FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Friday, November 16, 2018


TRENTON, NJ – During National Hunger & Homelessness Awareness Week, which runs November 10 through 18, New Jersey Department of Community Affairs (DCA) Commissioner, Lt. Governor Sheila Y. Oliver, is calling attention to the holistic approaches taken by DCA to serve New Jersey’s most vulnerable residents -- veterans, disabled persons, seniors, and individuals struggling with medical and emotional complexities – through programs and initiatives offered by the Department. Over the past three years, DCA has provided more than 3,600 housing vouchers to prevent and decrease overall homelessness in New Jersey and more than $9.5 million supported homelessness prevention and shelter support services. 

“While New Jersey has one of the nation’s largest and highest-rated housing assistance programs, there is still work to be done,” said Lt. Governor Oliver. “At DCA, we continue to work hard to create compassionate ways to address homelessness. With income inequality worsening and the cost of living increasing, it is important now more than ever to ensure that our residents are safely housed, including the chronically homeless in need of supportive housing.”           

Addressing Chronic Homelessness 

Housing First is a nationally-recognized supportive housing approach to ending chronic homelessness. Through the Housing First approach, chronically homeless people move directly into housing and receive wraparound supportive services that help them improve and maintain their health, stabilize their lives, and maintain their housing. Not only does this practice save lives, it also results in savings due to the decreased use of public resources such as emergency departments and hospitals. 

To demonstrate the benefits of this approach, in 2015, DCA provided 65 project-based vouchers to pilot the Camden Housing First initiative sponsored by the Camden Coalition of Healthcare Providers, which targeted chronically homeless Camden residents who were the heaviest utilizers of emergency rooms and hospitals. Building on the success of the pilot, DCA made 500 tenant-based State Rental Assistance Program (SRAP) vouchers available to start The Statewide Housing First Initiative and coupled it with $250,000 in supportive service funding for 12 social service agencies across the state. Of the 500 vouchers, 425 were targeted for chronically homeless individuals who are frequent users of public systems, and 75 vouchers for homeless veterans. Vouchers were awarded to agencies covering Atlantic, Burlington, Camden, Cape May, Cumberland, Essex, Gloucester, Hudson, Mercer, Middlesex, Morris, Passaic, Salem and Union counties. 

Most recently, DCA is partnering with Hudson County and two hospitals -- Jersey City Medical Center and Hoboken University Medical Center -- to provide up to 25 rental vouchers for another innovative Housing First program. This program marks the first time two major hospital systems in New Jersey are committing funding to provide permanent supportive housing solutions directly to individuals experiencing homelessness. This new housing and healthcare system partnership is part of a larger initiative in DCA to address chronic homelessness and provide supportive housing throughout the state by partnering with counties, cities and hospital systems. 

This latest DCA collaboration with hospitals complements the New Jersey Housing and Mortgage Finance Agency’s (NJHMFA) recent partnership with the New Jersey Hospital Association to develop affordable housing for community members in need. Under the $12 million Hospital Partnership Subsidy Pilot Program, NJHMFA, which is an affiliate of DCA, will match contributions from participating hospitals to fund three to four housing projects. The developments also must include units set aside for special needs residents and/or frequent users of those hospitals’ emergency rooms. Hospitals interested in participating in the program must submit letters of interest to NJHMFA by December 17. 

People who are chronically homeless often need high-intensity services offered through permanent supportive housing. Over time, many people stabilize and no longer need these services, but continue to require rental assistance to live independently. DCA’s ‘Moving On Initiative’ provides general rental assistance to individuals who no longer need a high level of services. As these individuals ‘move on,’ their service-supported vouchers are used to give other homeless individuals and families permanent supportive housing. DCA has moved 354 households from supportive housing to ‘regular’ vouchers since undertaking this initiative in 2017. 

Addressing Veteran Homelessness 

DCA currently administers 911 Veterans Administration Supportive Housing (VASH) vouchers. These vouchers are awarded through a partnership between the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and are targeted to homeless veterans who are referred to DCA by VA Medical Centers. In December 2017, DCA was awarded 52 VASH vouchers to assist veterans referred from the Philadelphia VA Health Care System (whose jurisdiction covers part of southern New Jersey), and from the New Jersey VA Health Care System (Lyons campus). VASH households receive case management and clinical services to assist them in sustaining their housing. 

When VASH recipients no longer need the high level of case management and clinical services provided through the VA (as determined by the recipient and the VA Medical Center), they can transition into DCA’s “graduation program.” DCA issues the recipient a federal Housing Choice Voucher, which allows the formerly homeless veteran to continue to receive the housing assistance he or she needs to live independently, while allowing the VA to backfill the VASH voucher, thus serving more homeless veterans. Since 2016, DCA has “graduated” 63 formerly homeless veterans to Housing Choice Vouchers. 

In addition to VASH vouchers, the Department has allotted 273 project-based Housing Choice Vouchers to projects that will serve veteran households that are homeless or at risk of homelessness. 

Addressing Family and Youth Homelessness 

In partnership with the New Jersey Department of Children and Families (DCF), DCA has committed 150 project-based Housing Choice Vouchers to the ‘Keeping Families Together Initiative.’ This innovative national program targets rental assistance and supportive services to extremely vulnerable families who are homeless or live in unstable housing, and who are involved with the child welfare system. The goal of this program is to ensure that children are not removed from their families, or that families are able to reunify, with stable housing and services designed to support their tenancy.  DCA now administers, in partnership with DCF, an additional 450 state-funded housing vouchers for the expansion of Keeping Families Together. 

Two of the greatest predictors of adult homelessness are having experienced homelessness as a child or spending time in foster care. To address this, DCA is joining DCF in another initiative targeted at ending the multigenerational cycle of homelessness. DCA committed 100 project-based Housing Choice Vouchers to the ‘Youth at Risk of Homelessness Initiative,’ a national program targeted to young adults with a history of child welfare involvement who are homeless or at risk of aging out of foster care into homelessness. Thirty of these vouchers are dedicated specifically for pregnant and parenting young adults who are homeless or at risk of homelessness. 

Addressing Homelessness Prevention 

Additionally, DCA administers the Homelessness Prevention and Rapid Rehousing (HPRP), Homelessness Prevention (HPP), and Shelter Support programs. HPRP provides assistance and stabilization services, including back rental payments, security deposits, case management and other assistance to families who are homeless or at risk of homelessness. DCA awarded $3.2 million to nine agencies to administer the program regionally.   

HPP provides financial assistance to low- and moderate-income tenants in imminent danger of eviction due to temporary financial problems beyond their control. The program serves families that are homeless or at risk of homelessness in all 21 counties. For SFY18, DCA awarded $2.9 million to 21 agencies representing all 21 counties to administer HPP funds. 

The Shelter Support Program provides funding to shelters and transitional housing facilities to improve living conditions for residents experiencing homelessness or to create new beds. DCA awarded $3.8 million to 27 shelters to support 1,068 existing beds and 31 new beds. 

Established in 1967, DCA offers a wide range of programs and services that respond to issues of public concern including homelessness prevention, affordable housing production, fire and building safety, community planning and development, local government management and finance, and disaster recovery.

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Tammori Petty
Lisa Ryan
Gina Trish
(609) 292-6055