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Empowering and Training People
With Lived Experience of Homelessness

Check Back Here This Spring for Applications for the 2024 Program
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The Garden State Leaders is a free leadership and advocacy training program for NJ residents with lived experience of homelessness and poverty.  Throughout the program, participants learn to effectively tell their stories and further their advocacy goals.  Each session focuses on different topics such as understanding how the legislative process works in NJ, opportunities to make a difference on the local government level in your community, working with the media, and many more. 

​The knowledge and skills built and connections made, help participants take on influential roles on issues pertinent to their lives.  Graduates are also connected regularly to a range of advocacy opportunities that match their interests and experiences.

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Program Highlights


  • Learn how to advocate and tell your own story to effect change on public policies that matter to you.

  • Work closely with other advocates and key non-profit leaders throughout the state.

  • Interact with local and state government officials.

  • Develop strategies and techniques for working with the media.

  • Free to participate.

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We are thrilled this year’s class will be hosted by Princeton University's Eviction Lab, which is led by Matthew Desmond, author of the Pulitzer Prize winning book Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City (2017) and Poverty by America (2023)

86 graduates from the Garden State Leaders Program are already effecting change in NJ:
  • In leadership roles with nonprofits.
  • From becoming advocates for expanding TANF (Temporary Assistance to Needy Families) and veteran services to increasing the minimum wage and fighting for environmental and criminal justice.
  • Pursuing public office.
  • Taking particularly active roles in policy discussions about ending homelessness. Our graduates comprise a majority of those participating on the Lived Experience Advisory Committee for the NJ Department of Community Affairs' Office of Homelessness Prevention.
  • Working in the community with people currently struggling with homelessness.
  • One of our graduates even started and currently operates a homeless shelter.
Testimonials from our Garden State Leaders

“Excellent program! ...Knowledge is very empowering and I feel blessed to share my experience to advocate and help others. Thank you all!"

"This program changed me tremendously. Advocating and serving others has become my life's purpose...I know I can be a good advocate.  It comes from somewhere deep inside us. Thank you for allowing me the opportunity..."

"The Garden State Leaders Program has had such a positive influence in my life in so many ways.  I have always felt that I had potential, I was just completely in doubt as to what I felt confident in applying it to.  I knew I had an important personal story based on my life experiences that many people identified with and respected.  However, I was not educated on how to present my story in a manner for which it could be utilized as a resource tool of effectiveness... I have already started using the lessons and skilled trades learned in the program to engage with members of my local community."​

For questions or more information, please reach out to us.

Join us in transforming lives.

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