Thursday, March 31, 2011

Destiny's Bridge-a concept

Destiny’s Bridge : An Intentional Community A conceptual plan, "Destiny's Bridge," was presented at the homeless forum in Toms River March 28th. The plan calls for affordable houses in a community setting, and offering meals and rehabilitative services for the people who live in Tent City, Lakewood. To view the PowerPoint presentation:

New Jersey Supreme Court Decides to Hear Housing Appeals

Court Will Review Lower Court's Decision Finding Housing Regulations Inadequate For immediate release Contact: Kevin D. Walsh - 856-324-4461 Fair Share Housing Center Trenton, New Jersey - March 31, 2011 - The New Jersey Supreme Court has decided to review the October 8, 2010 Appellate Division decision that invalidated the Council on Affordable Housing's (COAH) flawed Third Round regulations. The Court's decision is in response to requests filed by thirteen municipalities and the New Jersey League of Municipalities that want the Court to relieve them of the obligation to provide zoning for starter homes for New Jersey's working families. The municipalities have the support of the Christie Administration, which has called for allowing wealthy municipalities to build walls that exclude working New Jerseyans, seniors, and people with special needs. More at

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Mercer Housing First Demonstration Initiative: Report to the Community, Feb. 2011

John Monahan, from Mercer Housing First, delivered this Tuft's Institute about the good that is being accomplished in Mercer County's Housing First program. Here is a link to the PDF version of the report and the PowerPoint version This was copied from his handout delivered during the Kiwanis-sponsored housing forum March 28 in Toms

Simon's Soup Kitchen in Seaside Heights

To help people out who need a meal we have a listing on the right hand side of this blog.  I am going to add Simon's Soup Kitchen that is run out of the Parish Center at Our lady of Perpetual Help in Seaside Heights Tuesday and Friday nights, October thru April, 5:30 to 7 p.m.

There are not "means" testing. Everyone in need of a hot meal and/or fellowship are welcome.

The kitchen has served over 23,000 meals since it was opened in Feb. 2004.  It currently serves about 225 meals each night.  More than half of its diners are children.

Remember hearing how important breakfast is, especially for kids?  In 2007 Simon's Soup Kitchen began its "Breakfast with Al" program.  It provides the children of Simon's Soup Kitchen with a take home breakfast twice a week.

The kitchen is sponsored by the Knights of Columbus Council 8415 and relies on donations from individuals and organization.  Each evening costs about $300.  Donations can be made to Simon's Soup Kitchen, PO Box 551, Seaside Park, NJ  08752.  Simon's Soup Kitchen is a 501.c.3 organization.

Check them out at their Web site: .  And tell 'em Larry sent you.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Jeff Wild launches "Survival Corp"

Jeff Wild has just launched Survival Corp., designed to take the fight against homelessness and poverty statewide.  He is still fleshing it out but the inaugural Web page can be accessed at

The top 10 reasons we need to form Survival Corp. ("Survival"):
 1.            Because hundreds of thousands of men, women and children in New Jersey, and millions of men, women and children in the United States, are falling through the holes in the Government's "safety net" -- and hitting the ground every day;

        2.            Because of the unemployed (or under-employed) men and women who can't make enough to pay rent at any apartment in New Jersey -- but whose incomes are "too high" to qualify for any Government program through which they could obtain housings;
        3.            Because of the men and women who made bad choices in the past and were convicted of drug offenses or other crimes -- but now, after serving their time, are disqualified by their conviction from any Government program that would allow them to have a place to live or adequate food, and thus are drawn back into crime;
        4.            Because of the men and women trying to get off alcohol or drugs -- but who don't have access to a rehab facility and end up living on the street or in the woods;
        5.            Because of the divorced men and women who want to pay the alimony or child support they owe -- but who can't pay for survival-level room and board if they do;
        6.            Because of the men and women who do qualify, under existing law, for Government programs -- but do not get them, because of government officials and employees who delay and deny Government help without legal justification;
        7.            Because of the children of the men and women described above, who suffer in poverty in America's second wealthiest State;
        8.            Because faith-based organizations, secular non-profits and businesses (large and small) committed to their community can partner together to make sure the Government fulfills its first obligation:  to protect the people it serves, including recognizing every person's right to have their most basic human needs met if they cannot meet them on their own;
        9.            Because of the patchwork of faith-based and secular organizations and individuals working every day to meet the survival needs of the homeless and hungry in New Jersey -- but who can do much better, and get emergency help to those who need it most, by partnering together and coordinating their efforts on a Statewide basis;
        10.          Because we can:  our gratitude for the blessings that so many of us do have impels us to stand together with those who struggle every day to survive.

Middlesex Cty. 10-year Plan to End Homelessness

Here is a link to the PowerPoint version of Middlesex County's 10-year Plant to End Homelessness.

Tripp Rogers interviews Tracy Boyer about homelessness

Magic 100.1's Tripp Rogers interviewed Tracy Boyer this morning about homelessness in Ocean County and about tomorrow's forum in the Toms River library branch.  The link is   Click on the arrow just to the left of slider bar to listen to it.

Too bad his wrap up comments aren't available.  They were inspiring and urged people to get out there and do something to help others.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

NYT Op-ed: Seperate and Unequal still reigns

From the Fair Share Housing Center blog:
The New York Times OP-ED:  “Separate and Unequal”
Posted by Damika Webb on March 23rd 2011
The solution to improving the education achievement gap of poor black and Hispanic public school students is right in front of us according to Bob Herbert in his March 21, 2011 op-ed, “Separate and Unequal”. Many years of research has shown that poor students who learn in schools with more affluent peers perform better than students in schools with a high concentration of poverty.
Herbert points out, and we agree that “residential patterns, housing discrimination, economic disparities and long-held custom” have resulted in too many schools that are legally segregated, but not economically, racially or ethically integrated. For some it is conversation avoided, but the future success of many children depend on it.

Construction begins in Mixed-use, Workforce Housing units in Wood-Ridge

From the Fair Share Housing Center blog:
Mixed-Use Development in Wood-Ridge Will Include New Train Station, Homes for Working Families
Posted by Kevin Walsh on March 25th 2011
Good news! Yesterday, the groundbreaking occurred on an inclusionary 406-unit transit-oriented development by Avalon Bay Communities in Wood-Ridge, NJ that, as a result of a May 2008 settlement with FSHC, will include 47 homes that are affordable to lower-income New Jerseyans. The mixed-use Westmont Station development, which will include a new train station on the Bergen Line, is minutes from Manhattan. Families earning between $17,000-$59,000 annually will be able to live there, in addition to families earning significantly more.
The Avalon Bay rental development is part of a larger redevelopment of a 70-acre site. FSHC challenged the site plan approvals for the project in Superior Court, contending that Wood-Ridge had not provided a realistic opportunity for its fair share of homes for lower-income households. The litigation against Wood-Ridge and Somerset Development settled in 2008. Overall, fifteen percent of the homes developed on the site must be affordable. Plans for later phases of the development have not yet been announced.
Without our involvement, there would be no reasonably-priced homes in this development, especially in its early phases. We are excited that Avalon Bay, which has a great record of inclusionary development in New Jersey, is now involved in the project and look forward to seeing families with a broad range of incomes living there. The inclusion of a substantial amount of housing for lower-income New Jerseyans on this site demonstrates the potential for development near train stations that helps spur the economy and includes everyone from janitors and secretaries to white-collar commuters to New York City. As we continue to promote inclusionary transit-oriented development throughout New Jersey, we are happy to see more on-the-ground results, especially in this economy.
For more information about the development, see the stories in the Wall Street Journal and The Record.

Media brings homelessness to people's attention

Thanks to the media for broadcasting information about the needs of the homeless in Ocean County.  From the newspapers covering the pretrial conferences in Historic Courtroom One to the television interviews of the homeless to the coverage of the homeless forums that put a face to homelessness and present solutions, the media is there.

In the latest updates, NJN highlighted the plight of the people surviving in Tent City with interviews of attorney Jeffre Wild and four homeless people Monday.  The link is    The link will take you to the complete news half-hour.  To access only the homeless story you'll see, on the right hand side of the news broadcast, the story headlines.  Go down a few stories and click on “Homeless Shelter Funding.” 

WOBM had a story about this coming Monday's homeless forum, hosted by the Kiwanis clubs of Ocean County and the Central Ocean Rotary Club.  The forum begins at 6:30 p.m.  At 6 p.m. the hallway outside Mancini Hall will be open and people can talk with groups that are assisting the homeless.

Sunday morning Tripp Rogers will interview Tracy Boyer about the homeless and the forum.  Tripp's program begins at 7 a.m. and can be heard at Magic 100.1 .

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

HABcore's letter writing campaign

HABcore is circulating a letter and asks that you print out a copy, sign it and then mail it to Sen. Chris Connors.

On Feb. 28 the Beachwood Planning Board has, for the third time, denied HABcore's application to convert an old rooming house (with two apartments and a detached single-family house on the lot) to affordable apartments for people with disabilities. The proposed unit would have five studio apartments, two 2-BR apartments, a laundry room and the single-family home.

Steve Heisman writes, "Despite the property's history of being a home for drug use and violence, the town's planning board is concerned about the prospect of housing people who have special needs because of the perceived threat to the neighborhood's children. While the judge has confirmed be believes this change is use would be inherently beneficial, the board has denied the application to change the use three times.
"Should HABcore not be able to convert the property because of the zoning, it would like to acquire the property as is and operate the rooming house with the same structure HABcore operates its other rooming and boarding houses. HMFA is not completely in favor of this route and may pull their funding however.
"We believe there is a need for affordable and supportive housing in this area. This project can provide a safe, decent home for 11 needy individuals and families while improving the look and safety of the neighborhood.
"From its beginning in 1988 to the present, HABcore has provided special care to members of the homeless population of the Monmouth/Ocean county area. While growing from serving five people to over 100, this not-for-profit agency has established a reputation for providing clean, safe and affordable housing for its residents, most of whom are the most vulnerable of our citizens. HUD, CDA, FHLBNY, and HMFA have recognized HABcore's efforts in the past with numerous grants.
"HABcore is encouraging people to recognize the importance of this project and help advocate for its completion. Hopefully, all of the resources spent on this project over the past four years will not be wasted. Please have your church or organization send the letter to Senator Connor."
Please e-mail Steve at and let him know that you have done so.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

National Housing Conference: Center for Housing Policy


Continued high unemployment rates, decreasing income
levels and rising rental costs are likely contributing factors.

Although home values have continued to fall over the past few years, housing affordability has significantly decreased for working owners and renters, according to an annual report released by the Center for Housing Policy, the research affiliate of the National Housing Conference. The report, titled Housing Landscape 2011, provides an in-depth look at housing affordability trends for working households between 2008 and 2009 focusing on the effects of employment, income and housing costs.

According to the report, nearly one in four working households had a severe housing cost burden in 2009, spending more than half of its income on housing costs. Nationwide, some 10.5 million working households experienced a severe housing cost burden in 2009 - an increase of nearly 600,000 households from the prior year. This increase occurred despite a drop of 1.1 million in the overall number of working households.

"These findings will be surprising to many who have followed the nationwide decline in home prices," said Jeffrey Lubell, Executive Director of the Center for Housing Policy. "Housing costs for existing homeowners have declined only slightly, while housing costs for working renters have actually gone up. Meanwhile, high unemployment and falling incomes have left low- and moderate-income families struggling to make ends meet."

"This report's findings serve as a reminder that falling home values have not solved the affordable housing crisis in America," said Maureen A. Friar, President and CEO of the National Housing Conference. "Funding of vital affordable housing programs is still needed even during these tough economic times to ensure stability for America's working families."
National Findings
The report details that housing affordability declined substantially for working renters across the country. Approximately one-fourth of working renters (24.5 percent) had a severe housing cost burden in 2009 -- a significant increase over the 22.1 percent with this problem in 2008. Housing affordability declined among homeowners as well. Some 21.2 percent of working homeowners had a severe housing cost burden in 2009, as compared with 20.1 percent in 2008.

While severe housing cost burdens affect working households across the income spectrum examined in the report (up to 120 percent of the local area median income), they are most prevalent among the households with the lowest incomes. Four out of five working households with extremely low incomes (below 30 percent of the local area median) had a severe housing cost burden in 2009. Roughly 71 percent of working households with a severe housing cost burden in 2009 earned 50 percent or less of the area median income (AMI).

The report identified several factors as contributing to the decline in housing affordability, including an increase in rents, a reduction in the number of hours worked per week, and falling incomes.

State and Local Findings
The report examines housing affordability trends for working households at the state level as well as for the 50 largest metropolitan areas. Between 2008 and 2009, the share of working households with a severe housing cost burden increased significantly in 25 states and decreased significantly in none. In addition, in five states, the share of severely cost-burdened working households both exceeded the national average and experienced a statistically significant increase between 2008 and 2009. These states were Arizona, California, Florida, New Jersey, and New York.

Among the 50 largest metropolitan areas, the following five metropolitan areas had the highest share of working households with a severe housing cost burden in 2009:

Miami-Fort Lauderdale-Pompano Beach, FL 42%
Los Angeles-Long Beach-Santa Ana, CA 37%
Orlando-Kissimmee, FL 35%
Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario, CA 35%
San Diego-Carlsbad-San Marcos, CA 34%

A closer look at the data reveals that the share of working households with a severe housing cost burden increased significantly in 16 of the largest metropolitan areas, yet decreased significantly in none. Of these 16 metro areas, 14 are located in the Midwest and the South. Overall, the level of severe housing cost burden amongst working households displayed a high level of variation at the metropolitan level. Levels ranged from a high of 42 percent in Miami to a low of 15 percent in Pittsburgh and Louisville.


A low- to moderate-income working household is defined as one in which (a) members combined to work at least 20 hours per week, on average, for the 12 months preceding the survey; and (b) total income was at or below 120 percent of its area median income for the survey year.

Report findings are based on American Community Survey Public-Use Microdata Sample files from 2008 and 2009. Population and household records in these files provide data on household income, hours worked per week, housing costs, and a geographic identifier that indicates metropolitan area of residence. The Center for Housing Policy analyzed these data to develop national, state, and metropolitan area estimates of working households with severe housing cost burdens.

For the full report click here.

About the Center for Housing Policy
The Center for Housing Policy, NHC's research affiliate, specializes in developing solutions through research. In partnership with NHC and its members, the Center works to broaden understanding of the nation's housing challenges and to examine the impact of policies and programs developed to address these needs.

About National Housing Conference
As the United Voice for Housing, the nonprofit National Housing Conference (NHC) has been dedicated to helping ensure safe, decent and affordable housing for all in America since 1931.

Kiwanis Club of Jackson helps Homes for Humanity

The Kiwanis Club of Jackson, along with members from it sponsored Key Clubs, participated in Northern Ocean's Habitat for Humanity construction of a new home in Jackson Saturday Mar. 19.  Last month, when there was a lot of snow and ice on the ground, members of the Kiwanis Club of Toms River Day Break also spent a morning helping out.  Yesterday KCOJ helped sheet rock the inside.  Last month Daybreak helped side the porch that yesterday's picture was taken under.  Great job you guys!  Thanks.

Middlesex clergy band to pursue solutions to homeless

New Jersey Jewish News has an article about solutions to homelessness:

Debra Rubin-NJJN Bureau Chief/Middlesex
Middlesex County religious leaders and their congregants came together to launch a homelessness awareness campaign and hear success stories and possible solutions to the problem.
The Feb. 27 meeting at Temple Emanu-El in Edison sprang from a decision by the Metuchen Edison Interfaith Clergy Association to broaden its educational projects beyond its annual Martin Luther King and Holocaust Remembrance Day programs.
“Tonight we all took the next step,” Rabbi Deborah Bravo of Emanu-El said. “It’s not about what Jews say about homelessness, or what Muslims say about homelessness, or what Christians say about homelessness. We’re all on the same page. We can move forward together and can accomplish more than any one faith house.”
After explaining the concept of tikun olam, or repairing the world, Bravo said, “If we can keep one teen, one veteran, or 20 others off the streets, then we have accomplished our goal.”
The Rev. Richard Ruch of the Reformed Church of Metuchen, who served as moderator, called homelessness “an invisible problem.” He said the county listed 5,700 people as homeless, a figure that panelists agreed was probably conservative.
The figure includes 800 school-age children, said Elizabeth Hance, a vice president of the United Way of Central Jersey and vice chair of Coming Home of Middlesex County, a nonprofit formed two years ago. Its charge is to implement the county’s 10-year plan to end homelessness by partnering with government and private entities.
“No one can say that a six-year-old bears any responsibility for the plight he finds himself in,” said Hance. Religious institutions, she said, have a vital role to play in transforming “homelessness into hopefulness” by offering support and advocating on their behalf with elected representatives.
The Rev. Delores Davison , associate pastor at New Hope Baptist Church in Metuchen, runs a program that distributes blankets — she estimated 1,300 had been given out the previous week — clothing, hot chocolate, and coffee to the homeless.
What she founds most “heartbreaking” is being accompanied on her rounds by police — not for protection, but because children found living in cars with their parents by law must be turned over to the state Division of Youth and Family Services.
“Where do you find the homeless?” asked Davison. “You find them in the back of your homes, in any alley, in back of your children’s school, in back of your churches and synagogues, down at the train station.”
Calling it a fallacy that many homeless “elect” to live on the streets, the Rev. Tamara Davis, interim pastor at Stelton Baptist Church in Piscataway, said that a number of them, especially teens and women, are fleeing physical and sexual violence. Davis is a counselor with the Edison-based Making It Possible to End Homelessness, working with recently homeless HIV/AIDS sufferers and women and children who have fled abuse.

‘Walking miracle’

Geneva Evans of Perth Amboy put a face to homelessness, describing her 25 years on the streets. She told the gathering about her drug addiction and that as a young teen she ran away from home, where she was sexually and physically abused. Twice she moved in with men who beat her, but stayed because she had nowhere else to go. Although she managed to get a job and a place to live, she again become homeless after contracting diabetes and losing her job.
She described herself as “a walking miracle,” citing the medical care she received from the Jewish Renaissance Medical Center in Perth Amboy and the assistance offered by her church.
“I got saved in 2006 because this time the community helped,” said Evans, who went on to write a memoir, From Agony to Grace, and is now a criminal justice major at Kean University.
The Rev. Seth Kaper-Dale of the Reformed Church of Highland Park outlined his congregation’s nonprofit housing corporation, which has built 28 units in the town for homeless veterans. It also includes a home for a mother and her family, maintains six units for young women who have aged out of the foster care system, and is developing 10 units in Newark for youths suffering from a disability and involved with the justice system.
His congregation’s shared sense of purpose and values have benefitted it in unexpected ways.
“Literally,” he explained, “we have felt our connection to God is so much stronger when we have done things that help others.”

Jeff interviewed on WCTC- NJ Today

From Connie Pascale:  Jeff clearly and compassionately describes homelessness as a human and moral problem that must be addressed in a human and moral way.  (Please note that the interview starts about a minute or so into the program.)

From Jeff Wild:
At the risk of e-mail duplication, I want to make sure you know that the Coalition's message is getting out there.  The interview about the litigation on behalf of the homeless begins at about 1 minute, 30 seconds into the attached audio file.  The litigation has also been reported on by other media, and NJN News is working on a TV news story that will include TV interviews with some of the currently homeless individuals the Coalition is working to help.

The interview:

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Mercer Housing First Works!

by Richard W. Brown on March 16, 2011
Report to the Community documents success of the
Mercer Housing First Demonstration Project
The Mercer Housing First Demonstration Initiative,  has established a sustainable model for substantially reducing the economic, social and personal costs of family and chronic homelessness. To end homelessness in New Jersey, the State must expand and support Housing First as a policy model to address chronic homelessness throughout New Jersey.
The Mercer Alliance to End Homelessness has released a Report to the Community that documents the benefits and success of housing first can be a budget neutral way to end homelessness.
As the report notes: “The cost savings in charity care alone will offset the investment in the program, paving the way for a budget neutral response to eliminating chronic homelessness throughout the State of New Jersey.”
Click here to read the full Report to the Community.
The Report to the Community introduces the Housing First Initiative, describes the implementation, and the progress made in the Mercer Housing First Demonstration Project. Among the achievements are:
  1. In two and a half years of operation the program housed 60 individuals and families who had been homeless an average of 6.3 years.
  2. Thus far the program has enjoyed a 95% retention rate when controlling for mortality, and no tenant evictions.
  3. The cost-benefit analysis is based on baseline and follow-up interviews with 15 original tenants in the Housing First program, all of whom were housed by May 1, 2009. The Mercer Initiative has replicated the favorable cost-benefit ratios reported in Housing First programs throughout the country.
  4. Tenants utilized an average of $30,239 in emergency services the year prior to their housing.
  5. Tenants utilized an average of $2,223 in emergency services the first year of their housing.
  6. Program costs are $18,587 per tenant per year, producing an overall annual savings of $9,429 per tenant.
  7. Projected Housing First Program Cost Savings for 60 Tenants: $565,740 per year.
The Mercer Housing First Demonstration Initiative is a program initiated by the Mercer Alliance to End Homelessness and overseen by a collaborative of funding partners. The Mercer Housing First Collaborative Committee, which Monarch Housing is a member, guides the funding, implementation and evaluation of the Housing First Demonstration Initiative, and is comprised of state, local and city government agencies, private funders and nonprofit organizations. The goal of the Mercer Initiative is to demonstrate that Housing First is a successful and cost effective model for ending chronic homelessness in New Jersey.
In 2008, the Initiative designated housing and supportive services to 40 individuals with disabilities who have experienced long-term homelessness, and 10 families who have a head of household who has a disability and has experienced longterm homelessness. An additional 14 vouchers were added in late 2009, raising the total to 64. Under the Initiative, the homeless are permanently housed and provided the diversified supportive services needed to retain housing.

Calling the Police Can Get You Evicted

From the ACLU Blog of Rights:

Across the country, a growing number of cities are adopting nuisance ordinances that impose fines and criminal penalties on landlords and tenants when the police are called too many times to the property. In Milwaukee, Wisconsin, landlords may be fined if the police are called to the premises three or more times within 30 days. While the stated goal is to deter crime and recoup costs, these ordinances endanger domestic violence survivors, particularly women of color.
Property nuisance ordinances can take a variety of forms, but generally impose fines or other sanctions on building owners and tenants when the police are called to the premises a certain number of times, or where certain offenses are alleged to have occurred on the property. Under these ordinances, the only practical way for an owner to abate the "nuisance" and avoid a penalty is to evict the resident who called the police or whose home was the site of the alleged offense.
These ordinances present two very serious problems for women who experience domestic violence or stalking, two crimes that often occur in one's home: They may prevent victims from calling the police when they are endangered by an abuser or stalker, and they may result in housing discrimination against victims of domestic violence. The ACLU of Washington raised both of these concerns when a nuisance ordinance was adopted in Seattle.
If a tenant knows that multiple calls to the police will lead to eviction, she may feel forced to remain silent to avoid homelessness. This means that a victim of domestic violence may not be able to seek police assistance when she faces abuse or needs to enforce a restraining order.
Take Laurie Grape: After two calls to the police for protection from her abusive ex-boyfriend, Grape was warned that a third call would result in eviction pursuant to the nuisance ordinance in East Rochester, N.Y. Although her ex-boyfriend continued to threaten her, Grape did not contact the police because she feared that she and her children would lose their home.
In situations where an alleged "nuisance" offense is related to an incident of domestic violence, landlords may choose to evict all the residents to avoid future incidents or police calls that could result in a fine. Yet, these evictions violate federal law. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has made it clear that tenants who are denied or evicted from housing because they have suffered domestic violence can file sex discrimination complaints with HUD under the federal Fair Housing Act.
Because these ordinances may disproportionately affect domestic violence survivors, most of whom are women, we are concerned that they deny women their right to housing. If you have been evicted or threatened with eviction because you experienced domestic violence, or have been discouraged from calling the police to report domestic violence, we want to hear from you:
We're holding a month-long blog symposium on women's rights for Women's History Month. See all the blog posts here, and learn more about women's rights: Subscribe to our newsletter, follow us on Twitter, and like us on Facebook.

Seattle Proposal a Step Forward for Housing Rights and Public Safety

From the ACLU Blog of Rights:

Samantha*, a single mother from Seattle, is actively searching for housing for herself and her young daughter. She was once involved in crime connected to her drug addiction, but served her time in prison and successfully completed rehab. All she needs to be a productive citizen supporting her child is a decent place to live.
However, she faces one major hurdle: landlords keep rejecting her applications for tenancy because of her criminal record. All her hard work to put her life back on the right track has been for naught; landlords take one look at her record and reject her. She is not allowed a chance to show she can be a good tenant. She and her daughter will join the ranks of the homeless when her temporary housing with a re-entry service provider expires.
People like Samantha are the spark behind a Seattle Office of Civil Rights discussion at a community forum today. She and many others like her agree they should be punished for their past crimes. But when should that punishment end? Does it really help society for people who have committed offenses in the past to become homeless — no matter what the offense was, how long ago it occurred, or what efforts they have made to turn their lives around?
Thousands of people in Seattle have a criminal record. Is the community safer by keeping them homeless and unemployed? Evidence suggests otherwise. Studies show that offenders given a chance to overcome their pasts, through housing and employment opportunities, can be good tenants and are less likely to re-offend. For this reason, the Seattle Police Department spoke at a previous forum in support of a Seattle proposal to protect people with criminal records from discrimination.
Perpetuating the barriers for people with criminal records in housing and employment does not just diminish public safety, it is also grossly unfair. People of color are disproportionately affected because they are overrepresented among people with criminal records. Discriminatory housing policies also have a harsh impact on women — particularly low-income women. Women have been among the main victims of recent decades’ “war-on-drugs” policies, and their presence in prisons over the past two decades has increased at nearly double the rate of men. It’s even more of a struggle for women of color: African-American women were more than three times as likely as white women to be incarcerated, and Hispanic women 69 percent more likely.
This is why the ACLU of Washington and the National ACLU Women’s Rights Project support the proposal being discussed today. This proposal will protect the rights of people with criminal records by amending Seattle’s anti-discrimination laws to limit the ways in which a housing provider or employer can use prior conviction or arrest records when deciding such matters as renting property or hiring an employee. Housing providers would still be permitted to take into consideration crimes that interfere with the health, welfare, or safety of residents. But landlords would be required to distinguish between applicants who pose an unacceptable level of risk to other tenants or the property, and those who do not. The proposal would allow consideration of individual circumstances demonstrating that a person has put her criminal record behind her. It would help prevent people like Samantha and her daughter from becoming homeless.
We're holding a month-long blog symposium on women's rights for Women's History Month. See all the blog posts here, and learn more about women's rights: Subscribe to our newsletter, follow us on Twitter, and like us on Facebook.

Law & Disability Issues Conference, COAH update March 31

New Jersey State Bar Foundation and New Jersey Institute for Continuing Legal Education are sponsoring a Law & Disability Issues conference on Thursday, March 31, 2011 at the New Jersey Law Center in New Brunswick from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. The half-day event will feature a debate on the constitutionality of requiring the purchase of health insurance and workshops on the integration of peer service into New Jersey’s mental health system and affordable housing.

Kevin Walsh will be panel member for a workshop called Affordable Housing in New Jersey which will provide an update on the status of the Council on Affordable Housing (COAH) and affordable housing laws in New Jersey. The workshop will also include moderator, Stuart Weiner, Community Health Law Project; and panel members, Arnold Cohen, Housing and Community Development Network of New Jersey; Tim Doherty, Project Freedom; and the Hon. Mila Jasey, Assemblywoman, 27th Legislative District.

Admission is free, but reservations are required. To register, download, print, complete and mail in the reservation portion of the brochure.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

March 14th court hearing - a report

To the more than 70 people who attended yesterday's court hearing - thank you.  Your presence has a positive impact upon the court.  It demonstrates the interest and commitment people have towards ending homelessness.

Thank you, too, to APP's Erik Larsen for attending and reporting on what happened.  The article can be found in today's Asbury Park Press.  Here is a link to the article on the Internet:

The following is a report from attorney Jeff Wild, summing up his impressions of what occurred at the hearing:

We had another very good day today in the litigation.  However, there will be a major hearing in court on Friday, April 29th at 10 a.m., which as many of you as possible should please attend.  Here are the details:
            1.         Standing Together With the Homeless.  The turnout today was fabulous, only because of all of you.  Courtroom 1 -- already the largest in the County -- was so filled with members of our Coalition and other members of the public that Judge Grasso said he would have to think about what to do if the numbers attending continued to increase.  As the judge walked into the court room, he saw, for example, many homeless individuals looking to him for help; many members of the clergy (some obvious because of their clerical clothing); and many members of secular organizations (like Ocean-Monmouth Legal Services, STEPS and H.E.L.P.), as well as representatives of the media.  For one of the few times in New Jersey history, the proceedings in this civil case were captured on film by a media representative (Kalim Armstrong and his documentary film crew).  Again, this only happened because so many of you made it clear to Judge Grasso that the public cares deeply about the problem of homelessness and is standing together with the homeless.
            2.         Victories for Government Accountability and the First Amendment.  At today's status conference with Judge Grasso, the County backed down on its claim that its was (supposed) misconduct for a member of the Coalition (me) to meet, speak with, and take evidence from homeless individuals on the premises of the Board of Social Services.  As we successfully argued, these are all activities of free speech and free association on public property protected by the First Amendment.  Thus, any of us can go to the Board of Social Services at any time and continue gathering evidence of how the County denies emergency shelter on a regular basis.  This will prove important as the litigation progresses.  Hopefully, some of you are willing to be part of a group of us that takes turns making surprise visits to the "Special Response Office" -- and documenting for Judge Grasso on how men, women and children in need of emergency shelter are turned away.
            3.         "Tent City" Still Safe for Now.  We continue to achieve our Coalition's first goal:  preventing the homeless from being forcibly ejected from the tent city in Lakewood unless and until the County can offer them some safe and decent option in the County.  Lakewood is concerned about how tent city has not decrease in size or population, but continues to abide by the Consent Order under which Lakewood (unlike the County) remains willing to work with us to try and solve the underlying problems of inadequate shelter and inadequate permanent housing. 
            4.         County Refuses to Sit Down and Discuss Possible Solutions.  Judge Grasso invited the parties to sit down with him or a  mediator to discuss working together on possible solutions before he needed to start making any legal decisions.  We told the judge that our Coalition remains more than willing to do so, and that we would like to speak with the County about some concrete possibilities for interim solutions, such as a specific property available for rent to a large group of homeless individuals.  As we explained to the judge in his chambers before the conference began, this would be a "win-win" for everyone, since it would:  (a)  cost much less than the $75/night cost of the hotel rooms into which the County puts some of the "eligible" homeless some of the time; and (b) be a place where social services could be available to allow the homeless to seek jobs or otherwise get their lives back on track.  However, the County refused to do so, at least at this time.  Instead, the County advised the judge that it intends to file a motion to dismiss all of the claims against the County.
            5.         April 29th Hearing on County's Motion to Dismiss.  At 10 a.m. on Friday, April 29th, Judge Grasso will hear oral argument from both sides on the County's request that all the claims against it be dismissed, on the theory that the County is (supposedly) doing all that the law requires.  On that date, we will give our sides very different view:  that the County's motion should be denied, so that the County can stand trial on the claims by the homeless that the County is not living its obligations under the New Jersey Constitution, New Jersey statutes (like the "Poor Laws") and New Jersey public policy.  If any of you have not heard an important legal argument before, this will be an opportunity for you (or anyone you know who would like to join our Coalition)  to see justice in action -- meaning (we hope) a denial of the County's motion to dismiss the claims against it.  If the County's motion is denied, it should clear the way for an eventual trial against the County.
            6.         Litigation Events Between Now and the April 29th Hearing.     Between now and the big hearing on April 29th at 10 a.m., the lawyers for both sides will file briefs (formal written arguments about each side's legal positions, starting with the County's brief on March 28th, our opposition to dismissal on April 15th; and the County's reply brief on April 22).   In addition, I am pleased to report that Judge Grasso granted our request for initial "discovery" from the County -- that is, our right to serve written questions (interrogatories) and demands for documents on some of the most significant issues in the case, including (but not limited to) asking for specifics about how many people the County has failed to give emergency shelter over the years.

This litigation will continue to be a difficult one, against a County that seems determined to keep the truth from coming to light.  We, on the other hand, will continue to work for the day when no one in Ocean County -- or for that matter, no one anywhere in New Jersey or the world -- needs to be homeless.       

Jeffrey J. Wild Member of the Firm Lowenstein Sandler PC 65 Livingston Avenue Roseland, NJ 07068 973-597-2554 (direct telephone) 973-597-2555 (direct fax) -and- 1251 Avenue of the Americas New York, NY 10020 Tel: 212.262.6700

Friday, March 11, 2011

60 Minutes report- Homeless Children in Florida

What price is America paying for homelessness?

60 Minutes presented a report on homeless children in Florida and it's now on You Tube.   This link will take you to the report 

Watch as children talk about going to sleep with hunger gnawing at their belly.  Or the little girl who blames herself for her family's homelessness.

Our community service groups have the improvement of kids' lives as our goal.  Well, here's our chance.

The video report destroys your myths about the homeless, that sleazy characaterization one conjurres up that allows one to ignore them and look the other way.  They are us.  And but for one illness, one job loss, the grace of God - we are them.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Updates about the litigation

Here's an update on the following subjects:
      1.    Alleged Attorney Misconduct/County Required to Communicate with Coalition Counsel.  We had a brief but positive conference call with Judge Grasso this morning.  At least so far, the Judge does not seem to be buying the County's allegations that I (supposedly) engaged in misconduct trying to help the homeless at "the Office" -- in essence, the place that seems to be the front line in the fight for emergency shelter.  Instead of imposing any sanctions or restrictions on me or this law firm, Lowenstein Sandler, the judge told the County that he did not see any basis, at least based on what he has seen so far, for imposing any restrictions on this law firm as the County wanted.  The judge also directed the County's lawyers to speak with me or this law firm if we wish to discuss any issues about any person who is:  (a)  referred to the Board of Social Services by our point person, Mike McNeil; but who (b) is denied emergency shelter.  This way, it is possible that the Board will back down (as it did on Monday) and change decisions denying emergency shelter (rather than run the risk of our making emergency motions, individual by individual, for emergency shelter from the judge).  Thus, please:  (1) let Mike McNeil know the names of anyone who you learn wants emergency shelter; and (2) let me or Julie Werner of my firm (whom I am copying on this e-mail) about anyone who is denied emergency shelter by the County while this litigation is pending.

For a PDF of the reply click here.
      2.    Openness in the Courtroom.  Judge Grasso observed that this litigation is getting significant attention from the public and media.  He therefore intends to hold as much as possible of the status conference on Monday at 1:30 p.m. in open court, rather than (as is usual) "in chambers," where only the attorneys hear the discussion.  The judge said that in light of the fact that the public seems to be supporting the homeless and following this litigation closely, he plans to do everything he can to be as open as possible and avoid any impression that any significant events are occurring "behind closed doors." This is a direct result of the number of you who were able to come by, even if just for a few minutes, for the first status conference.  Well done!

      3.    Legal Position of the County.  As Judge Grasso directed at the initial conference, the County's lawyers sent the attached letter to him to respond to our legal position. Not surprisingly, the County says it is doing all the law requires and denies that there is any general right to emergency shelter. "Plan A" is to get the County to do more to help the homeless "by consent" (meaning as a result of the pressure or our lawsuit and bad publicity, as well as whatever pressure Judge Grasso exerts upon the County short of a formal legal ruling).  If that does not work, we lawyers are ready to continue the Ocean County Homeless Litigation (as it has become known) before Judge Grasso for as many months or years as necessary.  If so, Judge Grasso's decisions would be at the cutting edge of New Jersey law (under the NJ Constitution and the little-known Poor Laws).

County alleges misconduct by attorney-statements

March 8, 2011

Today, the lawyer for the Board of Social Services (the "Board") wrote Judge Grasso and alleged that I acted improperly at the Board's Special Response Office in Tom's River (the "Office") yesterday. 
Apparently, the Board did not want a lawyer to see what I saw:  desperate homeless people asking for emergency shelter, but being turned away before a lawyer showed up.  My supposed "misconduct" included:  (1)  objecting after the Board declined to give emergency shelter on a cold night  to a young mother and her two young children; and (2) talking to other homeless people at the Office (public property) and gathering evidence (certifications of their experiences) from them.

My view is that what I did was perfectly proper, as I explained to Judge Grasso in the Certification I submitted in response.    Judge Grasso will be speaking with the attorneys about this issue by phone at 9 a.m.   Below is the full text of my response Certification, and attached 9for those who want this level of detail) are copies of both side's submissions to Judge Grasso on this issue.   In any event, if you are in the Toms River area and can drop by the status conference this Monday, 3/14 at 1:30 p.m., please stand with the homeless and show your support.  I will re-circulate the directions to the courthouse  later this week:

Jeffrey J. Wild
Attorneys At Law
65 Livingston Avenue
Roseland, New Jersey 07068
Attorneys for Homeless Individuals[1]

Superior Court Of New Jersey
Docket No.:  OCN-L-2462-10

Civil Action

Steve brigham et al, including JOHN does 1-50,
               Third-Party Plaintiffs.

OCEAN COUNTY, THE OCEAN COUNTY BOARD OF CHOSEN FREEHOLDERS (currently, James F. Lacey, John P. Kelly, John C. Bartlett, Jr., Gerry P. Little and Joseph H. Vicari) and THE OCEAN COUNTY BOARD OF SOCIAL SERVICES,
               Third-Party Defendants.

JEFFREY J. WILD, ESQ., an attorney-at-law of the State of New Jersey, hereby certifies as follows:
1.                  I am a member of Lowenstein Sandler PC, pro bono counsel for:  (1) the 14 Homeless Individuals, as defined in Consent Order entered in this action on July 15, 2010 and the Answer, Counterclaim and Third-Party Complaint dated August 31, 2010 that this firm filed on behalf of the Homeless Individuals; and (2) the proposed class, under R. 4:32-1 et seq., comprised of all homeless individuals located in the County (the “Class”).
2.                  I submit this certification:  (1) to set forth the facts relating to what occurred yesterday, March 7, 2011, at the Special Response Office of Ocean County Board of Social Services, 1027 Hooper Avenue, Building 4, in Tom River (the "Office"); and (2) in response to the allegations made against this firm in the letter of today from Jean L. Cipriani, Esq., counsel for the Board of Social Services (the "Board") to Your Honor.
3.                  The Board's allegations of supposed misconduct by me and this firm are false.  Given, however, that the Board has made these serious allegations, I respectfully request that Your Honor deal with these allegations on the record.  Indeed, the Board's allegations of (supposed) misconduct by this firm raise issues that not only go to the core of the subject matter of this litigation -- the lack of emergency shelter for the homeless -- but also present an issue of public importance:  an extraordinary attempt by a government body (the Board) to restrict activities on public property (the Office) by pro bono counsel (this firm).
4.                  Your Honor previously designated Mike McNeil of NJ STEPS (Solutions to End Poverty soon) as a liaison to communicate with Linda Murtagh of the Board regarding any individuals whom Mr. McNeil believed were in need of emergency shelter from the third-party defendants in this litigation, Ocean County, the Ocean County Board of Chosen Freeholders and the Board (collectively, the "County").  Mr. McNeil was preparing a list of some of the individuals in need of emergency shelter, and I was scheduled to meet with McNeil yesterday at 11 a.m. at STEP's office at 14 South Clinton Avenue (the "STEPS Office").  Mr. McNeil was not available until 11 a.m. because he expected to be in court in housing hearings until then.
5.                  At 9:30 a.m. yesterday, I and two other employees of Lowenstein Sandler PC (Julie Levinson Werner, Esq., counsel at the firm, and Kelly Charles, a senior paralegal) were at the homeless camp in the woods of Lakewood (the "Lakewood Camp") interviewing and taking certifications from some homeless individuals believed to be in need of emergency shelter.  We planned to meet with Mr. McNeil at 11 a.m. and provide names of these individuals, so that Mr. McNeil could include them in his list, and so that STEPS could begin transporting homeless individuals to the Office for emergency assistance.
6.                  We were at STEPS at 11 a.m. as scheduled.  However, Mr. McNeil did not arrive at the STEPS office until approximately 12:30 p.m. because his housing hearings ran longer than he had expected.  Mr. McNeil also advised that the telephone message he had left Ms. Murtagh of the Board last week had not been returned. Shortly before
1 p.m., Mr. McNeil faxed Ms. Murtagh a letter (a true copy of which is attached as Exhibit A) giving her the names of the first 17 individuals that Mr. McNeil wished to discuss with Ms. Murtagh. 
7.                  I had no intention of transporting individuals in need of emergency shelter to the Office, but Mr. McNeil asked me to do so because his staff would not be able to do so until today.  Also, the outside temperature was expected to drop below freezing yesterday evening.  I agreed to do so.  I next drove back to the Lakewood Camp and picked up two brothers in need of emergency shelter, John and Floyd Cundiff.
8.                  That afternoon, I also received a call on my cell phone from Patricia Godall of the House of Hope, an affiliate of the Presbyterian Church of Toms River at 1070 Hooper Avenue in Toms River (the "House of Hope").   Ms. Godall explained how she has just learned than another individual, Michael Elliott, was in need of emergency shelter for the night.  Given that I was already transporting homeless to the Office, I agreed to pick up Mr. Elliott at the House of Hope.  I did so at approximately 3 p.m.  Mr. McNeil also faxed Ms. Murtagh a letter adding Mr. Elliott and two other individuals as homeless and in need of emergency shelter.
9.                  At approximately 3:30 p.m., I arrived at the Office with the three individuals in need of emergency shelter whom I had transported.   The House of Hope is across the street from the Office, and Mr. Elliott informed me that the Board had denied him emergency shelter less than an hour before.  However, the Board gave Mr. Elliott a different answer when he was brought back with an attorney, and Mr. Elliott -- who had been denied as "unqualified" an hour before -- was suddenly given emergency shelter (a voucher for a hotel room).  Also, even though other individuals in the Office's reception room had been waiting for many hours, John and Floyd Cundiff -- again, individuals accompanied by an attorney -- were given a voucher for emergency shelter in less than an hour.
10.              While I was in the reception area waiting for the homeless individuals whom I had given a ride, I was not -- to use the adjectives in the letter submitted by Ms. Cipriani, who was not even at the Office -- "aggressive," "self-righteous," "inconsiderate" or "manipulative."  What actually happened was as follows:

A.        I was approached in the reception room by various homeless individuals who had heard me talking to the three homeless clients I had brought, and told me about how they had been turned down for emergency shelter.  I had never met any of these individuals before. 

B.        One woman who approached me was with her two young children, a seven-year-old boy and a two-year-old girl.  She described how she had just arrived in New Jersey and been found "unqualified" for emergency shelter and so she and her children had no place to go -- even though it was close to sunset and sub-freezing temperatures were expected that night.  I therefore called the Board's attorney, Ms. Cipriani, and gave my view that this family was entitled to emergency shelter.  As a result of my making this call, the Board changed its mind and provided this family with emergency shelter at a local hotel room.  Had I not been in the waiting room and made this call, this family would have been denied emergency shelter.[2]

C.        Likewise, while in the waiting room, I was approached by a couple that included a man, Carmen Vargo, who had finished his prison sentence a month earlier, but had only been given emergency shelter for a night or two during the prior 30 days.  I explained to Mr. Vargo and the other homeless in the waiting room who had approached me that I was one of the lawyers arguing in a court case that no person should have to sleep in the woods and that the County should be required to offer emergency shelter to anyone who needs it.  I also had with me (from the meetings with the homeless in the Lakewood Camp in the morning) extra draft certifications with blanks for any homeless who wished to fill them out and provide evidence that the County was denying homeless people emergency shelter.  I told the homeless individuals that they could complete the certifications if they wished to provide evidence that homeless people are denied emergency shelter, and a total of approximately six individuals did so. 

D.        During her call to me, Ms. Cipriani claimed that I was engaged in improper solicitation of clients.  As a threshold matter, the ethics rules would have permitted me and this firm to offer pro bono assistance to the homeless.  [See RPC 7.3.]  In any event, as I explained to Ms. Cipriani, I had been approached, and not solicited any clients at all.

E.         I never "refused to accede" to any request that Ms. Cipriani made during my call with her.  I did tell her what I believe is the law:  that a government body (the Board) cannot restrict activities on public property (the Office) by pro bono counsel (this firm), such as speaking with the homeless and getting certifications in the manner that I did.  Finally, I told Ms. Cipriani that if I had been engaged in "grandstanding" -- as opposed to trying to help men, women and young children in need of emergency shelter shortly before the Office closed at 4:30 p.m. -- I would have called the press, not her.  I also told Ms. Cipriani that I remain ready to work with the County to avoid the need to continue this litigation if possible.

11.                In short, I and this firm have engaged in what I believe to be the highest standards of pro bono representation, including speaking with witnesses on public property (an activity protected by the Constitution), and successfully keeping at least six individuals -- including two young children -- off the street on a subfreezing winter night.  The events of yesterday only occurred because the County was denying -- and apparently, each day denies -- emergency shelter to homeless individuals.  If the County disagrees, the County is welcome to make a motion to restrict this firm's pro bono activities and this firm will respond accordingly.
12.              I hereby certify that the foregoing statements made by me are true. I am aware if any of the foregoing statements made by me are willfully false, I may be subject to punishment. 

Jeffrey J. Wild 

[1] As defined in Consent Order entered in this action on July 15, 2010 and Answer, Counterclaim and Third-Party Complaint dated August 31, 2010.
[2]   Because this woman advised the Board that she was the victim of domestic violence, her name is not being included in this certification but is available if the Court wishes.