Advocates convened in the Dirksen Senate Office Building and spoke directly with Senators Cory Booker and Robert Menendez and to nine of the twelve members of the House of Representatives about the housing crisis facing renters and individuals experiencing homelessness in New Jersey.
Individuals who have experienced homelessness and live in each of New Jersey’s 12 congressional districts shared their stories with their Senators and Representatives.
“The impact of sequestration and proposed further budget cuts reduces the budget of the Housing and Urban Development (HUD) as well as other domestic programs. The lack of affordable homes and the resources needed to maintain existing public housing creates an affordable housing state of emergency in New Jersey,” says Richard Brown, CEO of Monarch Housing Associates. “The state’s housing affordability crisis is exacerbated by the increasing lack of affordable homes and threats to Medicaid funding. Our elected officials in Washington should continue to fight cuts to housing funding.”
With 38 partner organizations from across New Jersey, Monarch Housing planned this year’s Congressional Reception. All of partners, donors, and bus sponsors contributed to the success of the Congressional Reception.
Nohemy Zabala lives in Morristown and shared her story on July 26 because she says, “Housing waiting lists can go on for years. If a family does not have a place to go, they end up living in a shelter or on the street.”
Recently homeless, Nohemy and her mother now live in their own home and this fall, she will attend Drew University. She worries that further cuts to federal housing funding will result in fewer families offered housing opportunities.
“We elect our Congress to be the voice of everyone –the rich and the poor,” says Nohemy Zabala. “Many organizations want to help the many people experiencing homelessness that need help – the lack of willingness to help end homelessness is not the issue. The lack of funding is issue.”
Brian Kulas of East Brunswick joined Nohemy and other advocates traveling to Washington, DC to tell his story. “I am very fortunate to have affordable housing. I believe that many like me share the same potential to be an advocate,” says Brian who was once homeless but now lives in his own home. He has attended college and become an advocate for affordable homes. “Stable affordable housing is not only a basic need but can be a cornerstone to recovery generating self-improvement. Funding for affordable housing builds stronger communities, fosters inclusion that builds unity, and breaks down social barriers between neighbors.”
“All of the improvements that I made in my life, began with my rental subsidy and having my own home – being given Housing First. A rental voucher gave me the opportunity to choose a new direction for my future and discover a healthier way to live.” says Brian.
“Rapid Rehousing (RR) is a successful program that provides three core components: housing identification; rent and move-assistance that includes a short-term rental subsidy; and case management aimed at helping participants obtain and move into permanent housing,” said Marlene Lao-Collins, Executive Director, Catholic Charities Diocese of Trenton. “Proposed cuts will slash these types of smart investments and many more affordable housing resources that provide a lifeline for extremely low income individuals and families.”
“We are at a critical juncture as a society as our moral failure of not considering housing a human right is intersecting with our fiscal crisis effecting every level of government. Many of our national problems are a result of not realizing that we are our brother’s and sister’s keeper,” said Dr. Rob Weinstein, President and Founder, The M25 Initiative working in Cumberland County.
“It is vital that we make our voices heard from Capitol Hill to Main Street that compassionate investment and engagement in addressing the needs of individuals has a proven track record of revitalizing communities, reducing long term costs, transforming individuals and families, and saving lives. NJ Hill Day is an important opportunity to speak with one voice for those who don’t have a voice.”
Due to low spending limits, the draft U.S. House of Representatives Transportation Housing and Urban Development (T-HUD) Appropriations Committee bill, released earlier this month, provides at least $1.5 billion less than what is needed. This proposed funding level will not ensure that every household in New Jersey currently receiving housing remain in their homes.
The funding cuts in the House Bill are not as deep as President Trump’s proposed budget released in May. However, the bill significantly cuts funding that New Jersey relies on for critical affordable housing resources that rebuild the lives of extremely low income seniors, people with disabilities, families with children, veterans, and other vulnerable population.