Two North Jersey GOP lawmakers from the 25th Legislative District are urging the federal government to prioritize transitional housing for homeless individuals, including survivors of domestic violence, in the Garden State.
Finding stable housing was a challenge even prior to the coronavirus pandemic, but now the ongoing public health crisis has only “exacerbated” the problem, according to Assemblywoman Aura Dunn.
In New Jersey—one of the hardest hit states in the country by the outbreak — “the financial barrier to finding more permanent housing has become more like a boulder during the pandemic” and more needs to be done to help those who have been displaced, Dunn said.
‘Pandemic Has Disrupted Life’
Since mid-March, more than 1.8 million New Jerseyans have filed for unemployment and the state has seen “a disconcerting increase in the number of homeless and reported domestic violence incidents,” State Sen. Anthony Bucco said.
“The pandemic has disrupted life for everyone. Unemployment, under-employment and uncertainty have crippled many residents financially,” Bucco said. “Families were blindsided by recent events and they are going to need time to rebuild their lives as they seek job opportunities, try to catch up on bills, and work to restore their credit before beginning the search for permanent housing. This is where transitional housing options and resources can be invaluable.”
Resolution Calls For Federal Assistance
In response, Bucco and Dunn introduced resolutions into the state Legislature to help find temporary housing, urging the United States Secretary for Housing and Urban Development to make a priority of funding programs in New Jersey.
Transitional housing programs allow homeless households up to 24 months of safe housing and support services, including financial education, life skills training, counseling, employment support and housing assistance.
Additionally, the resolutions call for prioritizing housing opportunities for domestic violence victims, who “often face physical and mental health issues stemming from their abuse, and financial barriers that prevent them from obtaining adequate housing,” Bucco said.
“With cooperation between Trenton and Washington, we can provide pandemic victims with desperately required assistance and help restore hope for their futures,” he said.
Programs ‘Essential’ For Rebuilding Lives
Although funding through the CARES Act has allowed for hotel shelter programs to be set up in cities across the country, Dunn pointed out these aren’t long-term solutions and soon “people will be forced onto the streets and into crowded shelters as the second wave of the coronavirus washes over the nation.”
Most emergency shelters do not allow individuals and families to stay for more than 90 days, which makes it difficult for displaced individuals to achieve some sense of stability, she said.
Diane Williams, President and Chief Executive Officer of JBWS, a non-profit that helps domestic violence victims in North Jersey, said, “In high rent areas like Morris County, the COVID-19 pandemic has further exacerbated the struggles that homeless individuals and families face in obtaining and maintaining stable housing.”
Transitional housing programs, William said, play an “essential” role in empowering survivors and helping them “begin rebuilding their lives.”