N.J. works on plan to end homelessness within a decade

 Deb Ellis, the executive director of the New Jersey Coalition to End Homelessness outlines her suggestions at a public hearing at the State Museum in Trenton (Phil Gregory/WHYY)

Deb Ellis, the executive director of the New Jersey Coalition to End Homelessness outlines her suggestions at a public hearing at the State Museum in Trenton (Phil Gregory/WHYY)

New Jersey is one of only two states in the country without a 10-year plan to end homelessness. As a state council begins mapping out a plan, it’s hearing suggestions on what needs to be done.

The executive director of the New Jersey Coalition to End Homelessness suggested that the state take the money that’s already being spent and use it in a more cost-effective way.

“We already put homeless people in motels in many counties,” said Deb Ellis Tuesday. “We’re saying the motels cost more or transitional housing costs more than helping them with rental assistance to get them into modest inexpensive apartments, and that would save the taxpayer money.”

Ellis is also urging the state to embrace the philosophy of “housing first,” which does not make the homeless prove they’re sober or off drugs before giving them a place to live.

Thousands of New Jersey residents are homeless on any given night, and the state needs to act soon to help them, she said.

“The newest point-in-time count in January hasn’t been released yet, but last year there were about 12,000 homeless in any one night. Plus, as you may or not know, there are a lot of tent cities in New Jersey,” Ellis said. “So people in New Jersey sometimes really have no place to go.”

While some programs are available at the county level, she said, they need to be offered statewide.

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

It will take 126,000 members this year for great news and programs to thrive. Help us get to 100% of the goal.