Thank you for setting aside 20 minutes of your meeting to allow us to share what we have learned after years of studying homelessness and working with that community of men, women and children.
I am Larry Meegan, President of the Kiwanis Club of Jackson. Among the people here today are other members of community service and non-profit groups, students, businessmen and women, the homeless, and members of the clergy.
From the very outset let me assure you that we are not here to be confrontational, nor are we going to present homelessness as a political issue. Many people would not be here this afternoon if that was our goal. Instead, we are here to discuss homelessness as a social justice issue and in the short time we have introduce you to the humanity of homelessness.
During the past year the community service groups hosted three forums that were attended by more than 500 people to put a face on the homeless, to examine programs that have been successfully employed around the state, and to gauge Ocean County residents’ willingness to assist the poor.
We learned that many people found themselves displaced and on the street through no fault of their own. We learned that there are at least three levels of homeless: the immediate need, the transitional housing, and low-income housing. And we learned that there must be a collaborative effort involving government, business, and the community to deal with the issue.
Efforts are being made to remedy the needs of the homeless but despite those best efforts, a lot of people are still slipping through the safety net. Not only do we see it, the County Board of Social Services also calls attention to the fact that it does not have the resources to meet those needs.
From their letter “A Gift of Shelter,” the Board writes that the dollars they receive are sometimes not enough to take care of everyone. “In these difficult economic times, more and more of our neighbors are finding it hard to make ends meet some unique needs that may otherwise go unmet.”
“No one should be without a roof over their head,” the letter concludes, “and every day we work to make certain residents do not go hungry or homeless. Your donation will help our continuing efforts to assist our neighbors who need help now.”
There is a need for more resources, both money and a volunteer workforce. Our speakers will address that and for the last two minutes I will close our presentation with an offer that will demonstrate our commitment to our neighbors and our county.
Our first speaker is Steven Nagel, Director of InfoLine in Middlesex County who will share their success story. Next will be Lynn Swett, who following divorce suddenly found herself a single mom living in a tent. Tracy Boyer will discuss the Housing First model and tell you how it has saved Mercer County thousands of dollars per homeless client. Pastor Mazur will discuss housing as a social justice issue and I will wrap it up.