Nonprofits discuss housing needs

Survey of homeless reveals that some have no place to sleep


Advocates for the homeless gathered recently to discuss the results of a survey of homeless people in communities including Red Bank and Long Branch.

The statewide 2008 Project Homeless Connect, a point-in-time survey of people who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless, was the topic at a meeting hosted by the Long Branch Concordance (LBC) Feb. 13.

“One of the questions was, Where will you sleep tonight?” Emma Caban, LBC outreach coordinator, said at the meeting. “There were 29 people who said they did not know.”

As a follow-up to the Project Homeless Connect event, which took place Jan.29, a panel of speakers at the LBC meeting last week discussed current housing needs in the community.

“We already know that the average price of a home [in Monmouth County] is $450,000,” said James Thompson, the South/Central Jersey field organizer at the Housing and Community Development Network of New Jersey.

“We have so many foreclosures in New Jersey,” he said. “We estimate 13,500 to 16,500 homes across the state will be subject to foreclosures in 2008.

“It is a problem,” he added.

Currently, Thompson and his network are working to see that affordable housing is included in redevelopment plans at Fort Monmouth.

“Along with other local issues, some of the more pressing things we want to accomplish in the next few years is the creation of a state housing plan,” Thompson said, explaining that Gov. Jon S. Corzine has yet to fulfill his promise to create 100,000 units of affordable housing in the state.

“We would like to make a template and say, ‘Here are some benchmarks that we need to meet,’ ” Thompson said.

Other speakers at the LBC meeting included: Mary Lee Gilmore, Monmouth County Fair Housing officer; Marcella DeFedele, supervisor of the Rental Assistance Program at the Monmouth County Division of Social Services; Toi Collins, a member of the Affordable Housing Alliance; and Clare Nowlan, housing lawyer for Ocean Monmouth Legal Services.

Nowlan said her firm assists low-income tenants in legal housing matters.

“We help people avoid eviction,” said Collins, who works out of the Ocean Monmouth Legal Services office in Long Branch.

“About 90 percent of people who call in about eviction notices is because they cannot make rent,” she said. “People live paycheck to paycheck and are paying way more than 30 percent of their income on rent.”

Affordable housing is critical to the well-being and health of children and families, according to a press release from the LBC.

Families struggling with housing costs have trouble managing their daily lives, and their children’s safety, health and development can suffer, according to the release.

“Over the past few months, the LBC Information and Referral Program has seen more and more guests who pay more than they can afford for housing,” the release states. “These families have too little money left for necessities, such as food, clothing and health care.

“They are unable to pay for transportation and child care, and as a result, are at risk of homelessness,” it states.