Program helps families keep their homes

This article on Burlington County’s homeless prevention program was published in the Times of Trenton today.

By Debra Friedman, Times of Trenton, Friday, September 07, 2007

Thanks to financial assistance provided by Burlington County’s homeless prevention program, 60 county families on the brink of losing their homes due to financial problems have been able to stay put, officials said.

The program, which began last October, has already exceeded the number of families it was estimated to help this year, according to the freeholder’s office.

During it’s introduction last fall, the county’s Board of Social Services estimated up to 35 families would be assisted in the first year and 45 families in the 15-month period after the program started, according to county officials.

“The Board of Social Services has done a great job already helping nearly twice as many families as the original estimate for the first year of this pilot program to prevent homelessness and preserve families,” said Freeholder Dawn Marie Addiego, who also serves on the social services board.

Under the program, families are given financial assistance to help with back rent, mortgage, utility and car payments as well as car repair fees and medical prescriptions, officials said. The majority of the families are receiving help with rent and mortgage payments, officials said.

“In addition to financial assistance, participants also are assigned a case manager who identifies the issues that have created their crisis, and then works to address those problems,” Addiego said.

The program was conceived by a working subcommittee comprised of freeholder representatives, the Burlington County Board of Social Services, and nonprofit agencies that work with the homeless to provide a safety net for families in danger, according to the county freeholder’s office.

The pilot program was initially started with county funds, and received additional funding in February from FEMA and the Burlington County United Way.

According to county spokeswoman Loretta O’Donnell, the Burlington County United Way gets some FEMA funding annually and their board allocated the money to the county specifically for this program.

So far the county has spent a total of $84, 424 on the program. Additionally, $11,470 in FEMA funds have been spent, officials said.

Addiego began the pursuit for a program to help prevent homelessness nearly three years ago following a report by the county’s Comprehensive Emergency Assistance System, which cited an increasing strain on the county and private agencies serving the needs of the homeless population.

According to a January count conducted by the state, there were 152 homeless families in 2007, compared to 151 in January 2005.

© 2007  The Star Ledger
© 2007 NJ.com All Rights Reserved.