Sunday, September 16, 2012

Program targets homeless families across US

MIAMI (AP) -- Federal child welfare officials announced Wednesday they are expanding a pilot program that provides housing and case workers to homeless families most at risk for having a child enter foster care.

For more, read the AP story here

HUD Pledges Critically-Needed Funds to Help Public Housing Agencies

HUD officials now acknowledge public housing authorities will face an operating financial crunch in the months ahead. As a result, the department will begin front-loading operating subsidies into PHA accounts to avert severe cuts and service rate hikes to public housing programs, according to Housing Affairs Letter, a weekly online service covering public, private and assisted housing. (Access a sample copy.)
HUD's move was outlined at the Public Housing Authorities Directors Association annual legislative conference Sept. 11 in Washington, DC. PHAs have prepared for months for a deep financial crisis, laying off employees and cutting services. Public housing advocates have pressed lawmakers to restore $750 million to operations in the continuing resolution that will keep the government running through the first quarter of 2013. The $750 million fiscal crunch resulted when Congress allowed HUD to divert the money to other needs.
Under HUD's plan, PHAs -- which now operate on a calendar year -- will subsist at FY 2012 spending levels until Dec. 31. On Jan. 1, when stopgap spending law provisions kick in for PHAs, HUD will revert to its new plan. The continuing resolution, as now designed, will finance government operations temporarily until March 31 at FY 2012 levels. But the CR provides no extra housing aid or restores the $750 million diverted by HUD to boost the Section 8 housing voucher program.
Well-placed sources tell Housing Affairs Letter that HUD's plan would allow PHAs to continue operating at 90% of their documented funding needs. Without the new plan, PHAs would have been forced to operate at about 80% of need. What happens after March 31 remains to be seen. Congress could extend the stopgap spending law for the entire fiscal year, but doing so would likely spawn financial chaos in several of HUD's housing programs.
HUD is undertaking the new move, anticipating Congress eventually will approve a $4.5 billion subsidy for the coming year, compared with $3.9 billion for the current year. Even so, the department's expectations do not account for the looming sequestration of federal spending that would reduce money for housing programs by at least 9% across the board beginning Jan. 2. The sequestration is mandated in the Budget Control Act of 2011 and aimed at reducing the federal deficit.
For more information contact:
Tom Edwards, Housing Affairs Letter 301-588-6380 x137;

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Be Informed - VOTE!

The homeless can register and vote.  Important dates to remember:
Last day to register to vote Oct. 16
Election Day Nov 6

This is perhaps the most important election in our lifetime.  And remember, the politicians pay attention to voters.  Don't vote?  Don't complain!  Participate in your democracy.

Housing alternative program

A Presentation on
the    Tiny House Movement

                 Who ?     What ?
        Where ?    How?      Why ?

Including video clip interview with Jay Shafer,
 founder of Tumbleweed Tiny Houses

Thursday, Sept 27, 7:00pm

Sponsored by
the Jersey Shore Catholic Worker

held at Unitarian Universalist Fellowship Space
at Holiday Mall, 734 Route 37 W., Toms River

for additional information:

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

United Way: 34% of New Jersians not earning enough to provide for basics of life

More than a third of New Jerseyans, or 34 percent, are not earning enough money to provide the basics for their families, according to a new study by the United Way of Northern New Jersey. Dubbed ALICE for "Asset Limited, Income-Constrained, Employed," the study looked at those who earned above the poverty level but still could not make ends meet in the Garden State. The report pegged the cost of living for survival in New Jersey at $58,500 for a family of four and $25,368 for a single adult. According to the report, there are 769,900 ALICE households in the state and an additional 312,762 households below the federal poverty level.
The study also showed that more than half of New Jerseyans were earning less than $20 an hour, and most were earning far less. That amounts to $41,600 per year. The federal poverty rate is $22,113 for a family and $11,344 for a single adult -- but the rate has not been updated since 1974, according to the study.
There were great variations by county in income, but no county had fewer than 18 percent ALICE households -- leading the study's author to note that these workers are those you see everyday, fixing your car, watching your children, or tending the sick. The increase in the number of struggling New Jerseyans (those living in poverty or ALICE households) has increased 6 percent since the 2007, the last time the study was conducted. But some counties saw a surge in Alice households, which the study attributes to the recession and the high cost of living. For example, while poverty levels are relatively low in Somerset and Bergen (4 percent and 8 percent respectively), they each have a 23 percent rate of ALICE households.
The counties with the lowest rate of those struggling were Hunterdon (27 percent), Middlesex, Monmouth, Morris, and Union, all with 28 percent. The highest levels were in Cumberland (47 percent), Cape May (43 percent) Essex (43 percent), and Ocean (42 percent) counties.

Rental assistance from the government

Need help on meeting your rent?  Here is a link to government services that may be of help:

Homeless children

Craig Blankenship's photo essay on the homeless children in the Sunday NY Times last month:

Want to help? In Ocean County conatct me and I'll put you in contact with others who are working so hard to end homelessness. Call me naive but I think we can. Check past posts on this blog for more ideas.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Homeless People Speak Out on What They Want from Politicians

by Mark Horvath
Founder of

Posted: 08/29/2012 9:30 am

Like many Americans, I am sick and tired of always being broke and terrified about
what's going to happen in 2013.

Late in 2007, I found myself unemployed. I lived off my credit cards for nine months hoping things would get better. I eventually lost my house to foreclosure, and because I acquired huge credit card debt, I'm in a way actually still paying the mortgage on the house I lost.

My last good-paying job was in 2008, and that lasted only three months before they laid me off along with 49 others.

I am grateful for my homeless shelter job because any of us who have a job should feel lucky, but I don't think I'll ever make a living-wage that will get me out of my financial crisis. This is not how I dreamed my adult years would be.

Producing this post has slapped me around more than a little.

The main reason this was challenging to produce is the number of homeless people who
do not vote. Over the last two weeks, I must have asked over 100 homeless people and a
huge majority told me they do not vote. To be honest, I was a little shocked.

Over the years, in tent cities, motels, under bridges and in shelters I've recorded powerful stories
from people experiencing homelessness. When Huffington Post approached me about
helping to get our homeless friends voice heard, I thought it would be easy, yet this has
been a hard post to produce.

I just figured I'd go out and rather quickly get a few people on video talking about their political views. But it wasn't so easy.

When I started to think about it, I realized that when a person is homeless they feel
powerless. For the most part, any real choice has been removed. They don't have a choice
of where to sleep, when to wake up, what to eat, when to shower, what to wear -- most
every choice is taken away.

Also, the amount of bureaucracy in homeless services is maddening. One homeless
veteran I have worked with for the last four years has had to fill out the same paperwork
over and over and over. I always say -- it's not as miracle that a person gets housing -- it's
a miracle that the system worked -- so no wonder people just give up.

To a person focused on daily survival voting does not make sense. I would guess this feeling of
"helplessness" is felt by many in this country and not just our homeless friends. Still, I got a numer of profound interviews.

The homeless people I talked to asked politicians to focus on everything from education to housing services to empowering young people.

"Education is extremely important," one homeless woman, Katherine, said. "Don't make
it so hard to pay back loans. Don't stomp on people for graduating college and put them
in a no-paying job."

The young couple I met on Skid Row today, who was kind enough to be in this video,
looked exhausted and broken. They had been walking from mission to mission trying to
find a place to stay. Most homeless services just offer referrals that do not show
availability. This couple was given phone numbers to places that were full so now they
were walking until their feet were blistered trying to find help.

The other big issue is many homeless people are not informed. Street homeless obviously
have less availability to the internet and television. Sheltered homeless have more access,
but computers have time limits and many shelters restrict computer use just to job

Normally in a shelter there is one group TV for everyone. Usually movies are
played. Television news is rare so forget any political convention coverage.

Not sure about you but the more I thought about homeless people not voting the more it
upset me. The very people who desperately need change the most are not speaking up.
From what I see there is very little effort by any political party to empower those of us
close to or in poverty.

All the focus is on the rich and the middle class, when the people at the bottom are
ignored. I'm not saying this is on purpose. But I would bet things at the top would change
fast if the people at the bottom actually had a voice, which is the theory behind this video

Being a person who believes the glass is half full, I want to believe we'll soon see a
change. Hopefully by the next election. We already have reduced landline services but
who the heck uses a landline anymore.

We need to break the generational curse of poverty with educational programs when families are placed in transitional housing.

We need to fix homeless services and start treating our homeless friends with dignity.

We need more help for school-aged kids experiencing homelessness. There is a lot we can do,
and should be doing!

And greater access to information is empowering -- more free public WiFi and the lower
cost of laptop and tablets, technology and access to the internet will help educate people
experiencing poverty. There is a movement to bring free cellphone service to low and no-
income people.

I think the man I met on Skid Row today sums it up with his last comment on the video:
"After you finish with homelessness and you're dealing with their conditions and their
problems, then you can meet the community and say I'm the guy to elect". If you don't
meet those issues I don't think it's proper for you to talk about that you need to be elected
if you're not helping the people that's trying to elect you."

I hope this video reaches both presidential candidates. Special thanks to LA Mission and Ascencia

This post is part of the HuffPost Shadow Conventions 2012, a series spotlighting three
issues that are not being discussed at the national GOP and Democratic conventions:
The Drug War, Poverty in America, and Money in Politics.  HuffPost Live will be taking a comprehensive look at the persistence of poverty in America August 29th and September 5th from 12-4 pm ET and 6-10 pm ET. Click here to check it out -- and join the conversation.

Follow Mark Horvath on Twitter:

"Open Our Eyes: Seeing the Invisible People of Homelessness"
by Kevin D. Hendricks. Available from Amazon books.

NJWorks@yourlibrary Resources to be Featured at Hiring Our Heroes Event, Trenton

The New Jersey State Library will be giving hands-on demonstrations of the NJWorks@yourlibrary resources available to job seekers at the 4th in a series of Hiring Our Heroes (HOH) job fairs, hosted by the American Legion and U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which is part of a nationwide effort to help veterans and military spouses find meaningful employment.
Veterans and their spouses are encouraged to take advantage of this event, on Wednesday, September 12, from 9:00 a.m. to 12 p.m., at The Sun Bank Arena, 81 Hamilton Ave., Trenton.
In addition to employers, counselors and representatives will be available from the NJ State Library’s NJWorks@yourlibrary program, New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development, NJ Department of Military and Veterans Affairs, Vet2Vet, Vet4Warriors, U.S. Veterans Administration, county service officers, and Attorney Generals’ office (for veterans’ civil rights education), to provide veterans with additional information regarding their state and federal benefits.
Representatives from the NJ State Library will be on hand to explain and demonstrate all the resources veterans have available to search for jobs, design and write resumes, and apply for jobs.  With technology assistance from Verizon, computer stations will be set up for attendees to practice using those resources, such as the Job & Career Accelerator, Career Transitions and GED Online. 
The job fair is being hosted by the American Legion, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the NJ Department of Military and Veterans Affairs, the NJ Department of Labor’s Veterans’ Employment and Training Service, the NJ State Library, the Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve, the New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development, NBC News and other local partners.

Veteran job seekers may go to to register.

Ocean County First Time Homebuyer Program News

August 29, 2012

TOMS RIVER - Ocean County officials anticipate helping 20 additional county families purchase their first homes this year under the Ocean County First-Time Homebuyer Program.
"We have administered this program in Ocean County since 1994 and as a result have helped 430 families purchase their first homes," said Freeholder Director Gerry P. Little, who serves as liaison to the program. "This Board of Freeholders, with its community partners, is helping moms and dads and their children take that big step of purchasing their first home."

The Ocean County Board of Chosen Freeholders recently renewed its contract with O.C.E.A.N. Inc., the anti-poverty agency, to oversee the program for 2012.

"O.C.E.A.N. Inc. under the direction of Ted Gooding, has done a great job in administering this program, meeting the federal and county program requirements," Little said. "OCEAN Inc. has served as the First Time Homebuyer Program administrator and consultant since 1997."

Under the contract, O.C.E.A.N. Inc. will administer $195,000 in federal HOME funds that will be used for down payments and closing cost assistance toward the purchase of a home for low and moderate income families.

"We anticipate 20 applicants will be able to settle into their first home under this program in fiscal year 2012," Little said. "Moving into that first home is such an important achievement that comes with a strong sense of security for the family. Even in a struggling economy we want our citizens to be able to obtain the American Dream and this program has provided that ability to them."

In order to apply, an applicant must have a three percent down payment with one and a half percent from their own funds, and meet the following criteria: good credit rating, sufficient income to support mortgage payments, and their income must not exceed the HUD income limit set for the Ocean County region.

"This program helps first time homeowners learn the ins and outs of homeownership," Little said. "The potential buyers are schooled in budgeting and finances and all those details needed to be a successful homeowner. There is a very valuable educational component that comes along with this program."

A total of $3,637,540 in HOME Investment Partnership funding has been allocated to the First-Time Homebuyers Program in Ocean County since 1994. Homes purchased have a total real estate value of $61.6 million and the average home price closed within the last 18 months is $154,438.

"This program illustrates the importance of partnerships among public and private agencies here in Ocean County," Little said. "O.C.E.A.N. Inc., six lending institutions and Ocean County have all joined together in making homeownership a reality. The end result of this program is priceless."

For more information on the program contact O.C.E.A.N. Inc. at 732-244-2351, Ext. 21.