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Sweeney-Vitale Bill To Aid the Homeless Gains Senate Approval

Trenton – Legislation authored by Senate President Steve Sweeney and Senator Joe Vitale that would respond to the crisis situations that can threaten some of the neediest residents of New Jersey with homelessness was approved by the Senate today. The bill, S-866, would create a permanent housing assistance program to help the disabled, chronically ill and long-term unemployed who are confronted with the abrupt termination of temporary programs.

“Homelessness is a treatable and preventable condition that puts people at risk for other hardships,” said Senator Sweeney. “This is emergency assistance for those who are homeless or threatened with homelessness. If you don’t have a place to live it is difficult to hold a job, maintain good health or provide family members with other basic necessities.”

The state’s Housing Assistance and Housing Hardship Extension programs, which provide assistance to people who have exhausted welfare-based emergency housing assistance and those who are disabled and awaiting social security insurance benefits, expired in July 2016 with no real replacement in place.

“Because the programs in place were temporary, the assistance it offered didn’t provide the security and certainty for people already facing insecure and uncertain living conditions,” said Senator Vitale. “Some individuals have already been left homeless and countless others are struggling to secure housing aid. But they all deserve the stability of a roof over their head.”

In the past, those receiving benefits through the emergency assistance program were granted additional rental assistance beyond the 12 months through pilot programs implemented by the Department of Human Services. The legislation will replace the three-year “pilot” programs with a permanent emergency assistance plan.

“We often see hunger and homelessness going hand-in-hand,’’ said Adele LaTourette, director, New Jersey Anti-Hunger Coalition. “This measure extends critical assistance to our most vulnerable residents and makes it permanent. Unfortunately, the need for assistance with housing and food is not a temporary situation for far many people.’’

The bill would make the funding permanent for individuals who are very low income, receive general assistance benefits, are Social Security recipients, are in imminent danger of homelessness, disabled or those who care for a disabled dependent, or are over 60 years of age or chronically unemployed.