City of Newark Seeks Partnership in Homeless Outreach with NJTransit
On February 21, 2017, NJTV reported that “Homeless Say NJ Transit Waiting Room Policy Enforcement Targets Them.” New Jersey (NJ) Transit has begun to more strictly enforce the seating policy in Newark’s Penn Station. And this has left the homeless who use the train station as shelter wondering if they are being unfairly targeted.
“We’re homeless. We don’t have nowhere to go,” said Alvin Payne of Newark. “We come here. We sit. We spend our money here. We eat. We sit down, where we can sit down. Then they come and run us out of here. I mean that’s not fair.” Payne says that he is experiencing being “run out” every day.
The train station is a public space so the only way that NJ Transit can restrict individuals who are homeless from using the station’s benches, is to limit seating to ticket holders. Those without tickets for Amtrak or NJ Transit can sit in a separate seating are for a maximum of two hours.
More than ever, Newark Penn Station is being seen as a gateway to the city.
“The seating policy at Newark Penn Station is not new,” said a statement from NJ Transit. “The difference customers are seeing now is that instead of New Jersey Transit Police Department officers having to walk around to ask for tickets, customers now show them before entering the seating area. It’s that simple.”
Supposedly, NJ Transit has a homeless outreach program but staff responsible for homeless outreach for the city of Newark, do not feel that they are receiving assistance from NJ Transit.
“When we have to relocate them from their property, they call us and we’re there to assist them and we do it as humanely as possible but as far as them being an advocate and a partner, as far as walking them through the system of getting shelter,” said Kim Gilchrist, program manager for the Newark Homeless Services Department. “If there’s someone there with mental health issues, do we have a partner there? No. The city of Newark does it totally on their own. Salvation Army, Urban League. Those are our partners but NJ Transit? For myself, in my capacity, I don’t have a partner with NJ Transit.”