Lawmakers Look To Ease Atlantic City’s Homeless Burden [AUDIO]
"We want to help the homeless out, we just don't want to be a dumping ground."
That's what Assemblyman Chris Brown and fellow assemblyman John Amodeo hope to achieve with a bill that aims to prevent other counties from haphazardly sending their homeless to Atlantic City.
The duo were joined on the Atlantic City boardwalk by fellow Republican Assemblyman John Bramnick to discuss Bill A-2897, which Brown and Amodeo sponsored and would require municipalities and counties statewide to perform detailed evaluations of all homeless residents before sending them elsewhere for care.
"Right now they just send them to Atlantic City" says Brown "They don't call down and say 'Do you have any beds available?' 'Do you have this kind of counseling?' 'Do you have this service?', they just send them."
The practice is what Brown and Amadeo call "Greyhound Therapy", where homeless residents from counties across the state are put on a bus to AC and often end up at the doorstep of the Atlantic City Mission.
This "Greyhound Therapy" is what the Assemblymen feel is contributing to the overcrowding of the Atlantic City Mission, and funneling a large homeless population onto the streets in the tourism district.
"We shouldn't be the basis every homeless person throughout the state, because we have multiple casinos and there is food bins of every casino." Says Amadeo
He notes the practice of writing off the homeless individuals and neglecting to establish any kind of referrals or treatment plans is done most by Pennsylvania, Gloucester, Cumberland, and Camden Counties ; however he says it occurs throughout the state.
If the bill passes, not only would towns and counties be required to conduct an evaluation on each homeless resident, and be forced to coordinate with any facilities they send residents to, but they could only send them to the closest geographical facility. Amadeo and Brown believe this will keep the individuals closer to their families and support structures, rather than being sent across the state.
The Assemblymen hope the proposed bill will not only start the ball moving on homeless reform throughout the state, but also act as a way to bolster Atlantic City's tourist economy.
Amadeo believes with the cities unprecedented "Do AC" marketing initiative to re-brand the city as a resort destination, which costs $20 million this year and $30 million next year, will be hampered if something isn't done about the homeless.
"It's not a benefit for tourists to see individuals that are homeless under the boardwalk hanging out on the beaches and the benches and looking around the dumpsters of the casinos so they can get their meal."
He proposes moving many of the social services away from the tourism district and possible outside of the city altogether.
Brown noted the strain on social services needs to be addressed,
"Our social services are overwhelmed and it's draining resources needed to make Atlantic City successful. But even more importantly the homeless are not getting the services they need."