) and you’re free to surf, run your dog, ride bikes, fish, grill, and even ride horses.