Impact Speakers Share Experiences with Homelessness

2019 Congressional Reception Speakers Inspired Audience and Advocated that Opportunity Starts at Home

On July 24, more than 300 advocates and individuals attended the 2019 Congressional Reception in Washington, D.C. Fourteen constituents addressed their elected officials and the audience.

The speakers spoke about their personal experiences with homelessness, the impact it had on their lives, and the necessity of homes that are affordable and homelessness assistance programs. Each of the speakers has accessed assistance they needed or is waiting from assistance through one of the programs in the 2019 Federal Policy Priorities, which include McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance GrantsFair HousingMedicaidSection 8 Housing Choice VouchersLow-Income Housing Tax Credits and the National Housing Trust Fund (HTF).

Miguel Rodriguez, a resident of Magnolia and constituent of U.S. Representative Donald Norcross (D-NJ-1), spoke about experiencing homelessness after his release from prison. The longer he experienced homelessness, the more his mental and physical health declined. Miguel knows first-hand that housing is healthcare, so he asked all elected officials to support and protect Medicaid. See Miguel’s speech here. 

Lauren Segers, a resident of Millville and constituent of U.S. Representative Jeff Van Drew (D-NJ-2), also spoke about her inability to work, how impossible it is to survive on the money from disability insurance and that she and her son had to move from place to place. Catholic Charities, Diocese of Camden, provided her with temporary assistance so she was able to live in her own home and start a full-time job. See more from Lauren here.

Robert Hedden

Robert Hedden, a resident of Hamilton and constituent of U.S. Representative Chris Smith (R-NJ-4), spoke about his experience with homelessness and mental health issues. Robert discussed how because of his openess about being affected by a common mental health condition, he lost his job due to stigma and experienced homelessness. Treated and doing well for years, he has dedicated his life to help others. Robert reminded us that housing is a right and that homelessness does not define those affected by it. See Robert’s remarks here.

Ivan Wei, a resident of Fair Lawn and constituent of U.S. Representative Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ-5), told attendees about his experience being homeless as soon as he was born. He highlighted the necessity of increased funding for (Section 8) Housing Choice Vouchers, saying that he and his family waited too long to receive a voucher. See more from Ivan here.

Rosemary Ebron, a resident of Carteret and constituent of U.S. Representative Frank Pallone (D-NJ-6), told her story of facing homelessness even while maintaining a full-time job. She was unable to receive assistance or services. She spoke about being emotionally traumatized by the experience and mentioned that without a home, her health declined significantly. Watch Rosemary speak here. Congressman Pallone was not able to attend the Congressional Reception but his staffer Jake Freed, who covers housing and homelessness policy for the Congressman attended the event, heard Ebron’s story and met her.

Crystal Fedeli

Crsytal Fedeli, a resident of Stockton and constituent of U.S. Representative Tom Malinowski (D-NJ-7), talked about being experiencing homeless while taking care of her newborn baby. Soon after starting school, she received a diagnosis of postpartum depression and says her lack of housing exacerbated her condition. See Crystal’s story here

Franklin Kelly, a constituent of U.S. Representative Albio Sires (D-NJ-8), discussed his experience with homelessness. Franklin and his wife rely on disability insurance income which is not enough household income to afford most market-rate apartments in New Jersey. He told us that the rate of affordable housing development in New Jersey does not meet the demand for homes everyone can afford and that expanding affordable housing opportunities will grow healthy communities. See more here

Congressional Reception attendees, elected officials and their staff were inspired by the stories of the impact speakers. Please watch and share the videos above to make sure elected officials and policymakers know that Opportunity Starts at Home!