Gov. Chris Christie has put a timetable on ending homelessness in New Jersey.
After touring the HomeFront center in Ewing, the governor signed an executive order creating an interagency council with the aim of ending chronic homelessness in the state within 10 years.
HomeFront founder and CEO Connie Mercer believes that’s a realistic goal, but said she expects more homeless people will be looking for help until the economy improves.
“We’ve built a lot of structures that keep folks from actually catapulting into that horrible state. We’ve had an awful lot of luck getting people jobs and supporting them in the jobs and getting affordable housing,” Mercer said. “That’s the key.”
The council will identify and address the needs of the homeless and evaluate any rules and regulations that are an impediment to the effective delivery of services, according to state Human Services Commissioner Jennifer Velez.
“A lot of it is looking at funding streams, regulations, rules. Interaction among state agencies is somewhat the easy part,” Velez said. “It’s how we connect up with the private nonprofit communities, county governments, municipalities.”
Velez says the rate of chronic homelessness in New Jersey dropped 20 percent in the past year.