Atlantic City’s Homeless Problem Reflects Deeper Problems
A recent August 11, 2012 editorial in the Star Ledger uses Atlantic City’s homeless problem and the proposed shorter-term solutions, to draw attention to the need for long term solutions to homelessness in New Jersey, including funding affordable housing.
When the safety net crumbles, charity-based shelters such as Atlantic City’s become the last line of help. Having passed budgets that underfund these services, politicians shouldn’t be surprised when the homeless have nowhere else to go. But they’re right that local governments can’t rely on “bus therapy.”
Towns and counties also need to better coordinate and deploy the funding they have: Is it too often spent on emergency motel stays, rather than shelters? Or better yet, affordable housing?
So instead of just passing laws that shuffle the homeless around, we should focus on finding real solutions: getting people affordable housing; treating them for mental illness or addictions; helping them secure jobs.
And re-evaluating our budget priorities: Remember when Christie raised income taxes on the working poor and grabbed money set aside for affordable housing? And when the Democrats cut welfare and drug treatment programs?
That needs fixing, too, if we really want to solve the problem of homelessness in Atlantic City.
As background, local officials in Atlantic City are frustrated that other counties who lack adequate services for the homeless often provide their homeless with bus tickets to Atlantic City, which has a large emergency shelter. This practice is often called “Greyhound Therapy” and Republican Assemblymen Chris Brown and John Amodeo have proposed a bill that would penalize those who follow it.
But the editorial points to the facts that the safety net that should be preventing homelessness is not working and that homelessness is underserved. Governor Christie’s new Interagency Council on Homelessness has the opportunity to recommend long-term policy solutions.