Friday, September 23, 2011

Rights of Homeless Students

From “Student’s Rights Handbook: A guide for public school students in New Jersey” (Fourth edition)
The complete Handbook can be found at the ACLU Website: 
Homeless Students. Although students generally attend school in the
district where their parents or guardians reside, New Jersey law recognizes
that homeless families may be forced to move quite often. State law makes
special provisions for children of homeless parents, because their education
would be severely disrupted if these students had to switch schools every
time their parents moved.

Homelessness is defined as “temporarily lack[ing] a fixed, regular and
adequate residence.”15 The “district of residence” for a child whose parent or
guardian temporarily moves from one school district to another as a result
of being homeless is the school district in which the parent or guardian last
lived prior to becoming homeless.16 After such a move, the child may
continue to attend public school wherever he or she attended before
moving; may enroll in the “district of residence,” determined as stated above;
or may enroll in the district where the child is temporarily living.17 School
officials from the district of residence, after consulting with the child’s
parent or guardian, decide based on the child’s best interests where the
child should enroll.18 Wherever the child enrolls, the district of residence
must pay any necessary transportation or tuition costs.

If the parent or guardian disagrees with the school officials’ decision
about where a homeless child is to attend school, he or she may bring that
objection to the county superintendent. The county superintendent must
then determine the appropriate placement within 48 hours.19

A parent or guardian who objects to the regional superintendent’s
decision may request mediation through the Department of Education. If
the mediation is unsuccessful, the parent or guardian may appeal to the
Commissioner of Education.20

A helpful resource on the issue of homelessness and students is
Education Rights of Homeless Students: A Guide for Advocates, which is
published by the Education Law Center whose contact information is listed
at the end of the handbook.
Education Law Center
60 Park Place, Suite 300, Newark, NJ 07102
(973) 624-1815

Friday, September 16, 2011

Disaster Unemployment Assistance Available to New Jerseyans

Disaster Unemployment Assistance (DUA) is available to individuals who worked in or are self-employed residents of New Jersey, and who are unemployed as a direct result of Hurricane Irene, according to state and federal officials.

The application deadline for DUA in Bergen, Essex, Morris, Passaic and Somerset counties is October 3.

The application deadline for DUA in Atlantic, Burlington, Cape May, Camden, Cumberland, Gloucester, Hudson, Hunterdon, Mercer, Middlesex, Monmouth, Ocean, Salem, Sussex, Warren, and Union counties is October 7.

Unemployment insurance claims filed after the deadlines may be ineligible for payment.

The first step is to file for unemployment insurance benefits by calling a New Jersey Reemployment Call Center. Individuals who need DUA may call any one of the numbers below, from any county, and a DUA specialist will provide assistance.
Union City: 201-601-4100
Freehold: 732-761-2020
Cumberland: 856-507-2340

If it is determined that a worker or self-employed individual is not eligible for Unemployment Insurance (UI), the Disaster Unemployment Assistance program may pay benefits to those whose work has been lost or interrupted as a direct result of a disaster.

DUA is designed to cover workers and self-employed individuals such as artists, farmers and farm workers, freelance writers and photographers, and others who normally would not be eligible for UI.

Larry's impressions from Tuesday's hearing

The third conference hearing in the Tent City matter took place Tuesday in Court Room Three with Superior Court Judge Joseph Foster presiding.
Early in the hearing Lakewood threw out a surprise when its attorney announced it was electing to file a court motion on the ejection matter to throw the people out of Tent City. He said Lakewood wanted a ruling on the legality of the homeless being on the township property. He added that if the court ruled in the town's favor that would not necessarily mean they would seek immediate enforcement of the decision.

Essentially there are two cases under one docket, said the county's attorney Jean Cipriani. One case involves Lakewood and its desire to see Tent City and its residents gone. The second is to answer the question: does the county have an obligation to house the homeless?

The county maintains that it does do something for the homeless. And they do serve many people, upwards of 1,100 people, according to the county. But they do not do something for everybody, homeless advocates say. Many people are turned away and given advice to find refuge in Tent City, allege some of the homeless. The coalition members believe that by reallocating funds and initiating new programs all the homeless can be housed.

There is still a lot of wrangling going on, and Judge Foster said he would like to get to the point quickly in this litigation.

As to how he'll get there he said he's the new judge in the case and he has a different approach than Judge Vincent Grasso, who presided over the first two hearings.

Judge Foster said he wants to have the amended complaints from attorney Jeff Wild, who with his firm Lowenstein-Sandler, is working pro bono for the homeless.

After Tuesday's hearing the attorneys met to discuss a timetable for the county to provide the materials Wild requested, then after his review they would settle on a date for him to submit his amended complaint. Following their conference they agreed the Board of Social Service will produce the requested documents that it considers disclosable under OPRA by Sept. 27. Wild will file his amended complaint by Oct. 27. And the next conference hearing will be held Nov. 15 @ 9 a.m.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

The World is Watching: CNN

CNN: The jobless in New Jersey find refuge in Tent City

Cars and trucks cruise along Cedar Bridge Avenue, drivers listening to radio anchors reporting the headline that a record 46 million Americans are living in poverty, while 50 feet from the bustling boulevard, hidden by the woods that border the road, lies a shocking example of that shameful statistic.

Behind the trees, six dozen homeless Americans have set up camp, in tents, teepees and huts, residents of what they call Tent City. It's a place where those out of work and out of luck can drop out of society while living as cheaply as possible.

"It's a community here," said the Rev. Steven Brigham, who founded Tent City in 2006 as part of his Lakewood Outreach Ministry Church. "They have a sense of belonging..."

To read more and view the video click this

Fighting Poverty: What You Can Do About It on October 5

By Damika Webb on September 9th 2011

A public program, “Fighting Poverty: What you can do about it.” will address the current state of three critical issues in Camden County — hunger, housing and health – at the Cherry Hill Library on October 5, 2011 from 7:00–9:00 PM. Conducted in partnership with the Anti Poverty Network, the program will highlight the Poverty Research Institute’s (PRI) latest report “Poverty Benchmarks 2011: Assessing New Jersey’s Progress in Combating Poverty,” which generated significant interest in the local media. PRI is an initiative of Legal Services of NJ (LSNJ), which provides free legal help on civil matters to New Jerseyans who cannot afford it. In anticipation of upcoming elections, fact sheets and voter guides will be distributed with information on candidates’ positions on public policy and poverty.

According to Nancy Ashton, planning team member, “Early in life I learned that if you are not part of the solution, you are part of the problem. I’ve known poverty, but I’m doing okay now. But many of us don’t know where our next meal is coming from, if we can pay the next bill, if we can afford a decent home or endure a medical problem. Samuel Johnson said, ‘The inevitable consequence of poverty is dependence’, so let’s help the less fortunate pull themselves up.” Zane Kratzer from LSNJ, Senior Researcher and Policy Analyst for PRI, will present the Poverty Benchmarks data specific to Camden County. A panel of local social service administrators who work on the frontlines of the poverty battle will discuss the report and suggest needed actions. Panel respondents include: Ujwala Samant, Director of Programs and Services for the Food Bank of South Jersey; Kevin D. Walsh, Fair Share Housing Center Associate Director; and Carol Wolff, Executive Director of the Camden Area Health Education Center. The League of Women Voters will moderate.

Co-sponsoring the program are: The Anti Poverty Network, South Jersey NOW–Alice Paul Chapter, League of Women Voters - Camden County, Congregation M’kor Shalom’s Social Action Committee, Regional Urban Partnerships Committee of Sustainable Cherry Hill, and Unitarian Universalist Church of Cherry Hill Social Justice Committee.

Fair Share Housing Center honored by New Jersey NAACP

On Saturday, September 10, Adam M. Gordon, Kevin D. Walsh and Damika L. Webb were honored as the recipients of the Fair Share Housing Advocate Award at the New Jersey NAACP Annual Convention in Parsippany, NJ.
The New Jersey State Conference of the NAACP, the Officers and the Executive Committee gave congratulation for Fair Share Housing Center’s devotion “to defending the housing rights of New Jersey’s poor through implementing the Mount Laurel Doctrine, which requires that each municipality provide its fair share of housing affordable low-and moderate-income people.”

Jeff Wild: report on Sept. 13 court hearing

There were a number of developments in court yesterday, some good but some not. Our support of the homeless is more important than ever:

1. Lakewood Tent City in Jeopardy. For more than a year, Lakewood abided by the Consent Order in the litigation; supported our efforts to get help from Ocean County; and did not pursue its request that the Court eject the homeless from the Lakewood Tent City. Under the Consent Order, Lakewood agreed to hold off on pursuing an ejectment of Tent City's residents while we worked to cooperate in solving the problem of homelessness by bringing the County into the case. But at the first conference yesterday before the newly assigned judge, the Hon. Joseph L. Foster, one of the attorneys for Lakewood announced, without explanation, that Lakewood now intends to pursue its request for ejectment. I have reached out for Lakewood's lead litigator and will see how, if at all, the Coalition can continue to work with Lakewood to address the underlying problem: that Tent City's residents have nowhere else to go. Let's give Lakewood the benefit of the doubt until our Coalition's efforts to cooperate with Lakewood are exhausted. But if Lakewood is not part of the solution, it is part of the problem.

2. Next Steps in Litigation. If and when Lakewood files papers to seek ejectment, we will respond with papers of our own and pursue all appropriate litigation defenses and affirmative claims against Lakewood. It will be at least several weeks before any hearing before Judge Foster on any ejectment motion that Lakewood files. The details of those papers could also be very important -- for example, whether Lakewood is seeking immediate ejectment of all of the residents without giving them any place to go, or whether Lakewood will ask Judge Foster to do something short of that (we think) unconscionable position. Also, in the good-news department, Judge Foster approved a schedule under which: (a) the Ocean County Board of Social Services will be providing us, by September 27th, with documents that we can use to amplify our claims against the County, such as details about how many people the County turns away and how much money the County wastes on expensive motel rooms; (b) we will file amended and expanded claims against the County by October 27th; and (c) the County and Lakewood were ordered to attend a combined settlement status conference and settlement conference on Tuesday, November 15th at 9 a.m.

3. How You Can Help

A. Next Court Date. If you are in the Toms River area, please stand side by side (literally) with the homeless at the next court date on November 15th at 9 a.m. The court conference will be at 100 Hooper Avenue (just north of Washington Street), Courtroom #3, in Toms River. I will also, of course, let you know when a hearing is scheduled on any motion that Lakewood files to shut down Tent City.

B. Formation of Statewide Coalition. Our grass-roots coalition in Ocean County has been great, and now seems like the time to take it to the next level: a statewide organization dedicated solely to fighting and ending homelessness in New Jersey. We need a coalition that can bring together the energy, skills and resources of all the people and organizations who care deeply about the tens of thousands who are homeless in NJ each year. I have spoken to some of you about a vision of forming the Coalition for the Homeless of New Jersey (the "Coalition"). I will be in touch soon with more details about the Coalition and ways that you might consider getting involved, including (but not limited to) donating your time, skills, funds and/or other resources, so that together we can keep making a difference in the lives of NJ's most desperate men, women and children.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

FEMA Disaster Recovery Center opens in Brick Sept. 13

THE FEDERAL Emergency Management Administration is scheduled to open its Disaster Recovery Center in Ocean County at noon, Sept. 13 at the Brick Township Civic Center, Chambers Bridge Road, Brick Township.

"We continue to closely work with FEMA representatives to insure our residents and area businesses receive assistance following any losses that resulted from Hurricane Irene," said Freeholder Director Joseph H. Vicari. "I join with Gov. Christie in urging residents to file for FEMA help as soon as they can."

Residents and businesses were already provided with important information and telephone numbers on how to register for claims with FEMA.

To register for assistance by phone call 800-621-FEMA (3362) or TTY 800-462-7585 for those with hearing or speech impairments. Specialists are standing by at the toll-free numbers seven days a week, 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. local time, until further notice. Help in other languages is available. Or you can register online at

Application can also be made through a web-enabled mobile device or smart phone by visiting and following the link to "apply online for federal assistance."

When applying for disaster assistance having the following information available is helpful: Social Security number; private insurance information if available; address and zip code of the damaged property; directions to the damaged home or property and a daytime telephone number.

Vicari noted that follow up to claims already taken can be made at the Disaster Recovery Center located at the Brick Township Civic Center, 270 Chambers Bridge Road, Suite 11, Brick Township, along with other services.

The center is scheduled to be open from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., seven days a week for at least the first two weeks.

At the center, visitors can:
· Receive information about different types of state and federal disaster assistance.
· Get help completing applications for U.S. Small Business Administration low-interest disaster loans for homeowners, renters, businesses of all sizes and private nonprofit organizations.
· Inquire about the status of applications for federal assistance.
· Receive referrals to voluntary organizations to help with immediate unmet needs.
· Learn cost-effective measures to reduce the impact of future disaster losses.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

SNAP (Food stamps) for disaster relief in NJ

ATTENTION: Emergency Food Providers and Advocates
Please inform your clients and partner agencies!!

People in NJ that suffered property loss and/or damage in Hurricane Irene may be eligible for Disaster SNAP/Food Stamps!!
Those not currently receiving food stamps can apply with eased requirements and documentations.
All those eligible for Disaster SNAP/Food Stamps must apply as soon as possible:
Passaic County can apply from 9/7-9/15
Bergen, Essex, Morris and Somerset can apply from 9/8-9/16
All other counties can apply from 9/12-9/20
People can apply at designated sites throughout the state. To find a site in your area and for more information, log onto
Please circulate to anyone who can utilize this benefit.

Note: Current recipients of NJ SNAP benefits will not automatically receive supplemental benefits. Affidavits will have to be completed by them and submitted to the county welfare agency by 9/22/11. The affidavit will be available after Monday on and As we identify other places where the affidavit may be obtained we will keep you informed.

Many thanks,
Shailja Mathur M.S., M.Ed., RD
Senior Project Administrator

NJ SNAP-Ed Support Network
New Jersey Agriculture Experiment Station-RCE

Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey
Department of Nutritional Sciences
11 Suydam Street- Willets Hall (2nd floor)
New Brunswick, NJ 08901

The world is watching

One more international news outlet is covering the Tent City litigation. The BBC interviewed attorney Jeff Wilder and a couple of Tent City residents. Click on this link to listen to the story, click & paste: