“Stable housing for the homeless, including those fleeing domestic violence situations, has remained unattainable for far too many. The issue has only been exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic,” says NJ Assemblywoman Aura Dunn (R-25). Leaders of Morris County non-profit homeless and domestic violence shelters are working with legislators to address the alarming rates of housing insecurity. Assemblywoman Dunn, along with co-sponsor Valerie Huttle (D-37), has introduced a resolution (ACR203) urging the U.S. Secretary for Housing and Urban Development to prioritize transitional housing for those experiencing homelessness.
On the Senate side, NJ Senator Anthony Bucco (R-25) also urges the HUD Secretary to prioritize transitional housing for homeless individuals and families, including survivors of domestic violence in his Senate resolution (SCR-140). Assemblywoman Aura Dunn (R-25) presents JBWS President and CEO Diane Williams with a certificate of recognition for her efforts to serve victims of domestic violence during the pandemic.
“The pandemic has disrupted life for everyone. Unemployment, under-employment and uncertainty have crippled many residents financially,” Bucco said. “This is where transitional housing options and resources can be invaluable.”
During a recent visit to the Family Promise Morris County NJ Drop-in Center, U. S. Congresswoman Sherrill (NJ-11) met with CEO Joann Bjornson who said they have seen a “400% increase in the need during COVID.” “The stress of COVID makes partnership between government officials at all levels, nonprofits, and community-based organizations even more critical in our fight to end homelessness and support survivors of domestic abuse,” said Representative Mikie Sherrill. “We have the opportunity to make real progress at the federal level with President Biden’s administration, from reinstating the Violence Against Women Act to building upon the CARES Act funding for housing authorities. I proudly co-sponsored the Homeless Children and Youth Act last Congress to address the need for transitional housing that our local housing advocates highlighted for me, and I will work with our new HUD Secretary to advocate for the flexibility our local organizations need to address the housing crisis.”
“The projections related to homelessness when the COVID-19 eviction moratorium ends are alarming,” stresses Dan McGuire, CEO of Homeless Solutions in Morris County. According to The Stout Report prepared for the National Council of State Housing Agencies, “New Jersey could experience 304,000 eviction filings after the lifting of the moratorium, compared to the 150,000 evictions filed in a typical year.”
Furthermore, the report goes on to say that “before COVID-19, more than 15% of all New Jersey renter households had extremely low-incomes, meaning that they had incomes of less than 30% of the area median income. Nearly 75% of these extremely low-income renter households were also severely rent-burdened, paying more than 50% of their income toward rent.”
“Too many domestic violence victims lack the job training and the financial resources needed to live. In high rent areas like Morris County, the COVID-19 pandemic has further exacerbated their struggles,” said Diane Williams, President and CEO of JBWS, a nonprofit providing safety, support and solutions to all victims of domestic violence in the greater Morris County area.
“There is a lack of long-term housing solutions for the homeless even in the best economic times,” said Dunn. “The financial barrier to finding more permanent housing has become more like a boulder during the pandemic. Most emergency shelters do not allow homeless individuals and families to stay for more than 90 days. Transitional housing programs provide safe harbor for up to 24 months and support services that include financial education, life skills training, counseling, employment, and housing assistance.”
Williams agrees, “No one should have to choose between becoming homeless or returning to their abuser. Transitional housing is an essential part of the homeless service continuum, particularly for those with traumatic histories such as victims of domestic violence, who need more time and appropriate supports to obtain and maintain permanent, affordable housing. It empowers survivors and their children to begin rebuilding their lives.”
“Housing is a fundamental right, not a privilege,” emphasizes Bjornson. “If you lack stable safe housing how can you find or maintain employment; support your children with virtual education; shelter in place or wash your hands; recover from illness; or stabilize from a recent job loss. The health and economic challenges of our neighbors have become a crisis in 2020 and a pandemic on its own for 2021. Working together we can alter this situation.”
Advocates urge anyone facing eviction or homelessness to call 211. If you or someone you know is a victim of domestic violence support is available 24/7 by calling 1-877-R-U-ABUSED.
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Founded in 1976 as Jersey Battered Women’s Service, JBWS celebrates 45 years of offering safety, support, and solutions to domestic abuse in Morris County, NJ. JBWS’ 24-hour helpline, safe house, transitional living, counseling, batterers’ intervention, legal advocacy, and children’s services provide safety and support to thousands of people each year and its outreach and school programs increase awareness of the issue for nearly 20,000 adults and teens annually.
For more information, visit www.jbws.or or call 1-877-R-U-ABUSED.
ABOUT HOMELESS SOLUTIONS
A Morris County, NJ-based private non-profit organization, Homeless Solutions has been helping the homeless and working poor in our community since 1983. Their philosophy is “a hand up, not a handout.” It is not just about providing a warm meal and a place to sleep. Our goal is to give those we serve the tools they need to rebuild their lives and become self-sufficient through our Emergency Shelter, Transitional Housing Program, Mt. Kemble Home and Affordable Housing.
For more information, visit homelesssolutions.org or call 973-993-0900.
ABOUT FAMILY PROMISE of MORRIS COUNTY
Family Promise of Morris County (formerly Interfaith Council for Homeless Families of Morris County) is a non-sectarian, not-for-profit organization dedicated to ending the crisis of homelessness faced by Morris County families by partnering with other public and private agencies, religious congregations and community volunteers to provide shelter, case management and mentoring services leading to self-sufficiency. For more information, visit familypromisemorris.org or call 973-998-0819.
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