On September 5th Hudson County held a public hearing to secure feedback from the community on “Keys to Ending Homelessness in Hudson County: Hudson County’s Ten Year Plan to End Chronic Homelessness.” This is an important step that is the result of over a year of work by hundreds of citizens including the homeless. To read County Executive Tom DeGise’s comments on the proposed plan click here.
‘No one in their right mind wants to be living on the streets’
Alliance plans to end homeless problem in 10 years
Jim Hague, Reporter staff writer
There are approximately 2,973 homeless people in Hudson County, according to a study done last year, but the county’s three shelters provide only 180 beds nightly.
It’s not a good ratio.
Initially, last fall, a consortium of non-profit groups called the Hudson County Alliance to End Homelessness (HCAEH) announced that it would put together a 10-year plan to virtually end chronic homelessness in Hudson County.
This past Wednesday night, the HCAEH unveiled the 10-year plan to the general public and began a 30-day discussion period before the plan officially gets adopted by County Executive Tom DeGise and the Board of Chosen Freeholders.
The plan focuses largely on obtaining federal funds to build 650 units of housing, and to address health needs.
The consortium links government agencies and groups that provide services to the homeless.
Program Director Jacob DeLemos said that while the planning process took place, it was evident that the only way to get anything done would be by working together, pooling resources, and adopting a “Housing First” strategy.
“I think we all believed that the goal of ending chronic homelessness was both realistic and achievable,” DeLemos said. “One of the initiatives of this plan is to see how we can work with the municipalities not just to manage the homeless problem, but work together to find permanent housing for the homeless.”
The six-page plan released Wednesday can be obtained by e-mailing JDeLemos@hcnj.us.
It lists 45 different goals, with the steps needed to be taken to reach every goal.
Specific ideas include:
Asking HUD for funding for 650 homeless units over the next 10 years, or 65 annually;
Meeting with towns to obtain Community Development Block Grants, and looking to local non-profits like the United Way;
Approaching large companies like Costco, Target, Walgreen’s, and drug companies to assist with “community drug dispensaries, providing the low-income and homeless client with free and/or very low-cost medication.”
They also plan to press the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development to return funding that the agency has pulled away.
“Over the last 18 months, the homeless count in Hudson County has not changed,” said Daniel Altilio of the United Way of Hudson County. “HUD has been pulling its funding away. We needed something like this for the long run. It’s a good first step.”
The plan is meant to encourage community awareness of chronic homelessness, bringing more people into the planning process, and making sure the homeless are aware of health services and other avenues they can take.
“We’re still looking for support,” DeLemos said. “I think it’s an important issue for everyone. We took a lot of time putting this document together.”
Altilio said, “One of the areas the United Way is heavily focusing on is homelessness. For the last two years, we’ve been trying to get a plan together to present to HUD [the federal division of Housing and Urban Development], one that is based on reality.”
But is asking for millions of dollars a realistic solution?
Altilio said he believes that having a plan in place is “a step in the right direction.”
“The ‘Housing First’ initiative is a plus,” Altilio said. “Statistics show that 80 percent of the homeless have behavioral health issues, like mental health or addiction. No one in their right mind wants to be living on the streets. We know we need shelters, we need transitional housing.”
At the hearing Wednesday night, several documents were presented, including an outline of a program used in San Diego that allows homeless people with unresolved petty crimes to complete a program to get out of homelessness and become self-sufficient.
To read the full article click here.