Clement House a haven for families in transition

Staff Writer

MATAWAN — Clement House, a transitional housing stepping stone for displaced families, will soon be saying goodbye to its 16th family.

“We are waiting for the certificate of occupancy to move into our new house,” said Karin Trunz, who currently lives at the Clement House with her husband Hardo and their two children.

“So, that is where we stand at this second in time. That is the last step.”

The Trunz family has found a haven in the Clement House since June 2013. Their Union Beach home was destroyed during superstorm Sandy in October 2012.

The 2,400-square-foot, single-family home is located on the grounds of St. Clement Catholic Church on Route 79 in Matawan. The home provides shelter for one family at a time, rent free, on a temporary basis.

Trunz said the family found out about Clement House through the Federal Emergency Management Agency while living in temporary housing.

“At the time, we were living six people in two bedrooms in a retirement home in Jackson, and I was inquiring about help for housing because we could not live in Union Beach anymore because our old house was demolished.”

Frank Mack, president of the nonprofit Clement House Inc., said a family can stay in the house for up to two years.

“We provide the home for them to occupy, and the tenants are responsible for utilities,” he said.

“They are subject to what we like to think of as evaluations in six-month increments. We sign a contract for families to use the house for six months at a time and lay out certain ground rules.

“If they adhere to those rules, whatever they might be for each case, then we renew with them after the six months and that goes on for a maximum of two years.”

Mack said the “ground rules” could vary from health goals to financial goals.

Karin Trunz said being displaced since the storm has been stressful, but Clement House has provided a sense of peace for the family.

“The interesting thing about the house is that it is completely alone. There is a long driveway, and the house faces a field. The only thing you can really see is the church,” she said.

“It is very peaceful. You have time to calm your nerves here. It is a fully functional house. It comes completely furnished and has three bedrooms, pretty much everything you would need. It gave us a chance to not be catapulted outside where we are used to living.”

Trunz added that while the prospect of being able to move back home soon is enticing, she and her husband look forward most to just having a home they can again call their own.

“I think for my husband and me, it will be gaining our independence,” she said.

“This is wonderful and great and has been a phenomenal help, but it is not ours. We look forward to really owning our lives again.”

Looking toward the future of Clement House, Mack said he hopes to have another Sandy-impacted family reside in the house.

“We are hoping for another Sandy family. We know a number of them are still living in temporary housing and we will welcome them if they fit our criteria,” he said.

“We opened this house in 1992 after starting construction in 1990. It has been very successful in getting people back on their feet. It is a critical part of our ministry with the church.”

Any family wishing to apply for a stay at the Clement House can contact Mack at 732-536-0005.