Need for Affordable Homes in City Outpaces Supply
On September 3, 2015, Newark Mayor Ras J. Baraka, the Newark Municipal Council and Department of Health and Community Wellness Director Dr. Hanaa Hamdi announced that the City of Newark has ceased its one-stop shop program for qualified homeless individuals and families seeking free housing that began the day before, September 2, 2015, because the effort reached its capacity to place applicants on the first day.
The Department of Health and Community Wellness launched the program on September 2 and it was scheduled to run for three consecutive additional days at Penn Station and St. James Social Services.
But, as of 3 p.m. that day, Director Hamdi announced that the program had served more than 500 people, including 84 children, providing them with housing and medical screening. About 200 applicants had substance abuse or mental health disabilities, and 60 had medical disabilities. The applicants will be placed in housing within 45 days.
“We had intended to continue this first-ever program in the City of Newark over the next several days, but the response was so immense that we filled our capacity on the first day. The speed with which we achieved our objective is impressive, but it emphasizes the need for more affordable housing, more affordable health care, more available substance abuse rehabilitation, and more mental health care in the City of Newark. We accomplished a lot yesterday, but we also learned that we have a lot more work to do.”
Mayor Baraka said.
The crowd, which reportedly had begun to gather at Penn Station as early as 5:30 a.m., was diverted to the Department of Health and Community Wellness at 110 William Street, where representatives from the Department provided applicants and families with on-site medical screening and forms of identification needed to rent one-, two-, and three-bedroom apartments, and on-site approvals for such applications.
The Department reported that an overwhelmingly large number of women, often with children, applied for homes, including a large number of working professionals seeking affordable housing. There were also several veterans among the applicants, who were referred to additional services available to them.
Two of the applicants were hired by the Department of Health and Community Wellness on the spot: a Certified Public Accountant and a home health aide intern.
“What was compelling was that all those we picked up also wanted jobs. The applicants did not want this program, which will last for two years, to be a long-term handout. They wanted to be self-sufficient, self-sustaining, and independent. That speaks to the determination of our residents to rebuild their lives and our department’s determination to help them do so.”
Said Dr. Hamdi.