350 New Jersey Advocates Tell Congress “Opportunity Starts at Home”

Constituents Share their Stories of the Impact of Homelessness and the Need to Build a Necessary and Secure Foundation for Healthy Communities 

Cranford, NJ (July 19, 2019)– On Wednesday, July 24, 2019, 350 advocates will travel to Washington, D.C. with the message “Opportunity Starts at Home: Building a Necessary and Secure Foundation for Healthy Communities.” 

Advocates will urge New Jersey’s congressional delegation to support proposed policy priorities that will give NJ residents access to affordable homes.  Each member of NJ’s congressional delegation has been invited to attend the Congressional Reception and address their constituents.

This year’s Congressional Reception will be held in the Kennedy Caucus Room (Room 325) of the Russell Senate Office Building.  Six buses making a total of eleven stops across New Jersey will make the trip to Washington.   Attendees at the Congressional Reception will remind our elected officials that housing is a right, housing is healthcare and housing creates healthy communities.

“Having a place to call home is a basic human right,” says Taiisa Kelly, Monarch Housing Associates’ CEO.   “We will be joining voices with advocates from across the state to remind our representatives of the importance of home.  They can play a role in making sure everyone has a safe and decent place to live through legislation and funding resources.  Expansion of funding for voucher and housing development programs as well as funding for programs providing services to support housing programs is critical.  It is critical not only in the fight to end homelessness, but in the work to create healthier individuals and healthier communities.”

Monarch Housing Associates leads the planning of the Congressional Reception with 37 sponsoring partner organizations from across New Jersey.  All partners contributed to the success of this 4th annual event.

“As we all can acknowledge, the single most important factor related to a person’s health is where they live,” said Diane Riley, the Supportive Housing Association of New Jersey’s Executive Director.  “Having a decent, safe, affordable home is not only the first but the most important aspect of a person’s life. For those with different abilities and barriers, a home doesn’t just mean health, it means independence and the ability to be part of a community. The Congressional Reception helps us tell the bigger story of how crucial housing funding is for each person to reach their full potential and to build a healthy, vibrant, diverse nation.”

The National Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC)’s 2019 Out of Reach Report found that a New Jersey household must earn a housing wage of $28.86 per hour in order to afford a two-bedroom apartment.  This wage makes New Jersey the sixth most expensive state in the United States for renters.

“Affordable rental housing for the lowest income households is scarce in this country,” said Mike Koprowski, the Opportunity Starts at Home campaign’s National Director.  “And this crisis spills over into many other areas of life, negatively impacting health outcomes, educational attainment, and economic opportunity.  Advocates attending New Jersey’s Congressional Reception understand that it’s going to take a broad multisector movement to advance more robust and equitable housing policies.”

“As the organization coordinating the Opportunity Starts at Home campaign, the Network is pleased to see this is again the theme for this year’s Congressional Reception,” said Arnold Cohen, the Housing and Community Development Network of New Jersey’s Senior Policy Advisor.  “The theme ties the event to an ongoing national campaign calling for more federal resources to create affordable homes which are central to a quality education, health care, and a growing economy. People thrive when they live in a place they can afford to call home.”

The funding levels for affordable housing in the House of Representatives bill is significantly higher, $13.4 billion, than the funding levels in President Trump’s budget. The budget is also $5.9 billion above FY19 enacted levels and also clearly rebukes the harmful rent increases, rigid work requirements, and de facto time limits proposed by the president in his past budget requests and in subsequent legislation. Moreover, the House bill includes legislative language to halt cruel proposals from the President to evict mixed-status immigrant families from assisted housing and to roll back LGBT protections.

Before the THUD spending bill can be enacted, however, congressional leaders must reach an agreement to lift the low spending caps required by law on defense and domestic programs. If the spending caps are not lifted, key affordable housing, homelessness, and community development programs will face close to 10 percent in cuts. Once an agreement is reached, the Senate will begin working on their spending bills.

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. This year’s Federal Policy Priorities are around the following key areas: Housing and Services, Medicaid, Affordable Homes, Fair Housing and Housing Development.

Rosemary Ebron works as a non-profit Fundraising Coordinator and lives with her daughters in Carteret.  Rosemary shares her reason for wanting to tell her story at the Congressional Reception.  “After experiencing homelessness with my oldest daughter for a few years, which was traumatic, we are stabilizing and rebuilding our lives again,” says Rosemary. “However, my biggest fear is becoming homeless again. Due to the lack of government funded housing programs, individuals are experiencing homelessness. I hope that New Jersey’s elected officials can work to significantly increase affordable housing funding.  This is the way to end homelessness.”  Rosemary is a constituent of Congressman Frank Pallone (D-NJ-6.)

You can follow the Congressional Reception on twitter and facebook at #NJHillDay. The Congressional Reception takes place in conjunction with “Opportunity Starts at Home,” a national campaign to build a national multi-sector movement which generates widespread support for federal policies that protect and expand affordable housing for low-income people.  You can follow @OppStartsatHome on twitter, Facebook and Instagram.