Emergency shelters in New Jersey would have to provide shelter for the homeless, including those with mental illnesses who pose no safety threat to themselves or others under a two-bill package that's headed to the governor's desk.

The first bill prohibits emergency shelters from refusing to provide food and shelter for the homeless for a minimum of 72 hours, unless the shelter is at its maximum occupancy level.  Under current law, shelters must provide these services for a minimum stay of less than 24 hours.

"Right now emergency shelters can only provide shelter for less than 24 hours, which means an individual that is homeless only has hours before they're right back on the street," said one of the bill's sponsors Assemblywoman Mila Jasey. 

"Extending the minimum stay to 72 hours gives them a couple more days of comfort.  If there is capacity, then there is no reason to turn away a person who has no where else to go."

Will Extra Shelter Days Help?

"The economy has made bad situations worse for many people who unable to find work have suddenly found themselves homeless," said another sponsor Assemblyman Ralph Caputo.  "For people in this situation, an extra couple of days of shelter can really help as they make other arrangements."

The second bill requires emergency shelters to admit people with mental illness, unless they pose a risk to themselves, others or property.

"Sadly, homelessness and mental health issues often go hand in hand," said Jasey.  "Turning people away because of a mental illness that poses no threat to others only exacerbates the problem."