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Rice Outraged At Treatment Of Welfare Recipients In East Orange

Chair of Legislative Black Caucus Calls for Hearings on Motel Housing for Welfare Recipients

EAST ORANGE – Senator Ronald L. Rice, Chair of the Legislative Black Caucus, announced today that he would be calling for legislative and Caucus hearings on the deplorable living conditions of many welfare recipients living in transitional housing in motels, highlighted by the recent emergency evacuation of a motel in East Orange which was deemed “unfit for human occupation.”

“We cannot cast aside our responsibility, as a State, to provide for our residents in need and condemn them to living in sub-human conditions,” said Senator Rice, D-Essex. “In the case of the Lincoln Motel in East Orange, 26 welfare recipients, most of whom had been placed by the Newark’s welfare office, all had to be uprooted during the holiday season, because they were living in horrible living conditions, all while the owner of the motel collected $1500 a month for each resident to house them. There is so much wrong with this picture that it’s sickening, and we need to figure out who is responsible, and how do we avoid something like this in the future.”

Senator Rice said that he would be reaching out to Senator Joe Vitale, Chair of the Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee, and Assemblyman Herb Conaway, Chair of the Black Caucus’s Subcommittee on Health and Human Services to conduct hearings as soon as possible on the condition of other welfare housing motels and the breakdowns in the system.

“We need to move quickly to ensure that other welfare recipients under the State’s oversight are not in similarly deplorable conditions,” said Senator Rice.

Senator Rice noted that, according to Star Ledger reports, East Orange inspectors ordered an emergency evacuation after inspections turned up mold, missing and broken windows, loose wiring, broken elevators, caved-in ceilings and smoke detectors ripped from the walls. Many rooms did not have heat, and residents said that the motel had been without hot water for six months.

“This is not the first time Lincoln Motel has been cited for grievous housing violations, either,” said Senator Rice, who pointed to reports that the Motel had been cited with more than 1,000 code violations in a single visit in 2004 alone. “The real question is, how did this motel continue to be on the approved housing list, when there were so many blatant code violations against it? There should have been a red flag raised somewhere along the way, and the residents living in Lincoln Motel should have been moved to safer conditions long ago.”

Senator Rice added that he wanted to know what transitional shelter owners are doing with the State funds they receive. Senator Rice noted that, at $1500 a month for each resident, the average paid for transitional housing, welfare recipients might have be able to afford mortgage payments or rent on new, quality affordable housing being constructed in the area.

“There needs to be an accounting of where the public’s money went, especially in light of the horrific code violations at Lincoln Motel,” said Senator Rice. “We need to know if owners are spending the funds they receive on necessary upkeep and maintenance to provide a livable environment for the welfare recipients they shelter. If appropriate, we should look for ways to force owners to reimburse the State when it’s shown that they have defrauded welfare agencies looking to place residents in a safe, secure setting.”

Senator Rice noted that he will ask for a list of acceptable transitional housing facilities, including hotels and motels, to ensure that welfare recipients across the State are not subjected to the same conditions present at Lincoln Motel.