Emergency Assistance Bills for the Homeless Become Law
Sweeney-Addiego Measures Will Extend Aid for the Homeless, Create Office of Homelessness Prevention
Trenton –Governor Phil Murphy today signed into law legislation sponsored by Senate President Steve Sweeney to help the homeless and those threatened with homelessness. The law, S-3586, will extend emergency assistance for those who are “living on the edge” to help with basic living necessities such as food, housing and utilities.
A companion measure, S-3585, sponsored by Senator Dawn Addiego and Senator Sweeney, that will create a new Office of Homelessness Prevention was also enacted into law by the Governor.
“The absolute limit on Emergency Assistance for the homeless is needlessly harsh. We have a moral responsibility to help those who face the frightening threat of being forced out of their homes and onto the streets,” said Senator Sweeney (D-Gloucester/Salem/Cumberland). “This assistance can be a lifeline for the most vulnerable members of our communities who are experiencing hard times that make it all but impossible for them to meet basic needs, including food and shelter. There are homeless veterans suffering from PTSD, abused mothers with young children, and recovering drug addicts and alcoholics who find themselves out on the street and in need of our help.”
The law nullifies the current lifetime cap on Emergency Assistance benefits for the homeless and those threatened with homelessness. Any months of assistance accrued more than seven years earlier would not count towards the 12 month limit.
“Today New Jersey takes action to assist those in our communities that need it the most,” said Senator Dawn Marie Addiego (D-Atlantic/Burlington/Camden). “With the establishment of the Office of Homelessness Prevention, greater resources will be available to those in need and more adequate funding will be accessible to agencies and organizations. The capability to properly evaluate the effectiveness of our efforts will allow us to better serve the thousands of New Jerseyans already homeless or in the crucial moments before they lose their homes.”
The companion law allocates $3 million to create the Homelessness Prevention Office to develop policies to prevent and combat homelessness and expand access to housing options.
Social service advocates argue that the aid is needed because the most vulnerable populations – including those suffering from abuse, addiction, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, mental illness or other disabilities, and the chronically unemployed – are likely to go through cycles of homelessness over the years, no matter how hard they struggle to afford the basic necessities.