In a few weeks, Project Extreme will officially launch Allan’s House in Teaneck, a transitional group home for boys ages 18-25. Established by David Katz, in memory of his friend, Allan Henning, who passed away just weeks shy of his 46th birthday, Allan’s House will provide living accommodations for 5-10 residents who have experienced some type of crisis and worked through it. Although these young men find themselves in the final stages of their recovery, they still require some assistance and support before they feel comfortable enough to go out on their own to live an independent lifestyle.
Based on a similar model in Brooklyn, Allan’s House is modeled on Miryam’s House, a home in Brooklyn for women over the age of 18 that has been providing assistance and support to young girls for the last eight years, leading them towards successful, fulfilling lives.
“Now these boys are at the next point in their lives where they have worked through the crisis—and they are either working or going to school—but they still need assistance. So we are providing them a group home to transition to the point where they can live independently or get ready to get married. That was the idea for Miryam’s House and it’s the same thing that we want to do with Allan’s House,” explains Project Extreme’s Executive Director Rabbi A.Y. Weinberg.
Teaneck resident Robin Bin-Nun will serve as the Program Director and oversee the boys, ensuring they have everything they need to succeed in their new environment. She will check on them daily, ensuring they are living up to their responsibilities and commitments, including going to their jobs or attending their classes.
A residence manager and counselor will be on hand to talk to them, assist them, and help them navigate day-to-day activities like dinner, laundry and other household chores. A dedicated night staff will also be on hand to mentor the boys while providing support and guidance. “These kids want to live here because they want to further themselves…They have to begin the process of moving on with their life and they just need a little extra help,” Bin-Nun said.
“They are learning how to live with others. They are learning how to be responsible for themselves, how to take care of themselves, and have positive experiences with the other residents and staff, as well as people in the community. And these are all ways for them to grow,” Rabbi Weinberg added.
“These aren’t kids who require 24 hour surveillance. Just a responsible adult in the house to help them navigate life and make the right choices… There are very strict rules in place in order to reside there,” Bin-Nun explained.
“In general, what we have found is that the personalities of these types of kids is that they are the sweetest, gentlest kids that you can imagine…once you get to know them, they are just amazing kids and they are not in a place where they are getting into trouble,” Rabbi Weinberg continued.
An NCSY director in Chicago for almost 20 years, Rabbi Weinberg started working with the at-risk population at a time when nobody else was. Initially running a summer road trip for boys, the program proved so successful that there was demand to plan a whole host of similar programs. Soon after, Rabbi Weinberg moved to New York to start Project Extreme and devote all his time to coordinating programming for this population throughout the year.
Rabbi Weinberg hopes that, especially on Shabbos, the community will embrace these young men and open their homes to them. He’d like to see them, “have a place that they can go to where they feel comfortable in a warm, positive environment—positive experiences to negate their negative experiences… In one way or another, this will go a long way.”
A staunch supporter of Allan’s House, Rabbi Yaakov Neuburger of Congregation Beth Abraham in Bergenfield, NJ said “Our neighbors, who profoundly embrace the compassion of Torah and the Torah’s optimistic belief in the potential of every person, are supremely positioned to provide community, support, and warmth to the Allan’s House residents and that gives great promise to the facility, its residents and its mission.”
The Ghermezian family, proud and passionate supporters of Project Extreme, regularly host these young people in their homes for the organization’s many Shabbatonim and events throughout the year. The family has pledged to help the residents of Allan’s House secure gainful employment within the family-owned American Dream Mall organization. However, Rabbi Weinberg adds, if someone from the local community would like to offer the boys a different opportunity that would suit them, then he would be open to it.
Project Extreme, a full-service, non-profit organization, has long been providing innovative programs and solutions for at-risk teens, their families and communities. Through a combination of experimental and intellectual learning opportunities, along with social-emotional and educational support, Jewish at-risk teens have been benefiting from Project Extreme’s unique approach for over two decades.
Today Project Extreme not only provides year-round programming for at-risk Jewish youth, but also has its own crisis text hotline in place that has thus far prevented 19 suicides. “It’s a growing need to be able to provide programs and resources for this population. So that’s why I did it.”
“I have so many success stories I’d like to share…I was just at the wedding of a girl that was with us in 2015 and she was lost. She was in a bad place. And now she’s married.” Another young woman went on to a major accounting firm and several others have gone into business for themselves.
“I think that it’s unique. Nobody else is doing this,” Rabbi Weinberg explains. “You’ll have a sober living. You’ll have a rehab. You’ll have a halfway house. But nobody has transitional living for kids like this who just need a place to live, to be able to continue growing. We’re the only ones doing it.