Among his 40 constituents at Hill Day was Katty Cruz and Bill Butler who spoke at the Congressional Reception. Katty was introduced by Marlene Lao Collins, executive director of Catholic Charities, Diocese of Trenton.
Katty Cruz, 40 years old, has lived in Trenton for 37 years and told the audience, “I appreciate the fact that I finally got supportive housing through Catholic Charities.”
Katty shared that she was living in housing where she was feeling unsafe but she says, now “I appreciate the fact that I have safe housing where I won’t have to worry that anything will happen.” She now works part-time.
“If cuts are made and then we cannot get housing, there will be more homelessness,” said Katty.
The Reverend Sara Lija Director, Lutheran Episcopal Advocacy Ministry of New Jersey gave the audience a call for advocacy. “When wages are low, our struggles for housing are just incredibly difficult,” said Sarah. “Public opinion drives public policy. It’s about raising our voices together.”
Bill Butler who lives in Ocean Grove introduced Congressman Chris Smith. Bill shared that has worked for Wegman’s since 2014 and rents an apartment with a section 8 voucher. He appreciates living conveniently to the public transportation that he takes to work. Living in his own home, Bill says that he “Can go to the refrigerator anytime I want to and I have my own address and phone.”
“Thank you for your advocacy, it makes all the difference in the world,” said Congressman Smith. “We (Congress) need to know what is going on in our communities.”
“How important it is to really know what real world cuts and increases will do to really benefit people, or course, cuts don’t benefit anyone,” said Smith. “I voted against the cuts in Medicaid expansion. There are some proposed cuts in the budget but my hope is that the cuts don’t happen,” Smith said.
Smith spoke of his commitment to ending veteran’s homelessness and how he was impacted years ago by a homeless veteran he met who told Smith, “I knew I hit bottom when I lost my home.” He was living in his car.
Robert Hedden thanked Congressman Chris Smith for his support. After a job loss that left him with no income and limited resources, Robert faced homelessness. But now, Robert lives in a supportive housing apartment in Hamilton.
Robert’s goal in life is to “give back and let others know one can be successful despite living with a mental illness and that most people affected by mental illnesses are average normal law-abiding citizens.”
Robert has devoted his life to public service and helping others and is participating in the Garden State Leadership Program where he is an advocate and speaks with elected officials about areas of housing, integrated healthcare, improvements to our educational system and more resources aimed at increasing the quality of life for all Americans.