FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Tuesday, January 19, 2016

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Sandy Recovery Housing Counseling Program Provides Services that Address Wide Range of Financial and Housing Challenges

 Trenton, NJ – The New Jersey Department of Community Affairs (DCA) reminds Sandy-impacted residents that free housing counseling assistance is still available to help families affected by the storm.

The Sandy Recovery Housing Counseling Program provides free housing guidance to renters and homeowners who were impacted by the storm and lived in one of the nine counties the federal government determined were most affected by Sandy. Registration with FEMA is not required to receive assistance through this program.

Six non-profit agencies provide housing counseling that is certified by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). Counselors develop a customized counseling plan specific to the needs of Sandy-impacted individuals based on specific challenges faced by each individual. The counseling plan can include individual or group counseling services in such areas as foreclosure prevention, homelessness prevention, mortgages, budgeting, rental guidance, and pre/post-home purchase counseling.

The agencies providing housing counseling services in the nine counties most impacted by the storm are:

  • Affordable Housing Alliance serving Monmouth and Ocean counties;
  • Catholic Charities serving Essex, Hudson and Union counties;
  • Consumer Credit & Budget Counseling serving Atlantic and Cape May counties;
  • Greater Bergen Community Action serving Bergen County;
  • O.C.E.A.N. Inc. serving Ocean County; and
  • Puerto Rican Action Board serving Middlesex County.

These HUD-certified housing counseling agencies have a long history of providing financial and budget counseling, including advice regarding foreclosure avoidance, in the communities they serve.

When DCA Deputy Commissioner David Reiner and Assistant Commissioner Laura Shea observed the Sandy Recovery Housing Counseling Program in action last year during a visit to the Affordable Housing Alliance (AHA), they noted the great services offered and the staff’s commitment to the work.

"We saw first-hand a group of dedicated professionals who share DCA’s passion for getting Sandy-impacted individuals back in their homes," said Deputy Commissioner Reiner. "It is because of compassionate individuals at the housing counseling agencies that we are able to deliver comprehensive housing counseling to those who truly need it."

AHA also dispatches a 22-foot-long, colorfully decorated Winnebago, nicknamed "Winnie," to a variety of locations and outreach events in Monmouth and Ocean counties as part of a mobile housing counseling outreach effort.  One of the frequent stops for the Winnebago, emblazoned with "Sandy Housing Recovery Resource Center Mobile Office" is The Peoples Pantry in the Silverton Plaza on Hooper Avenue in Toms River, which was opened after Superstorm Sandy and is now one of the most comprehensive relief centers in the state.

"Everybody knows Winnie at The People’s Pantry," said Cheryl Person, who is in charge of outreach for AHA and schedules the Winnebago’s appearances around Monmouth and Ocean counties.

"Just imagine waking up and your whole world is turned upside down," said Ms. Person, who added that Sandy made a bad situation worse for many people who were already on the fringes. "We get people to focus on recovery and not get stuck in the circumstances of the disaster. We get them to move forward."

Emma Papiol-Izquierdo, a Housing Counselor for Hudson County with Catholic Charities of the Newark Archdiocese, recalled how she put together a package of assistance from three programs, including DCA’s Sandy Tenant-Based Rental Assistance Program, to provide uninterrupted rental assistance for a family to avoid eviction. In another case of an elderly woman who has difficulty moving because she relies on an oxygen machine, Ms. Papiol-Izquierdo visited the homeowner to provide help.

Russell Graves of Consumer Credit & Budget Counseling said for those in Atlantic and Cape May counties, "We’re the roadmap to housing needs. We know the right places to go to get the right assistance." For low- to moderate-income families, "We tap into any kind of assistance families need," he said.

In Middlesex County, Henry Gorman, director of the Housing Coalition of Central Jersey, which is part of the Puerto Rican Action Board, said his agency’s long-time housing counseling experience has helped it to better assist people affected by Sandy. "We’ll keep plugging away and doing everything we can to help people hang on to their homes," Gorman said.

Kila Lewis, a Housing Counselor for Greater Bergen Community Action said through the Sandy Recovery Housing Counseling Program, her agency has provided services for families in Little Ferry, Ridgefield Park, Moonachie, Hackensack, and other Bergen County towns. "This program has given many residents hope," she said.

For more information on the Sandy Recovery Housing Counseling Program, including contact information for each of the six non-profit agencies providing counseling, visit

Lisa Ryan
(609) 292-6055