Housing First Targets Chronic Homelessness

Cumberland County Housing First Collaborative Plans to End Chronic Homelessness by 2020

On Friday, December 9, 2016, members of the Cumberland County Housing First Collaborative (CCHFC) announced the official launch of their housing first initiative to end chronic homelessness in the county’s history.

The goal of the initiative is to end chronic homelessness by 2020 through a coordinated housing first program involving various nonprofits, faith-based organizations, governmental and healthcare agencies.

The December 9 launch took place on the fourth anniversary date of the Code Blue program in Cumberland County, across the bridge from where Mr. Hanshaw, a homeless man suffocated trying to find shelter in a Salvation Army clothing bin on a cold winter night.

One year ago, the members of the Collaborative joined together to remember Mr. Hanshaw, celebrate the Code Blue program, and pledge their resolve to end chronic homelessness in the county.

The Code Blue Coalition opened its warming centers the evening of December 9. These warming shelters are set up on nights that dip below freezing for homeless individuals and anyone else in need of a place to eat or sleep.

“When we gathered on December 9, 2015, the members of the collaborative resolved to end chronic homelessness by working together, but we did not know how it would happen,” said Dr. Robin Weinstein, President of the M25 Initiative and Facilitator of the CCHFC. “Utilizing 42 housing vouchers provided by the State and coupling it with other resources, we are implementing a comprehensive strategy to find homeless individuals permanent housing. Housing will be coupled with wrap-around services to keep them off the street and pointed toward fulfilling and productive lives.”

The CCHFC is a unique consortium of social service organizations, faith-based institutions, and government officials committed to tackling the problem of chronic homelessness in Cumberland County.  The guiding agency of this collaborative is the M25 Initiative, a nonprofit organization based in Bridgeton, which also facilitates the grassroots Cumberland County Code Blue Coalition. 

The other partners of the collaborative include:

The collaborative is operating in partnership with the Cumberland County Jail, Inspira Health Network, Monarch Housing, Family Strengthening Network, and researchers from Rutgers University.

“Our partners in the CCHFC are working hard with limited resources to utilize the housing vouchers provided by the State, but it does cost money to get this program off the ground,” said Weinstein. “The M25 Initiative is working with an agency to secure additional grants to support this program and ensure its viability. We are also providing funding to assist with the transition period for the homeless individuals. We need the community support to make the goal to come to fruition.”

The Collaborative utilizes the Housing First Philosophy, which prioritizes assisting the chronically homeless in expediently accessing permanent housing, and providing them with the supportive services they need to retain that housing.

NJCounts 2015 counted over 200 homeless individuals in Cumberland County during the annual Point-In-Time-Survey, with over 50 of the individuals meeting the federal chronically homeless definition.

Cumberland County’s 19 chronically homeless individuals represented 13.6% of the total homeless population.

WHYY profiled the story and difficult life of a man experiencing chronic homelessness in Cumberland County. “An Air Force veteran and a senior citizen, (Michael) Carter said living on the streets has been a constant struggle between providing for himself and conserving what resources he has. ‘This morning I went to Dunkin’ Donuts. A girl that knows me there gave me a free doughnut. And right now I know I’ll go to Salvation Army to eat lunch. And then from the Salvation Army I’ll go up to St. Teresa [of Avila church] to eat lunch again and package my food so I’ll have something at nighttime to eat.’”

“Our chronically homeless are our neighbors, family, and friends who have fallen through the various cracks of a fragmented social service system,” said Mr. Albert Kelly, CEO of Gateway Community Action Partnership and Mayor of the City of Bridgeton. “When the homeless enter the realm of chronic homelessness, it costs society on both moral and fiscal levels while costing human lives and dignity.”

SJTimes reported “One of the good things about launching Housing First and Code Blue here in the City of Bridgeton, brought our community together in a single effort to eradicate homelessness and house people each and every night when we call a Code Blue,” Kelly said. “It’s great on the end of the service but it’s also even greater that we bring people together for a single purpose, in moving forward to end homelessness.”

SNJ Today Coverage

South Jersey Times Coverage

Press of Atlantic City Coverage

NJ.com Coverage

WHYY Coverage

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