Meet Darryl Sewell: A Journey Inspired by Hope
For many guests of LSMNJ’s New Visions Homeless Day Shelter in Camden, Darryl Sewell is the first face they see, and it’s a friendly one. A caring man with an unassuming demeanor, Darryl knows a thing or two about life’s struggles and he’s able to simultaneously relate to and comfort New Visions’ guests who are experiencing a rough patch.
A lifelong resident of Camden, Darryl served three years with the infantry branch of the United States Army. After finishing his military service, he began working at a nursing home, tending to the residents’ dietary needs. Sitting and chatting with these folks may be when Darryl first realized his calling. Unfortunately, the nursing home experienced funding cutbacks and Darryl—a single parent with two young children to support—was laid off.
Knowing that he needed more of an education to boost his employment opportunities, Darryl began attending classes at Camden County College while participating in WorkFirstNJ, the state’s welfare reform program. Darryl was first introduced to New Visions through WorkFirstNJ and he began volunteering at the shelter. Soon after starting at New Visions, Darryl was asked to manage the shelter’s Homeless Management Information System (HMIS). HMIS is part of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Continuum of Care Program to assist homeless individuals and families and support homelessness prevention programs throughout the state. In this role, Darryl assisted with implementing a new biometric screening program as New Visions was selected as part of the pilot program for Camden County. It’s a technological system used to catalog each guest’s data. Darryl is the first point of contact as he greets the shelter’s guests and processes their biometric screenings. As Darryl explains, it makes the check-in process a lot faster and easier for their guests.
During his time at New Visions, Darryl successfully completed his associate’s degree, transferred to Rowan University, and graduated in 2014 with a bachelor’s degree in sociology. This marked a turning point in Darryl’s life and allowed him to support himself and his family, set a great example for his son and daughter, and put his caring nature and people skills to work.
No matter what Darryl is doing when he’s at New Visions, he puts his sociology training to good use, talking with guests and helping match them to whatever services they may need. So helpful is Darryl that Executive Director Kevin Moran affectionately refers to him as “the eyes and ears of the building.”
Reflecting on his journey, Darryl keeps it simple: “I like helping people. At one time, I was one paycheck away from being here myself. A lot of our guests just need time to get back on their feet. We help direct them to the right agencies and there’s nothing better than when they succeed and are able to come back and say ‘thank you’.”
When not at New Visions, Darryl’s working 12-hour shifts at Joseph’s House of Camden, an overnight shelter that shares an address on Atlantic Avenue with New Visions. To Darryl Sewell and all those who respond by doing what they can to make a difference in the lives of others, Lutheran Social Ministries says “THANK YOU!”