Dianne Doctor, host and VP & Station Manager for My9/WWOR-TV, highlights through her interviews exactly what some of Monarch Housing Associate’s key partners are doing to end homelessness and shares personal success stories.
“They are all working very, very hard but they just can’t keep up with what’s going on in our county,” says Support services manager for the Rescue Mission of Trenton, Aimee Maier. As a gateway for individuals in need of housing and services, the Rescue Mission focuses on helping individuals move into their own apartments using the Housing First model.
The State of New Jersey is just one state across the country that is investing in Housing First as a proven best practice in end homelessness. Maier spoke of the successful role that community partnerships play in ending homelessness.
About the individuals that the Rescue Mission assists, “They are all working very, very hard but they just can’t keep up with what’s going on in our county,” said Maier. She spoke about the long waiting list for affordable housing in Trenton.
Doctor references the results of NJCounts, the statewide point-in-time count of the homeless coordinated by Monarch Housing Associates. Last year, NJCounts 2017 found 8,532 individuals experiencing homelessness across the state.
The results of NJCounts 2018 which took place on January 24 and the results are expected later this spring.
Wesley Gaynor, director of programs and services for Homeless Solutions in Morristown spoke about New Jersey’s Code Blue legislation. Code Blue requires municipalities across the state with over 10 individuals experiencing harmlessness to provide a warming center when the temperature falls below 40 degrees.
Switching to the impact that the opioid crisis has had on homelessness in Morris County, “It’s had a massive impact on the numbers that we are seeing who are homeless in Morris County. Last year, 70% of the homeless had some kind of connection to drug or alcohol abuse or mental health.”
Homeless Solutions works innovatively with a pilot program to provide “in house” treatment to those battling opioid addiction.
Brian Kulas, an advocate for affordable housing, trustee of Monarch Housing Associate’s Board of Trustees, and East Brunswick resident, shared his emotional story about his struggle with homelessness. Thanks to his housing voucher, Kulas’ story became a story of success – a housing voucher helped him transform his life.
Kulas has three mental health diagnoses and when he was homeless, he stayed at a construction site and in a park.
“They are times that still haunt me,” he said. He struggled to get his life started after high school. “You wake up in the morning and everything seems o.k. and by the evening, you find yourself with no place to live,” he said.
“My life changed when I got my rental subsidy,” said Kulas. “I was very fortunate to get one.” His rental subsidy gave him a feeling of safety and security that he hadn’t had when he was staying in a boarding home. His mental and physical health also improved dramatically, and he went back to school through a certificate program at Middlesex County Community College.
Kulas encourages others who are homeless to get their names on waiting lists for housing as one of the important first steps in ending homelessness. “If everyone who was homeless, was able to get that rental subsidy, the success rate would be incredible and we’d really see more advocates and a lot more people being successful.”