Reporter Pamela MacKenzie interviewed Monarch Housing Associate Board Member Brian Kulas about experiences with homelessness.
Kulas now lives in his own apartment in East Brunswick but due to his multiple mental illnesses, he has experienced homelessness many times in his life.
The stability that the former Section 8 vouchers which is now known as the Housing Choice Voucher program provides Kulas includes the assistance he needs to know that he can pay his rent every month.
Once he had his own apartment:
he enrolled in classes and attended Middlesex County Community College, and
earned a certification that helped him find employment.
In addition to finding paid employment, he finds time to advocate on behalf of individuals experiencing homelessness. He serves on other boards, committees and councils in addition to Monarch Housing’s Board.
“Kulas recalled the first night he had an apartment of his own after receiving a voucher. While living on the streets or in shelters, he never had felt entirely safe, so when he locked his apartment door, he worried that the two locks on it weren’t enough.
Looking back, he laughs at himself and said, ‘Of course they were enough, but I had to learn that. You don’t realize how afraid you are when you’re homeless. When you’ve had an episode of homelessness, then get a safe place to live, you really appreciate it.”
Kulas supports the expansion of the Housing First model which can use Housing Choice Vouchers to first give someone experiencing homelessness a home and then help them rebuild their life.
According to the CBPP, 165,800 people in 70,000 New Jersey households use a voucher to rent their own apartments. In 2018, New Jersey could lose 5,500 vouchers if Congress does not increase renewal funding sufficiently to cover rising rents and other costs. Losing up to 5,5000 housing vouchers would exacerbate New Jersey’s homelessness crisis and put more households at risk of homelessness.
“Moving into affordable housing and supportive housing with the assistance of vouchers allows individuals with low incomes to stabilize their health and integrate into the community,” wrote Monarch Housing’s Kate Kelly.
“Once their lives are stabilized, voucher recipients rely less on expensive emergency health care. Supportive housing allows people to grow into adults and helps people who are mentally ill change their lives and not have to depend on other people.”