Impact Speakers Remind Elected Officials Housing is a Right

The 2019 Congressional Reception Impact Speakers Share Experiences with Homelessness

On July 24, Advocates from across New Jersey traveled to Washington, D.C. to remind elected officials that Opportunity Starts at Home!

Taiisa Kelly, David Symons, and U.S. Representative Bonnie Watson Coleman

David Symons, a resident of Trenton, addressed all attendees and U.S. Representative Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-NJ-12). David talked about his experience being homeless with nowhere to go, adding that he now realizes that he had significant mental health issues at the time. After four years of struggling to find somewhere to sleep at night, David connected with  Catholic Charities, Diocese of Trenton. He joined a program at Catholic Charities, which has not always been easy, but he has since made significant personal improvements. He now works and lives in his own apartment. To view the rest of the rest of David’s moving speech, please click here.

Congresswoman Watson Coleman addressed the audience after David spoke. She thanked David for speaking about his experience, applauding his advocayfor affordable housing and homelessness programs. In her remarks, the Congresswoman reminded the audience that she now sits on the House Appropriations Committee and that the Appropriations Committee has increased funding for some of the programs that are working to end homelessness and create affordable homes.

These programs include the National Housing Trust Fund, McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Grants and the (Section 8) Housing Choice Voucher Program. Congresswoman Watson Coleman closed by saying that attendees and advocates must continue encouraging members of the U.S. Senate to support these critical housing programs. Click here to see Representative Watson Coleman’s speech.

Renee Koubiadis, Executive Director of the Anti-Poverty Network of New Jersey (APN), addressed U.S. Representative William Pascrell (D-NJ-9). Koubiadis focused in on the 9th Congressional District in New Jersey, saying people in cities like Rutherford and Wayne are falling behind. She said that we must make housing a priority in New Jersey and across the country, saying “No homeless person I have ever met would choose not to have a home if they had a choice.” She says the housing, healthcare, and homelessness assistance programs in the 2019 Federal Policy Priorities would allow individuals the opportunity to succeed. To watch a video of Koubiadis’ remarks, click here.

Congressman Pascrell welcomed Congressional Reception attendees to Washington, DC. He said the affordable housing crisis is a silent one. According to Congressman Pascrell, the first thing that elected officials can do is oppose the Trump Administration’s proposed cuts to housing programs. The Congressman also highlighted programs in the 2019 Federal Policy Priorities, including McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Grants, (Section 8) Housing Choice Vouchers, and Fair Housing laws. Watch Representative Pascrell’s remarks here.

LaShaunda Carter, a resident of Lawnside, addressed attendees and U.S. Senator Cory Booker’s (D-NJ) Chief of Staff. LaShaunda spoke about how before she experienced homelessness, she always worked and lived in the “middle class.” After divorcing from her ex-husband, she was unable to afford her own apartment. She and her son lived briefly with family until they were forced to move to Delaware where there were more affordable options. LaShaunda now lives in New Jersey. She lives in a home she can afford that was developed through the Low Income Housing Tax Credit program. Since moving into her own home, she founded an organization to provide housing and services to veterans. LaShaunda asked that all elected officials support the expansion of affordable housing programs, especially the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit program. See LaShaunda’s speech here.

Tricia Russell, Chief of Staff to U.S. Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ), addressed Reception attendees. She talked about Senator Booker’s commitment to affordable housing and ending homelessness, saying that the door to the Senator’s office is always open. Russell applauded advocates and impact speakers for attending the Congressional Reception and sharing personal experiences with homelessness. Watch Russell’s remarks here.

Jennifer Smith

Jennifer Smith, a resident of Jersey City, spoke before U.S. Representative Donald M. Payne, Jr. (D-NJ-10). Jennifer described her challenging childhood followed by a long period of unstable housing. She struggled with alcoholism while experiencing homelessness before seeking help. Hudson County Housing Resource Center provided Jennifer with rental assistance and social services, giving her the foundation she needed to thrive. Jennifer urged Congress to expand the (Section 8) Housing Choice Voucher, saying that it is unfair that only one in four eligible families receive one. To see Jennifer’s moving story, click here.

After Jennifer spoke, Congressman Payne spoke to the Reception attendees.  He said that the lack of affordable housing as being incredibly harmful to economies in New Jersey and across the United States. Congressman Payne criticized the Trump Administration for not making housing a priority, saying the current affordable housing crisis “Is unacceptable in the greatest country in the world.” Attendees appreciated Congressman Payne’s commitment to affordable housing and healthcare programs for all Americans who need assistance. Watch more from Congressman Payne here.

Thank you to all of the elected officials who took time out of what was a very busy day on Capitol Hill to join us at the Congressional Reception! We understand that other elected officials had conflicts with the event and their schedule of hearings and we will follow up with them this month in their districts.