New Jersey Coalition to End Homelessness
                Spring Newsletter                   

Dear Friends,


As the winter snows finally give way (I hope!) to spring blossoms, I'm happy to report success in one of the Coalition's advocacy efforts and a significant first step in another. I am also excited to announce our inaugural Garden State Leaders program.  In all cases, progress is only possible because of the combined efforts of our members and partners, for which we are very grateful.


Settlement of anti-begging challenge:  A settlement has just been reached in the lawsuit filed in December challenging two New Brunswick laws that prohibited begging for food or money.  The Coalition was a plaintiff in the lawsuit, along with John Fleming, who had been arrested four times for holding a sign that says "Broke/ Please Help/ Thank You/ God Bless You."  In the settlement, New Brunswick agreed to not enforce the laws and to repeal or amend them as soon as possible. The Coalition served as an organizational plaintiff because we believe that laws criminalizing homelessness violate the constitutional and human rights of individuals who are homeless and offend basic human dignity.  Instead of putting resources into enacting or enforcing such laws, we should support policies that ensure everyone has a safe place to live and cost-effective models like Housing First and Rapid Rehousing (see below). The Coalition was represented by the American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey and pro bono lawyers from McCarter & English, LLP


The National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty recently has examined the increase in laws criminalizing homelessness, and issued a report "No Safe Place; The Criminalization of Homelessness in U.S. Cities."  I encourage you to read the report by clicking here.


Legislation to repeal the ban on GA for individuals with drug convictions:   On Monday, March 12, Senator Sandra Cunningham introduced bill S2806, which amends the Work First New Jersey program to remove restrictions on convicted drug offenders that deny them General Assistance (GA). GA is an essential part of the small safety net that keeps poor New Jersey citizens from becoming homeless.  Eligibility for GA also determines eligibility for Emergency Assistance.  The proposed legislation seeks to give individuals who have paid their debt to society the opportunity for successful re-entry by removing a significant barrier to shelter, permanent housing and supportive services, and also will: 

  • Save millions of dollars in incarceration and hospitalization costs for individuals who can be stably housed in the community with increased quality of life; 
  • Significantly reduce homelessness;
  • Link persons with mental health and substance abuse issues with appropriate services

The ban was enacted in January 1997 as part of the now-discredited War on Drugs and applies to any amount, no matter how long ago or what efforts the individual has made to rehabilitate themselves.  The Coalition has worked over the past year on this legislative effort to repeal the ban, which is supported by a wide range of organizations.  If your organization would like to sign on, please email me at  To learn more about the ban and the reasons for repealing it, click here

Deb Ellis

Garden State Leaders Program Is Scheduled to Begin this Summer

Garden State Leaders is a free, six-session course, which is designed to build leadership skills among those who have direct experience with homelessness. Each session will focus on a different topic related to advocacy and leadership development. The goal is to increase participants' capacity to take on influential roles on issues pertinent to their lives.  For more information and to apply, please visit:

Housing First in the Spotlight


A growing number of studies have proven the effectiveness of a relatively new model for ending homelessness referred to as "Housing First."  The idea is to offer individuals and families experiencing homelessness immediate access to permanent affordable housing. Without clinical prerequisites like completion of a course of treatment or evidence of sobriety, and with a low-threshold for entry, Housing First yields higher housing retention rates, lower returns to homelessness, and significant cost savings in the use of crisis services and institutions.                   

The Daily Show with Jon Stewart recently featured an interview on Housing First in Utah, which has prioritized housing and has reduced  homelessness by 72% since 2005.   Please click the image on the right to watch.   Other articles from the past year that highlight the effectiveness and fiscal savings achieved through housing first policies include:   "There's no place like home in health care: Housing the homeless is key to controlling costs.", June 16, 2014 by Elizabeth Buck and Jeffrey Brenner of the Camden Coalition of Healthcare Providers 

and  "Home Free" The New Yorker, September 22, 2014 by James Surowiecki

National Alliance Profiles Mercer County's Work in Rapid Re-Housing

This month, the National Alliance to End Homelessness profiled the work of the Mercer Alliance as part of a webinar on rapid re-housing. 

Rapid re-housing, a similar model to housing first, applies the same philosophy of quick housing placement without preconditions to individuals and families who are episodically homeless with moderate needs, in contrast to the chronically homeless individuals generally targeted by housing first programs.  

Mercer County has made a significant impact on ending homelessness through the use of rapid re-housing techniques. In a two year period, the number of families in shelter or transitional housing on any given day declined by 20 percent and the number of families residing in motels over the course of a month declined by 66 percent.  

HUD Newark Regional Office Launches Newsletter with Updates on Efforts to Combat Homelessness

Click here  to read the first edition of "HUD News New Jersey" with a letter from new Field Office Director, Maria Maio-Messano.

Congrats to Fair Share Housing Center on its victory in the Supreme Court reaffirming NJ's fair housing laws!
This victory will result in many new affordable housing opportunities for hardworking NJ residents, seniors and people with disabilities in their communities of choice. The Supreme Court's unanimous decision available  here.

Contact NJCEH
Kate Leahy, Director of Operations & Communications

Board Members
Laura Rodgers, President
Jewish Family Service, Atlantic and Cape May Counties

Alison Recca-Ryan
Joyce Campbell
Catholic Charities, Diocese of T renton

Renee Koubiadis
National Association of Social Workers, NJ Chapter

Rhonda Coe
R.B. Coe Consulting

Connie Mercer

Bill Southrey

Jeffrey Wild
Lowenstein, Sandler, LLP


The New Jersey Coalition to End Homelessness (NJCEH) is a statewide non-profit organization with one mission: to eradicate homelessness in New Jersey.   We believe in a New Jersey where no one is forced to sleep outside and where every man, woman and child lives in safe, affordable housing. The Coalition will work with its partners throughout the State until that vision becomes a reality. 


NJCEH | 862.926.2117 | d |
c/o Lowenstein Sandler LLP
65 Livingston Ave., #412W
Roseland, NJ 07068