Monday, August 20, 2012

How Facebook and Twitter are helping the homeless

Homeless people have Facebook friends, too. According to a new study from University of Dayton sociologist and criminologist Art Jipson, homeless people are increasingly connected to each other and to non-homeless people through social networking websites like Facebook and Twitter, accessed through cell phones.

For the full article click here.

NPR: Geography of charitable giving

It turns out that lower-income people tend to donate a much bigger share of their discretionary incomes than wealthier people do. And rich people are more generous when they live among those who aren't so rich.

For the full NPR story click here.

Video discusses barriers to affordable senior housing

NJ Foundation for Aging is releasing their 11th episode of Aging Insights, their cable program.  The subject above refers to the title.  The show can also be seen on their YouTube channel,

Featured will be national and local housing advocates – topic issues/barriers to affordable senior housing. 
Guests:  Linda Couch of the National Low Income Housing Coalition, Arnold Cohen from the Housing & Community Development Network of NJ and Curtis Johnson of the Ciocesan Housing Services Corp of the Diocese of Camden.

Important new Notice regarding Fair Hearing rights of people seeking help

Attached is a new notice (DFD Instruction No. 12-08-02, dated August 7, 2012) from the State Department of Human Services regarding the right of people seeking help from the Board of Social Services to obtain a fair hearing if they are denied assistance.   (People already receiving help who are terminated or have their benefits reduced or otherwise changed have the same rights.)
THIS NOTICE IS VERY IMPORTANT.   Although it does not explicitly refer to denials of emergency shelter or other types of “emergency assistance,”  the rights involved are the same, except that the time limits are much shorter(For instance, the hearing should be held within 3 days.)  Also, even though the Notice makes clear that fair hearing requests can be made directly to the Board, people should still call the state Fair Hearing office (known as BARA)  at 1-800-792-9773 in order to make sure that the request is actually processed in a timely fashion.
 I have highlighted some of the key provisions below.  (These paragraphs are directly from the Notice.)
N.J.A.C. 10:90-9.3(a) and 10:87-8.1(b) state that it is the right of every applicant for, or recipient of, Work First New Jersey (WFNJ) and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits adversely affected by an action of a county or municipal agency to be afforded a fair hearing. N.J.A.C. 10:90-9.3(b) defines county or municipal agency actions which adversely affect an applicant or recipient as any action, inaction, refusal of action, or unduly delayed action with respect to program eligibility, including denial, termination or suspension of benefits, adjustment in the level of benefits or work requirements, or designation of a protective payee.
 A WFNJ/SNAP applicant is entitled to a fair hearing even if no written eligibility decision has been issued on his/her case by the CWA/MWA. Applications which have not been processed within the 30 day standard constitute an adverse action due to inaction; therefore, BARA will accept requests for fair hearings for those cases in which no eligibility determination has been rendered for applications pending greater than 30 days.
 Fair Hearing Requests
Any clear expression (oral or written) by an applicant or recipient (or his/her representative) to the effect that the individual wants the opportunity to present his/her case to a higher authority constitutes a request for a fair hearing in accordance with N.J.A.C. 10:90-9.9(c) and 10:87-8.3.
 A request for a fair hearing may be addressed to either the CWA/MWA or DFD. No special form of statement or manner of expression is required so long as the request identifies the nature of the complaint and the relief sought.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. . . . . . . . .
           Timeframe for Forwarding Fair Hearing Requests to BARA
BARA is to be informed either by telephone or by fax on the same day in which an oral or written request for a hearing is received. CWAs/MWAs must establish a system to ensure that every written request for a hearing received by the agency is stamped with the date of receipt and forwarded to BARA within one business day.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Ocean County poverty rate on the rise

Food bank, grocer partner to feed poor
(Asbury Park Press)

TOMS RIVER — The poverty rate in Ocean County has nearly doubled over the past decade, according to the FoodBank of Monmouth and Ocean Counties.
Citing data from the 2010 U.S. Census, the number of Ocean County residents categorized as poor is estimated at 62,634, about 11 percent of the population. That figure is up from 34,792 residents or 6.7 percent of the population in 2000.
More so, the number of children living in Ocean County who are below the poverty line has more than doubled since 2000. There were 25,690 children considered poor in 2010, compared with 12,543 children 10 years earlier, according to the Census data.
On Tuesday, Peapod by Stop & Shop, an online supermarket that offers home delivery of groceries to more than 70 percent of New Jersey households, teamed with Mayor Thomas F. Kelaher to make a special donation of $500 in groceries to Your Grandmother’s Cupboard.
John Kane, president of the Toms River chapter of Your Grandmother’s Cupboard, a local food bank, said the cause goes beyond the current 9.6 percent unemployment rate in New Jersey, which is 1.4 percent higher than the national average of 8.2 percent. Ocean County’s unemployment rate is 10.5 percent, almost one percent higher than the state average and 2.3 percent higher than the national average, according to the state Department of Labor and Workforce Development.
Even county residents with jobs and senior citizens receiving Social Security and other benefits are seeking help from nonprofit charities because their incomes are simply not keeping pace with the cost of living, Kane said.
“Lyndon Johnson declared war on poverty in 1964 and that war has not been won. (Poverty is) getting more and more prevalent,” he said. “More and more people are coming into our organization, sitting down, crying, because it’s their first time they’ve ever had to experience that kind of thing.”
Peapod and Kelaher delivered food that equated to more than 200 meals on Tuesday morning.
Kelaher said organizations such as Your Grandmother’s Cupboard, which is a nonprofit Christian ministry, fills a gap in the social safety net when government is unable to meet the increased demands caring for its most vulnerable residents.
“The municipality cannot afford to do all these good things that these people do,” Kelaher said. “Unfortunately, the volume of work that Your Grandmother’s Cupboard does does not speak well for our society in the sense that so many people need that help. But it’s good that it’s available to help people and it demonstrates a real charitable bent on the part of the community.”
The mayor said when a major company such as Peapod by Stop & Shop comes in to make a donation it’s a reason to single them out for their corporate philanthropy and for which he, as mayor, is grateful.
Kane said the Food Bank of Monmouth and Ocean counties delivered 7.1 million pounds of food between July 1, 2011, and June 30, 2012, to more than 200 local area food pantries and expects that number to increase to 12 million pounds in the next five years.
“We have to turn this economy around and get people back to work. That’s why there’s more and more demand for our services,” Kane said.

Star Ledger: Atlantic City needs help addressing homelessness

The Star Ledger editorial board calls government to task for neglecting to provide housing for the homeless.

Published: Saturday, August 11, 2012:

There are many reasons the homeless come to Atlantic City: for shelter, a feeding kitchen, a temporary job. Many hope that charity follows a windfall; a lucky winner may be feeling generous.
But for too long, this entire city has been on a losing streak — and having panhandlers on the streets doesn’t help. With the recent opening of the Revel luxury casino and Gov. Chris Christie’s effort to recast its seedier side as family-friendly, Atlantic City is fighting for its image. So you can understand the frustration of local officials: They’re trying to attract tourists, not homeless people.
Yet other counties without shelters are still referring their homeless to Atlantic City’s overcrowded shelter.
Homelessness is a complex problem made worse by unemployment, harsh cuts to social services and the lack of affordable housing. A bill proposed by Republican Assemblymen Chris Brown and John Amodeo calls much-needed attention to the issue, but it isn’t likely to solve it. Their hope is at least to get lawmakers to examine why the system is failing.
The bill aims to prevent “Greyhound therapy,” an expression for the one-way bus ticket some communities give homeless people to go away. It would make it a disorderly persons offense to do this without first developing a case management plan, explaining why the services can’t be provided within the community and calling ahead to make sure a bed’s available.
In theory, it’s a good idea. Homeless people should be treated and housed in their own communities. The practical effect, though, is to flip up yet another barrier in a society that has long been playing pinball with the homeless — this time, on the receiving end. Because the reality is, everyone knows there aren’t enough shelter beds. So what’s the point of calling ahead?
When the safety net crumbles, charity-based shelters such as Atlantic City’s become the last line of help. Having passed budgets that underfund these services, politicians shouldn’t be surprised when the homeless have nowhere else to go. But they’re right that local governments can’t rely on “bus therapy.” Towns and counties also need to better coordinate and deploy the funding they have: Is it too often spent on emergency motel stays, rather than shelters? Or better yet, affordable housing?
Last month, Christie created a council to study the problem. We hope its recommendations are far-reaching. Many homeless people also come to Atlantic City of their own volition, and never go to a shelter.
So instead of just passing laws that shuffle the homeless around, we should focus on finding real solutions: getting people affordable housing; treating them for mental illness or addictions; helping them secure jobs.
And re-evaluating our budget priorities: Remember when Christie raised income taxes on the working poor and grabbed money set aside for affordable housing? And when the Democrats cut welfare and drug treatment programs?
That needs fixing, too, if we really want to solve the problem of homelessness in Atlantic City.

ACY Rescue Mission turns OC homeless away

Atlantic City Rescue Mission says it won't accept homeless people from Ocean County
Press of Atlantic City, August 16, 2012--By Donna Weaver, Staff Writer 
The Ocean County Department of Social Services may have to find a new place to send the homeless instead of the Atlantic City Rescue Mission.
 Last week, the Rescue Mission informed the county Department of Social Services that they will no longer accept homeless people from Ocean County, county Administrator Carl Block said Thursday.
 “Why is Ocean County being singled out? The homeless problem is not an Ocean County problem, it’s a statewide problem and it’s a national problem,” Block said.
Last year, the Rescue Mission filed a lawsuit against the Ocean County Board of Social Services alleging an overage of homeless people being sent south.
In an agreement with the county, the Rescue Mission received a donation each year to provide services to Ocean County homeless sent to Atlantic City. The lawsuit alleges that the Rescue Mission has spent more than $2 million in six years to provide services, while the county only donated $105,000.
 Last week, an employee from the county Department of Social Services called the Rescue Mission to place a homeless person and they were told the mission was no longer accepting anyone from Ocean County, Block said.
 “In the last year they’ve sued us, and this has somewhat turned adversarial and the lawsuit has turned things that way. It’s making us look like we do nothing for the homeless here and we do. We’re spending millions every year,” Block said.
 Earlier this year, Ocean County sent a purchase order form for a $17,000 donation to the mission and it was never accepted, Block said. For the past several years, the county has provided the mission with a donation to help with service costs.
Bill Southrey, president of the Rescue Mission, said the mission has accepted the donation, but it has not been processed.
 As far as homeless from Ocean County coming to the mission, Southrey said that in the past no one was turned away but pressure has mounted from outside entities who do not want the homeless in Atlantic City.

“I’ve been having the ‘just say no’ kind of discussion. I have the casinos, business and governmental entities who don’t want homeless in the city. I have an edict from the governor,” Southrey said.
Over a five-day period last week, the mission stopped accepting people from outside Atlantic City and Atlantic County, but that has since been lifted, he said.
 The mission has been telling counties for some time to develop their own resources and stop sending people to Atlantic City because the facility is beyond capacity and many times the counties don’t look any further than the mission, he said.
“We will consider taking people in if they have the right referral, but there is no guarantee,” he said.
“My approach to how we do work is to serve everyone. But at this point, I’m stuck between a rock and a hard place. The hardest thing for me to do is to turn someone away,” he said.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Jackson Woods receives OK to begin building affordable housing

The Tri-Town News reports that the first section of a 1,541 unit Jackson Woods project has received final approval from the town planning board. Of that, 231 3-bedroom units will be rented at below market rates in accordance with guidelines established by the state's Council on Affordable Housing, according to the newspaper.

The first section will consist of 510 units. Work could begin as soon as this Fall and units could be available in 2013.

The complete article can be found by clicking here.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Report: Christie says homeless contribute to crime rate in Atlantic City

Gov. Chris Christie stopped at LBI last week, bashing the state government for not passing his budget and answering questions from the public. The Sandpaper (Aug 2, 2012) said in one response to a question about overcrowding at the Atlantic City Rescue Mission, the homeless contributed to the crime rate in Atlantic City.

From the article:
Dr. Melinda Boye-Nolan also asked that the state respect the area’s influx of homeless people. A board member of Family Promise of Southern Ocean County, a nonprofit interfaith organization based in Barnegat that helps needy families, she said she was concerned about the recent lawsuit against the county on behalf of the Atlantic City Rescue Mission. Looking for Christie’s advice on the matter, she said Family Promise has been sending the county’s homeless to the mission because Ocean County has no shelter to offer them.
In response, Christie said the mission is inundated with homeless people from many counties around southern New Jersey, and the problem is contributing to the city’s crime rate. He said it’s unfair to the homeless and to the city, especially while it’s trying to revitalize itself as a resort destination. He thought the situation needed better coordination among the different counties, which he said Human Services Commissioner Jennifer Velez would look into.
“This is a real problem,” said Christie. “… Lots of folks are sending homeless to Atlantic County, many more than the mission can handle. The homeless folks are just sleeping on the streets in Atlantic City; they have no place else to go,” he explained. “The mission down there does great work and does a great job, but they only have so much capacity. And when they can’t take people, and people begin to get turned away, it’s creating a bigger problem in Atlantic County.”

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Gates Foundation: Ending Family Homelessness Requires Changes in the Ways We Do Business

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation are working towards ending homelessness and they are doing it in partnership with the Federal government, much like local homeless advocates have sought to work collaboratively with the Ocean County Freeholders.

No one group can eliminate homelessness in Ocean County alone.  It takes a collaborative effort by business, government, community service and religious groups, and the homeless themselves. The Gates Foundation is doing it right and providing a model to work with.

"For the philanthropic sector, being part of this change process with partners at HUD and HHS means sitting alongside them and learning about where the greatest potentials for success really lie.  It means challenging assumptions about what we think has worked in the past – and what some of us may be continuing to fund.  It means aligning our energy, our resources, and our passion with the process of systems change. 

"Changing the way we do business has the potential to improve outcomes for families who are homeless across each of our communities.  Good stewardship of the resources that have been entrusted to us requires nothing less."

To read the entire article click here

Kid free or low-cost health insurance

Your kids may be eligible for free or low-cost health insurance now.  Check this government Website, even if you've been turned down before.