Housing homeless men ought to be a priority for Middlesex freeholders

At a recent Sunday church service the sermon contained a message that asked the people, “Are you doing everything you can to help your fellow man?” I thought about the homeless men in Middlesex County, and I gave myself a failing grade.

I called the Ozanam Inn, New Brunswick, where homeless men are housed, and learned that there are approximately 450 homeless men in the county. The Ozanam houses 40 men year-round, the Salvation Army of Perth Amboy is preparing to take 20 men year-round, and the New Brunswick Interfaith Men’s Shelter takes in 16 men during the winter months. What happens to 390 homeless men year-round?

It’s hard for me to believe that elected officials don’t have a strong enough feeling for these unfortunate people to do something about providing housing for them. Many of the homeless work but do not earn enough to pay for lodging.

As I understand it, the cost for a single room runs about $800 per month in Middlesex County. At one time the Livingston Avenue YMCA, New Brunswick, provided lodging for as little as $5 per night. For some unknown reason, the building was condemned. The reason given was that it was structurally unsound. It was abandoned by the YMCA, minor repairs were made, and the building was taken over by the George Street Playhouse.

Obviously, little concern was given to the needs of the homeless then, and it seems that nothing has changed. A YMCA exists in Elizabeth, providing lodging at $111 a week. What a boon it would be for the homeless in this area if we had a YMCA such as the one in Elizabeth.

Records show that the Middlesex County Board of Chosen Freeholders has spent millions of dollars for items associated with pleasure seeking — $6 million to dredge the Raritan River to encourage yachts to come to New Brunswick, $3 million given to The State Theatre for interior decorations, $4 million to East Brunswick for “open space” that will contain a soccer field, playhouse and a community center. These are a few examples of how money is available for unnecessary projects.

I’m sure money could be available for a serious project like housing for homeless men. I would like to see the freeholders assign priority to housing homeless men.

I wonder what grade the freeholders would give themselves if asked how well they are taking care of their fellow man?

Frank J. Coury

East Brunswick