Garden State Leaders: Advocating for Change Throughout New Jersey
Since the conclusion of our first round of the Garden State Leaders program, the Leaders, who have lived experience with homelessness and poverty in NJ, have been making their voices heard, advocating for change in different capacities throughout the state. Recently, Garden State Leader, Susan Parker, was profiled in the Anti-Poverty Network's Stories of NJ project. We encourage you to read the profile by clicking here.
In December, another Leader, Jeff Lacey, was invited to speak at the Supportive Housing Association of NJ's Annual Conference. Jeff did a terrific job speaking in front of a group of over 100 people including NJ DCA Commissioner Charles Richman, who Mr. Lacey called upon to take action on behalf of the homeless as the Commissioner listened.
In the fall, three of our Leaders, James Abro, Leigh Taylor, and Angela Jackson spoke as part of a keynote panel at the Anti-Poverty Network's Annual Summit. They are pictured below at the Summit with former NJ Governor McGreevey.
Others who have completed the program have testified at legislative hearings and met directly with legislators. We continue to work with these outstanding individuals as they advocate for change for NJ residents. For more info on the program, click here.
NJ Spotlight Article Highlights Damage to NJ's Safety Net
Hank Kalet's article published June 30th, 2016 by NJ Spotlight, "Christie's Welfare Cuts Leave NJ Safety Net in Tatters" highlights the damage to NJ's safety net that has put thousands of NJ's most vulnerable residents at imminent risk of homelessness while endangering the survival of the social service agencies that help them avoid ending up on the streets.
The Coalition has been working together with our partners to counter the impact of these cuts and the tightened enforcement of benefits regulations over the past year. We highly recommend you take a few minutes to read this important story, which outlines the problems and some solutions to this crisis. Click Here to read.
Coalition in the Media
"Christie Expands Rental Voucher Program for the Homeless"
Philadelphia Inquirer, 3.31.2016
In spite of Governor Christie's claim to have decreased homelessness in the state, advocates, including Coalition Trustee Jeff WIld, explain that the numbers here are not telling the full story. Wild notes "The Christie administration has made homelessness in New Jersey far worse - not better," and "tragically, about a year ago, this administration launched a campaign to cut back on emergency assistance: the last resort for our most vulnerable adults and children, including tens of thousands of homeless statewide."
Read more by clicking here.
"Steeper Challenges for Homeless Living in U.S. Illegaly"
The Record, 3.28.2016
Coalition Trustee, Jeff Wild and Advisory Committee member, Julia Orlando, as well as other North Jersey nonprofit leaders speak to the limited services available to undocumented immigrants in the northern part of the state. To read, click here.
"Advocates Urge Lifting Ban on Welfare Aid for Those Guilty of Drug Distribution"
NJ Spotlight, 1.15.2016
Hank Kalet speaks with Jeff Wild, from the Coalition, and Serena Rice, of the Anti-Poverty Network about the bill passed through both houses of the NJ legislature earlier in the month that would remove the restriction on GA for individuals who have already served time for drug distribution convictions. To read, click here.
Announcing an ADVOCACY TOOLKIT:
County Homelessness Trust Funds
We are excited to announce our Advocacy Toolkit on County Homelessness Trust Funds. In this time of scarce government resources, Trust Funds provide counties with an innovative source of funding to increase self-sufficiency and help families and individuals obtain safe and stable homes.
In 2009, the NJ Legislature authorized counties to create Trust Funds by adding a surcharge of $3 for each document recorded by the County Clerk. For the nine counties that have adopted the Funds, over $100,000 has been raised per county per year, which has helped prevent and end homelessness for many individuals and families in their communities. Yet 12 of our 21 counties still do not have such Funds. With the help of our Toolkit, we hope more counties will adopt Trust Funds.
Click here, or drop-down the Our Work page to access the Toolkit. We hope that it will be helpful to you if your county has not yet adopted a Trust Fund. Please let us know if you would like more information or assistance.
SETTLEMENT REACHED IN ANTI-BEGGING CHALLENGE
In March 2015, a settlement was reached in the lawsuit filed in December 2014, challenging two New Brunswick laws that prohibited begging for food or money. The Coalition was a plaintiff in the lawsuit, along with John Fleming, who had been arrested four times for holding a sign that says "Broke/ Please Help/ Thank You/ God Bless You." In the settlement, New Brunswick agreed to not enforce the laws and to repeal or amend them as soon as possible. The Coalition served as an organizational plaintiff because we believe that laws criminalizing homelessness violate the constitutional and human rights of individuals who are homeless and offend basic human dignity. Instead of putting resources into enacting or enforcing such laws, we should support policies that ensure everyone has a safe place to live and cost-effective models like Housing First and Rapid Rehousing (see below). The Coalition was represented by the American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey and pro bonolawyers from McCarter & English, LLP. Click here and here for additional news coverage of the settlement.
The National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty recently has examined the increase in laws criminalizing homelessness, and issued a report "No Safe Place; The Criminalization of Homelessness in U.S. Cities." To read the full report, click here.
REPORT OF INTERAGENCY COUNCIL ON HOMELESSNESS RELEASED
On Friday, April 24th, 2015, Governor Christie released the long-awaited Final Report of the Interagency Council on Homelessness. The Report recommends that the State of New Jersey adopt evidence-based practices to address homelessness that focus on moving individuals and families to housing as quickly as possible and providing the supports to keep them stably housed. Specifically, the recommended practices include: 1) Housing First policies to meet the needs of the chronically homeless; 2) Rapid Re-housing for homeless families and short term homeless populations; 3) Prevention services to keep individuals and families from becoming homeless.
In a press release accompanying the report, Governor Christie announced the creation of a Working Group to implement the Report's recommendations, and provide the specific objectives, tasks and time frames essential to the success of a 10-Year Plan, including updates and monitoring activities. It will be comprised of public members Julia Orlando from the Bergen County Housing, Health and Human Services Center (who serves on the Coalition's Advisory Board) and Matthew Reilly from MEND, Inc., and senior leadership from the Departments of Human Services, Children and Families, Corrections, Community Affairs, Military and Veterans Affairs, Health, Labor and Workforce Development, the Parole Board and the Housing and Mortgage Finance Agency.
The Report's 6 recommendations are:
Provide state-level leadership on preventing and ending homelessness through a permanent New Jersey Interagency Council on Homelessness housed in the Governor's office with the capacity to monitor and implement the recommendations in this document and monitor trends and progress through utilization of a Homeless Management Information System with state-wide participation.
Increase access to stable and affordable housing and permanent housing by implementing evidence-based practices to create both new affordable housing options and broaden access to existing housing through a variety of fiscal and regulatory mechanisms.
Increase economic security to address the causes of homelessness by expanding outreach and training efforts to ensure that both providers and homeless individuals and families have access to and knowledge of available sources of financial assistance, job training and employment opportunities.
Improve health and stability by integrating primary health care and behavioral health services for homeless individuals and families, including high users of Medicaid services and individuals with continuing medical needs following hospital discharge and/or people with behavioral health needs who are not eligible for either hospitalization or traditional shelters.
Retool the homeless crisis response system using appropriate evidence-based practices such as permanent supportive housing to address the needs of the chronically homeless, and rapid re-housing for many homeless families and short-term homeless, while ensuring a comprehensive array of housing options at the local and/or regional level, that benefit from proven strategies utilized in New Jersey and other states to deliver case management, outreach, and other support services, including peer networks.
Improve collaboration on services for homeless subpopulations, including veterans, older adults, homeless children and their families, youth and young adults, the formerly incarcerated, and the chronically homeless (including those with serious and persistent mental illness); and supporting the compliance of homeless shelters with the Americans with Disabilities Act.
To read the full report, click here.