TRENTON, N.J. – 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 Assemblywoman Aura Dunn and advocates.
Hotel shelter programs set up in cities across America with funding from the federal Coronavirus, Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act are unsustainable. Officials have threatened that by the year’s end people will be forced onto the streets or into crowded shelters as the second wave of the coronavirus washes over the nation.
“There is a lack of long-term housing solutions for the homeless even in the best economic times,” said Dunn (R-Morris). “The financial barrier to finding more permanent housing has become more like a boulder during the pandemic. Considering more than 1.8 million New Jerseyans have filed for unemployment since Mid-March, it’s time to prioritize housing that will offer more than just a temporary roof over people’s heads.”
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.
Assemblywoman Aura Dunn introduced a resolution (ACR203) urging the U.S. Secretary for Housing and Urban Development to prioritize transitional housing for those experiencing homelessness.
“The fact that New Jersey is completely unaffordable is not news, but it is particularly challenging and upsetting for someone trying to flee a domestic violence situation and homeless single-parent families,” explained Dunn.
Transitional housing is especially important in communities with expensive rentals, because other forms of short-term rental assistance are inadequate for long-term stability.
“In high rent areas like Morris County, the COVID-19 pandemic has further exacerbated the struggles that homeless individuals and families face in obtaining and maintaining stable housing,” said Diane Williams, president and CEO of JBWS, a non-profit providing safety, support and solutions to all victims of domestic violence in the greater Morris County area. “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 in order to obtain and maintain permanent, affordable housing. It empowers survivors and their children to begin rebuilding their lives.”