Gov. Chris Christie speaks Thursday with people who have benefited from the Keeping Families Together program. With him are, from left, Jacques Hryshko, executive director of Family Connections; Elisha Blackmon of Jersey City, and Nakisha Dollar of Paterson.
(Photo: Anne-Marie Caruso/NorthJersey.com)
“Access to adequate and affordable housing is an ongoing issue in New Jersey, often marked by divisive and emotional debate.”
Families receiving housing voucher assistance through the program are homeless or at risk of homelessness.
Essex County has been hosting a 10-family pilot program for the last three years. With the expansion of the program the total number of families served will increase to 173 to include 25 families in Hudson County and 25 families in Middlesex County.
Local nonprofit partners support the program. “One of the greatest needs in Paterson is safe, decent, and affordable housing, and especially for families,” said Bob Guarasci, chief executive officer of the non-profit New Jersey Community Development Corporation. “The program that the governor is expanding, Keeping Families Together, is a giant step forward in reunifying and stabilizing families involved in the child welfare system.”
“Keeping families together is not an insignificant goal, especially in the state’s most depressed urban areas, because a home is the ultimate source of stability, that one lifeline upon which so much else depends.”
Three families living in Patterson had the opportunity to meet Governor Christie and share with him the success that the Keeping Families Together program has allowed them to achieve.
“One of those parents was Nakisha Dollar, a mother of five living in Paterson, who said the program had been a “blessing” because she was struggling to stay in New Jersey before the Department of Children and Families “stepped in” to help. That in turn allowed her to get a driver’s license and find a steady job while keeping her family intact, she said.
“The use of state rental vouchers to meet the needs of individuals and families with special needs is a highlight of Governor Christie’s tenure, and I’m glad that families in Paterson are benefiting from it,” Guarasci added.
“In Paterson, Newark and Camden, small victories occur in people’s lives when government seeks to make positive and practical change. Keeping Families Together does just that. As Allison Blake, commissioner of the Department of Children and Families, told The Record, the program, at the end, provides families with a “foundation upon which to build better futures for their children.”