Congressional Reception Impact Speakers Address Elected Officials

Michelle Griffith, Congressman Kim, Congresswoman Sherrill, Amy Fennimore, Susan Beigen and Senator Menendez Remind Us that Housing is a Right 

During the 2019 Congressional Reception on July 24, seven impact speakers addressed their elected officials. Each elected official then responded with their own remarks after their constituent spoke.

Michelle Griffith, a resident of Toms River, spoke while U.S. Representative Andy Kim (D-NJ-3) was in the room. Michelle told her story of being impacted by homelessness on various occasions due to her company downsizing after 9/11, Hurricane Sandy hitting and being diagnosed with sickle cell anemia. In her speech, Michelle questions how she became homeless, “I attended one of the top 10 universities in this country, worked in the stock market for major companies. I worked for many deans in renowned medical schools. I had a wonderful career working on Park Avenue as an executive assistant to an office manager, a founder of an international company. How in the world did I become homeless after all of that?” Click here to watch Michelle’s powerful story.

Congressman Kim responded to Michelle’s story, thanking her and others for having the courage to speak. Congressman Kim spoke about his father, a polio survivor, who was homeless most of his childhood in South Korea. Due to his fathers’ physical disability, he was physically abused and ran away from home. In addition, Congressman Kim recalls a pivotal moment in his career when he worked for the Chicago Coalition for the Homelessness and shares his realizations about homelessness that motivate him to continue to fight for this cause. Click here to watch Congressman Kim’s motivational speech.

Congresswoman Mikie Sherrill

U.S Representative Mikie Sherrill (D-NJ-11) spoke before Amy Fennimore, a resident of the eleventh district. Congresswoman Sherrill says, “It is on us as your representatives to ensure that no American is forced to choose, as Amy did, between abusive home environments and the streets, and that New Jersey is affordable for everyone.” Representative Sherrill mentions voting in favor of an increase of 2.6 billion dollars in funding for homelessness assistance grants and of her support for Medicaid expansion. To view Congresswoman Sherrill’s reassuring speech, click here.

Amy Fennimore, a resident of Morristown, had the chance to speak with Congresswoman Sherrill, and shared her story of being impacted by homelessness after being diagnosed with bipolar disorder, battling alcoholism and fleeing an abusive family relationship. Amy checked herself into rehab and after completing the program found support from Homeless Solutions where she finally felt a sense of hope. Now, Amy is one year sober, has a job, repaired her credit and will soon be able to live on her own. Click here to view Amy’s inspirational story.

Susan Biegen, a resident of Hackensack, spoke in front of U.S. Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ). Susan, a mother of three, waited on the Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher list for seven years before receiving a voucher of her own. In the meantime, her family lived in a friend’s basement. Susan worked two part time jobs and went to school full time all while taking care of three children. Although Susan is thankful for receiving SNAP (Food Stamp) and Medicaid, she and three children still needed more assistance because she was not receiving much needed child support. To listen to the rest of Susan’s heartfelt story, click here

Congressman Bob Menendez

Senator Menendez spoke after Susan and states right away the importance of safe and affordable housing, “I am proud to stand with you in the fight to protect and expand access to safe and affordable housing. We have to remember the fight for affordable housing is only half the battle. We are fighting for housing that is safe, healthy and affordable because no family should be forced to live in unsafe conditions simply because of how much money they make.” In addition, Senator Menendez mentions the fact that 3,000 children are dying due to exposure of lead paint. To learn more about Senator Menendez Lead-Safe Housing For Kids Act and his support of safe and affordable housing, click here.