Stakeholders and Advocates Join Senator Cory Booker and Dr. Desmond to Discuss Solutions to Eviction and Homelessness
On Thursday, October 12, 2017, a Public Policy Forum on eviction in NJ with Princeton sociologist Dr. Matthew Desmond, the Pulitzer Prize winning author of Evicted, and U.S. Senator Cory Booker (NJ-D) was held at Drew University in Madison, NJ. The forum was held in The Concert Hall on Drew’s campus. Over 300 people attended the event and it received television and newspaper coverage.
The Daily Record reported that “Sen. Booker, Pulitzer-winning author talk housing crisis at Drew University.”
Desmond spoke to the audience about his research finding on America’s eviction crisis. “‘Eviction is not just a condition of poverty, it’s a cause too,’ Desmond said. ‘We can’t fix poverty without fixing housing. Without a stable shelter, everything falls apart. Shouldn’t access to affordable housing be part of what it means to be an American?'”
U.S. Sen. Booker joined the conversation after Dr. Desmond’s presentation. “Owning or living in a home is a goal of many, but that dream can be taken away very easily. Booker explained how a $100 unexpected expense can be the difference between someone staying in their house and eviction in New Jersey.
Dr. Desmond and U.S. Sen. Booker both highlighted solutions to America’s affordable housing and eviction crisis. “Booker said there are programs in place that could help solve this crisis – like affordable housing vouchers, which allow low income families to pay 30 percent of their income toward a home, with the government paying for the rest – but they aren’t receiving the necessary funds.”
“The president is eviscerating helpful programs while continuing massive tax subsidies for the rich,” Booker said. “The tax code rewards wealth, and we’re told that will help the poor, and that’s just lies.”
Dr. Desmond spoke about the critical need to expand the federal Housing Choice Voucher Program. “‘We have the program, we just need to expand it,’ Desmond said. “That would fundamentally change the face of poverty in this country.'”
“‘This is not a problem bigger than us in the country,’ Booker said. ‘We have the capability to solve it.'”
The Mental Health Association in New Jersey and the Housing and Community Development Network were partners in organizing the Public Policy Forum. “Our national affordable housing crisis continues to serve as a major barrier to recovery for those impacted by the opioid epidemic, and those struggling with mental illnesses to maintain their long term recovery in their community,” said Robert Kley, Vice President/Chief Operating Officer of Mental Health Association in New Jersey. “Having a home makes the difference.”
“A leading cause of homelessness is eviction, and with every one in six tenants in this state experiencing eviction, we need policies in place to break the cycle,” said Staci Berger, President and Chief Executive Officer for the Housing and Community Development Network of New Jersey.
“We are working with U.S. Senator Booker and N.J. legislators to bring forward legislation that prevents tenant blacklisting, which is the practice of evicting a tenant who exercises their right to fight for a safe place to live. Human beings should not be forced to endure poor living conditions let alone be punished for seeking an affordable home of decent quality.”
The Asbury Park Press reported “Booker, experts discuss devastating toll of evictions.” “Both men stressed the catastrophic consequences evictions can have, uprooting adults from their jobs and children from their schools. Studies have shown a link between eviction and depression, suicide and other health problems.”
“Eviction pushes families to ever greater disadvantage,” Dr. Desmond said. “It’s not just a condition of poverty; it’s a cause of it, too.”
“Housing should be a right in this country,” Dr. Desmond said, “and the reason is very simple: Without stable shelter, everything else falls apart.”
Sponsoring the forum were Monarch Housing, NJ Policy Perspective, the Housing and Community Development Network of NJ, the Anti-Poverty Network of NJ, the Supportive Housing Association of NJ, Bridges Outreach, the Mental Health Association in NJ, the Mental Health Association of Essex and Morris, Homeless Solutions and the Drew University Center for Civic Engagement.
The Public Policy Forum was underwritten by a grant from the Investors Foundation.
Follow the event on Twitter with the hashtag #EvictionNJForum