NEWARK – State Sen. Richard J. Codey today announced a series of new initiatives and legislation to address the problem of homelessness in New Jersey. The announcement came inside the main waiting area in Newark’s Penn Station.
“We simply cannot sit around anymore and think that the problem of homelessness in New Jersey is going to solve itself,” said Codey (D-Essex, Morris). “The folks we see on the streets are not strangers. They are family, they are friends, and they are former co-workers. They are people who need help but are facing a system that refuses to give it to them. The time has come for that to change.”
In March, Senator Codey dressed as a homeless man and experienced first-hand the problems with the system in the state. Among many of the issues he encountered, the most pressing was the inability of those with mental illness to find a shelter that would take them in. Thousands of those with mental illness go to bed every night in New Jersey without a roof over their head. The experience helped shape some of the initiatives announced today.
Among the bills that Codey will be sponsoring are: legislation to prohibit discrimination by an emergency shelter against mentally ill individuals who are not a danger to themselves or to others; legislation that prohibits emergency shelters for the homeless from refusing to provide services for a minimum of 72 hours; requiring certain Motor Vehicle surcharge revenues be dedicated to the special needs housing trust fund (S-1763); and the “New Jersey Residential Foreclosure Transformation Act,” establishing the “New Jersey Foreclosure Relief Corporation,” which will be dedicated to the purpose of purchasing foreclosed residential properties from institutional lenders and dedicating them for occupancy as affordable housing (S-1566).
“The challenges facing those with mental illness are already tough enough. We do not need to compound them by turning these folks away when they need a place to stay for the night. Not only is that simply cruel and inhuman, but it just makes the problem of homelessness that much worse,” said Codey.
In addition to the legislation, Codey will push for several initiatives that will help provide better shelters as well as more permanent housing. These initiatives include: support funding for groups like Bridges Coalition of Services, which provides services like food, clothing and toiletries directly to the homeless; a letter to the federal Housing and Urban Development Secretary regarding their emergency shelter information website, which is riddled with errors and incorrect information; a budget resolution to resume funding of the social worker loan forgiveness program at its original level – New Jersey needs to attract more social service practitioners to work with the homeless and other disadvantaged populations; and calling on Congress to allow foreclosed owners to stay in their homes as renters.
“We have to take steps to help those who are already on the street, but we also have to take preventative measures to make sure people aren’t becoming homeless in the first place. Letting those who are under foreclosure stay in their houses as renters is really just a common sense way to lower homelessness in New Jersey,” added Codey.