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.