Permanent funding sought for NJ program aimed at preventing homelessness

 New Jersey Senate President Steve Sweeney is proposing that a housing assistance program for some of the state's most vulnerable residents be made permanent. (AP file photo)

New Jersey Senate President Steve Sweeney is proposing that a housing assistance program for some of the state's most vulnerable residents be made permanent. (AP file photo)

The leader of New Jersey’s Senate is proposing that a housing assistance program for some of the state’s most vulnerable residents be made permanent.

 

The state spent about $15 million last year on the program that provided subsidies to poor and disabled residents in an effort to prevent them from becoming homeless.

Steve Leder with the Community Health Law Project said ending that program has created a crisis.

“My agency, along with many other legal and social service agencies, has seen a flood of vulnerable individuals and families who have are either currently homeless or facing loss of their housing,” he said. “We have tried to assist these people as best we can, but our ability to help is limited without having the lifeline of emergency assistance.”

Senate President Steve Sweeney said without that assistance, residents fear they could end up in shelters or on the streets.

“We don’t want to put people in a situation where they don’t know where they’re going to be. A lot of the people that we’re dealing with are disabled, don’t understand government processes well, and are scared to death,” said Sweeney, D-Gloucester.

“Put yourself in their shoes. What would you do? What would you be doing right now if you were facing homelessness? You’d be reaching out panicking, trying to find someone to help you. That’s why this is so wrong, and it needs to be fixed.”

A spokesman for Gov. Chris Christie said Sweeney is being alarmist and that policy changes will not cause homelessness.

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