“I regret that the Congressman Tom MacArthur is not able to attend the event today. But he and his office wanted someone to be here and to listen to the stories of his constituents and report back. And I am honored to be here and to listen to your stories and the impacts that organizations that need funding have made in individuals and families lives and am honored and will relay this message to the Congressman.”
Over 350 advocates traveled to Washington, DC to meet with the New Jersey Congressional delegates and let them know that there should be No Housing Cuts and the need for investments for housing and homelessness prevention.
Advocates urged legislators to oppose spending cuts to programs that reduce access to affordable homes for NJ residents.
“I traveled to Washington DC with other advocates from NJ because joining our voices together we loudly say “No Cuts to Housing”. No one should be without a home in New Jersey; it weakens us all to allow homelessness and un-affordable housing exist in our communities.”
Bob Kley, Vice President and COO, Mental Health Association of New Jersey (MHANJ) and the president of Monarch Housing Association’s Board of Directors introduced Margaret Upchurch. “We are so proud to be part of the movement,” said Kley. MHANJ heard from its helpline and call lines that, “For the last 40 years, the number one issues have been housing. I think that today we are starting to make some real progress.”
Margaret, who lives in the third congressional district and is represented by Congressman Tom MacArthur spoke passionately about how housing housing had transformed her life.
In 2008, Margaret lost the job she held for 21 years and spent all her savings trying to survive. By December 2010, she lost her home in North Carolina, her car and could not find work anywhere. Her sister invited her to stay with her in New Jersey and she moved back to the state.
Margaret was raised in Toms River, New Jersey but moved to North Carolina for work. After living with her sister for a month, her sister told her that she could not stay there any longer and suggested that she get help from the county’s social services department. But social services did not help her and she had a breakdown in their offices.
Margaret spent 15 days in a locked psychiatric hospital and short term care unit, the hospital sent her back to social services. Social services payed for her to say in a motel in Seaside Heights, New Jersey. There was 18 inches of snow outside and she had no food or money and no means to get any.
Social services told her to find a place. She started working on that immediately found one pretty quickly, but it took until April for the paperwork to be processed. She moved out of the motel to an apartment in Seaside Heights, on April 15, 2011.
On October 29,2012 when Superstorm Sandy hit, Margaret became homeless for the second time since January 2011. For the past year, Margaret has been renting a house with her two sons in Barnegat, New Jersey. She receives $2100/month through the Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) program but pays $1,500 in rent.
Margaret said, “The hardest thing about paying such high rent is not being able to buy food or pay her utilities. My electric bill runs $300-$400/month.” Without food pantries, she says they would all “starve.”
She was approved for a Sandy voucher on May 1, ,2014 but has not yet received the voucher.
Her younger son recently moved to North Carolina to attend college. Her other 23-year-old son lives with her.