AC puts pressure on Ocean County to help homeless
Atlantic City officials are putting pressure on Ocean County government to step up and do more to help its homeless instead of sending them to South Jersey.
Atlantic City Mayor Don Guardian told the Press of Atlantic City that the Atlantic City Rescue Mission shelter isn’t equipped to handle the influx from other counties, like Ocean, that’s expected in the coming years. The Ocean County Freeholder Board has said it would support a shelter if a faith-based organization is willing to run it.
Deb Ellis, executive director of The New Jersey Coalition to End Homelessness, said faith-based organizations have an important role to play, but they do not always have the resources to run a shelter that’s in keeping with best practices now.
“Really to run a good shelter, you want it to be a place that’s right away focusing on getting people into homes, not just sheltering them, and so you really need a level of expertise that many faith-based organizations may not be able to do,” she said, pointing to Samaritan House in Lakewood, which tried to start a faith-based shelter.
Ellis believed it closed due to problems it had with insurance. Samaritan House was going to be a temporary solution for individuals who were forced to relocate once the township permanently shut-down Tent City, a homeless encampment in a wooded area on municipal-owned land.
Elllis’s group is working on developing a shelter in Ocean County, but needs County support to make that happen.
“Of course with homelessness, what you really want to do is get people into homes, but there’s a real lack of affordable rental housing in Ocean County, which was exacerbated by (superstorm) Sandy,” she said, questioning where state and federal funding is being spent and citesOcean County’s Long Term Recovery Plan as one example. “On that plan we feld comments on because it did not have any provision for new, affordable housing.”
Ellis provided an example of what she considers an excellent shelter: The Bergen County Housing Shelter in Hackensack, which is run by the county.
“It is a shelter that I think is now very accepted by the community because it realizes it’s a place where people are getting the services they need to become productive members of society again,” she said.