Referred to as “Familiar Faces,” the program is based on Hudson County’s Frequent User (FUSE) Initiative, modeled on the CSH national blueprint, and aims to break the cycle of repeat use of hospitals, jails, shelters and other costly crisis systems by providing supportive housing solutions. The pilot program gets its name because the faces of the chronically homeless are familiar to local community members – police officers, commuters and neighbors.
The new pilot program will create 25 new supportive housing units using rental vouchers from the State of New Jersey and intensive services funded by two Hudson County hospitals – Hoboken University Medical Center and Jersey City Medical Center. The cost to house each tenant will be about $25,000/year and the majority of the applicants have already been identified by Garden State Episcopal Community Development Corporation (GSECDC.)
Hudson County Executive Tom DeGise sees this pilot program as one that will save money along with the lives of the chronically homeless. “They often make repeat trips to jail or to the emergency room. A separate cost analysis from Hudson County showed hospital and shelter costs decreased by $398,000 annually when the county helped 25 homeless clients find supportive housing for a year.”
“Without permanent housing, where they can be stabilized and get the supportive services they need, even just a handful of individuals on the street or in the shelters can become very expensive,” said DeGise.
Hoboken Mayor Ravi S. Bhalla spoke to Insider NJ about the critical importance of this pilot program. “This crisis knows no borders, and I am proud of the progress we have made in our collaborative work, which goes beyond simply handing someone a dollar or providing them with temporary shelter,” said Hoboken Mayor Ravi S. Bhalla.
“These are the cutting-edge partnerships that effectively end homelessness and reduce healthcare costs for all of us,” said Kristin Miller, CSH Director of programs in the NY-NJ Metro area. “CSH is the national champion of the FUSE model and we hope every state and county will show the same initiative as New Jersey and Hudson County.”
NJTV reported on the initiative on September 19 and profiled someone who is among the chronically homeless in Hudson County. “Gisselle Gonzalez knows being homeless isn’t easy. She’s 32 and lives hand-to-mouth, alongside the ever-present homeless population in Journal Square — just a fraction of Hudson County’s more than 800 homeless, according to last year’s official count.”
“I go to the temple, the Indian Sikh temple. They give pretty good food every day so I won’t be not starving. Sometimes I stay outside, because there’s a lot of fights sometimes in the shelters,” Gonzalez said. “So I try to ask for help, as much as I can, you know.”
“The Hudson County Familiar Faces program reflects the next step in DCA’s significant investment in addressing homelessness through the Housing First model, including the Statewide Housing First Initiative and the Housing First Initiative for people with opioid addictions,” said Janel Winter, director of DCA’s Division of Housing and Community Resources.