Constituents Share Their Stories of the Impact of Homelessness with NJ Members of Congress
Over 350 advocates traveled to Washington, D.C. for the 2018 Congressional Reception with the message “No Housing Cuts” and “Opportunity Starts at Home.” Constituents and advocates urged members of Congress from New Jersey to oppose proposed devastating spending cuts to programs that give New Jersey residents access to affordable homes. Last year, twelve of the fourteen members of Congress from New Jersey attended the 2017 Congressional Reception which will once again be held in the Dirksen Senate Auditorium.
“Opportunity Starts at Home for all of us,” says Richard Brown, CEO of Monarch Housing Associates. “With the acute affordable homes crisis in NJ, we will be in Washington on July 25 to not only to advocate for no housing cuts but to let our members of Congress know that we need to ensure that everyone has a place to call home so that they can have the opportunity to achieve their unalienable rights, of ‘Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
“We, as housing advocates, must stand up for “No Cuts to Housing!” Our congressional delegation needs to stop any funding cuts. Program changes are of great concern as well,” says Laura Rodgers, LCSW, Chief Program Officer, Jewish Family Service of Atlantic & Cape May Counties. “Increasing the percentage of rent paid by very low income tenants receiving housing vouchers would be devastating. New Jersey residents are in crisis due to a lack of housing opportunities and their trauma perpetuated as they wait and wait for a home that they can afford.” Jewish Family Services is one of the 2018 Congressional Reception Partners.
“New Jersey has one of the highest housing costs in the nation, ranking the 6th most expensive state for renters. With more than a third of our residents renting and 41% of people earning too little to afford all their family’s basic necessities, housing cuts at the federal level would increase housing insecurity and homelessness,” says Renee Koubiadis, Executive Director of the Anti-Poverty Network of New Jersey (APN), a partner organization in planning the Congressional Reception. “APN works to prevent, reduce, and end poverty in New Jersey and is proud to partner in and support the Congressional Reception and sustained housing assistance for our most vulnerable residents. New Jersey is one of the most segregated states in the U.S., with poor people and people of color pushed to specific communities and neighborhoods. Federal housing programs and tax credits are key to ensuring safe, sustainable, and affordable homes are available across our state for all people.”
The National Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC)’s 2018 Out of Reach Report found that a New Jersey household must earn a housing wage of $28.17/hour in order to afford a 2 bedroom apartment. This wage makes New Jersey the 6th most expensive state in the United States for renters.
“No state has an adequate supply of affordable rental housing for the poorest households,” said Mike Koprowski, national director of the Opportunity Starts at Home campaign. “When people can’t access safe, decent, affordable housing, it negatively impacts their health outcomes, educational attainment, and economic opportunity. That’s why leaders from a range of sectors – from healthcare to education to civil rights – have joined together in the Opportunity Starts at Home campaign. Advocates, like the ones attending New Jersey’s Congressional Reception, understand that it’s going to take a widespread, multi-sector movement to make affordable homes a top national priority.”
Opportunity Starts at home is a national multi-sector housing campaign bringing together the housing needs of America’s lowest-income people. You can learn more about Opportunity Starts at Home.
The funding levels for affordable housing in the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives bills are significantly higher, $11-$12 billion, than the funding levels in President Trump’s budget.
Both budgets maintain the 18% increase obtained in the fiscal year (FY) 2018 budget.
The Senate bill, the better of the two bills, fully funds federal housing voucher programs, whereas the House bill does not fully fund renewal levels for all all vouchers.
Failure to renew voucher funding will not ensure that every household in New Jersey currently receiving housing assistance remains in their homes.
The Senate bill continues to fund affordable housing programs at increased levels that New Jersey relies on for critical affordable housing resources that rebuild the lives of extremely low income seniors, people with disabilities, families with children, veterans, and other vulnerable population.
At the Congressional Reception, individuals impacted by homelessness and living in each of New Jersey’s twelve congressional districts will share their stories with their elected officials and urge them to prevent housing cuts and ensure that opportunity starts at home.
I’asia Young works as a teacher’s assistant, lives in Trenton with her four children and will be speaking at the Congressional Reception. She is sharing her story with her elected officials because she says, “After a few years of ‘walking on eggshells’ and finding myself homeless and then living in temporary housing, our home in Trenton, where I now pay my own rent has changed our lives. We now enjoy life in a good neighborhood and I can spend my free and quality time with my kids. I strongly believe that homelessness must be solved with the help of increased federal funding.”
Michael Folger of Newark will join I’asia and other advocates traveling to Washington, DC and tell his story. “My biggest fear is being homeless again,” says Michael. “But despite the challenges I face, I remain hopeful about my future and give back serving on a local advisory board and sharing my success story with others. My affordable housing has given me my own place to call home. I urge New Jersey’ elected officials to increase funding that will both end homelessness and treat mental health.”
We know that by joining together and amplifying our voices, we can have an impact on the decisions that are made in Washington DC. Join Monarch Housing Associates and our 35 partners from New Jersey to make the case that homelessness is a solvable problem. The federal government must be a full partner in ensuring an adequate breadth of services are available to prevent children, people with disabilities, the elderly, and all of our neighbors in NJ from experiencing the homelessness.
Register today to attend the Congressional Reception. Everyone needs to register even if you are traveling on your own.