Op-Ed: Hoboken’s ‘Rent for Refugees’ effort will do a lot to help natives of the Ukraine


In an editorial, Hoboken resident Marla Decker explains how and why the city’s “Rent for Refugees” effort will do a lot to help natives of the Ukraine.

Photo via Hobokennj.org.

We’re all connected.

That’s what I think the last two years has taught us. Whether it is feeling the impact of a part shortage across the globe impacting the prices and availability of items locally, or more poignantly, living the reality that a virus spread from human to human, circled the globe indifferent to geographies, borders, cultures, or language.

Yes, the truth is that we are all connected. And in that truth is the opportunity to be good neighbors. Near and far.

As you know, millions of refugees are fleeing Ukraine even as I speak. The majority of those refugees are currently in Poland – Ukraine’s neighbor to the West. Our global neighbors need our help.

So today I am here to announce the Rent for Refugees fundraising drive organized by the City of Hoboken in partnership with the Hoboken Relief Fund and Welcome Home, a local Hudson County non-profit that assists refugees here in New Jersey.

The city, with the help of the Hoboken community, will be “adopting” Białystok, Poland, a city near the border of Ukraine. The rent for refugees initiative will help raise funds from the residents and businesses of Hoboken to go directly to a local organization that is providing furnished apartments in Białystok for refugees in need of shelter for six months.

From neighbor to neighbor, we can all make a difference.

The city of Białystok is not unlike Hoboken. Its Mayor once described it as “a place which is the melting pot of different nations, religions, cultures, customs and traditions”. Its history, like Hoboken’s, is a story of immigration, integration, tolerance and embracing both the differences and the sameness among us all.

Hundreds of refugees have fled to Białystok. They include 42 children evacuated from a Ukrainian orphanage. They include people with disabilities. They include mostly women, children and the elderly.

The city is housing many in hotels and other shelters. What’s more is that dozens of families in Białystok have opened up their homes to shelter and care for families coming from Ukraine.

My personal connection to this city is through a friend from Białystok, now in the US and who once worked in Hoboken, who is collecting money to help her parents and friends bear the costs of hosting Ukrainian families.

I was in awe over the generosity that is required for people to open up their home and it occurred to me that so many in Hoboken want to help as well as so many people have already done.

And I thought that if we did so city to city, neighbor to neighbor, we could do a little good and make our connection to each other meaningful.

The city, especially Nora Martínez DeBenedetto, Hoboken Relief Fund, and Welcome Home, along with volunteers Rachel Hodes and Ada Whitney stepped up to make this idea a reality.

Each refugee family has a story and through this initiative, we hope to tell some of them and see the impact a connected, compassionate community can make for families fleeing horror.

So far the Robert Adam Foundation, with whom we partnered with, has sheltered five extended families. Each family includes children. Monthly rent is about $450.

We are aiming to raise enough to rent 10 modestly furnished apartments for 6 months or raise about $27,000. Of course, we also aim to exceed that goal.

We are asking for donations. Please consider giving $50 or even $112.50 – the cost of a week of rent.

Please give whatever you can and spread the word to all your connections. It’s a small world when we treat everyone as neighbors.

We greatly appreciate your support !! Thank you!

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