State gives Catholic Charities funding to prevent homelessness in Ocean County

Catholic Charities, Diocese of Trenton recently received two grants, totaling almost $460,000, to prevent homelessness in Ocean County.

The New Jersey Department of Community Affairs gave Catholic Charities’ Community Services the grants to provide temporary rent and utility assistance to individuals and families who are either already homeless or at risk of becoming homeless, as well as households in the eviction process.

Community Services staff also will provide other assistance, such as job skills training and budgeting education, to ensure that the people assisted can maintain their housing.

“Housing is a human right. A safe, stable home is the foundation every person and family needs before they can recover from whatever hardships they have in life. It’s a springboard for progress,” said Arnold Valentin (pictured, right), service area director of Community Services. “So we are thrilled to have received this funding, which will empower us to bring evidence-based strategies of ending homelessness in Ocean County. That region really needs this support.”

Rental assistance and eviction prevention

One grant enables Catholic Charities to expand Rapid Re-Housing to Ocean County. Rapid Re-Housing is a nationally recognized “Housing First” model proven to be effective at moving people permanently out of homelessness. Catholic Charities already offers Rapid Re-Housing in Burlington and Mercer counties.

The second grant, called the Homelessness Prevention Program, targets individuals or families being evicted due to a short-term loss of income. Those could be a job layoff, a medical emergency or disability, a large, unexpected expense such as costly car repairs, or a substantial and permanent change in the household composition such as the death or departure of an income earner.

Housing barriers

“New Jersey has one of the highest costs of living in the nation,” said Noelle Davies (pictured, left), business manager of Community Services. “High rents already keep housing out of reach for many people. Evictions are yet another barrier. Landlords offering competitively priced apartments are less likely to accept tenants with a history of eviction.”

Davies added:  “On top of that, the up-front cost of a security deposit and first month’s rent can be an impossible hurdle for many families. That’s why preventing eviction is key to preventing homelessness in areas where the cost of living is high.”

Ocean County now has limited options for people experiencing homelessness. Shelters there generally serve specific homeless populations. Catholic Charities’ Providence House Domestic Violence Services, for example, has a safe house for women recovering from domestic abuse, and Harbor House is for abandoned or runaway youth. Yet more than 300 people experienced homelessness in Ocean County during the 2019 Point-in-Time Count.

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For more information about Rapid Rehousing and Homelessness Prevention programs, contact Director Mosudi Idowu at (732) 363-5322 (option 7) or Case Manager Lisha Loo-Morgan (Option 7). Or email Administrative Assistant Markeesha Ferguson at mferguson@cctrenton.org. For general queries, contact Dana DiFilippo, Catholic Charities communications, at ddifilippo@cctrenton.org or (609) 394-5181, ext. 1153.

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