The Latino Action Network's Sanctuary Program in Freehold celebrates a tenth year of offering a warm place and meals predominantly to immigrant day laborers in the Monmouth County Community.

Dr. Ann Bagchi Latino Coalition Health Committee Chair (Townsquare Media NJ)

"Twelve of those meals I would say would be accounted for by men from the homeless program but then we also see some low income folks for the past several years as well and that's probably another six or seven people," Bagchi explained.

Bagchi said being homeless and poor sets people up for health concerns as well. "I can tell you the three biggest problems that we're seeing that aren't being addressed adequately ... diabetes, hypertension and mental health, particularly depression and when I say mental health, I'm including substance abuse issues as well," according to Bagchi.

If she was given a blank check to address some of the issues, Bagchi said she would institute a program that's working for Medicaid patients. She said medicaid recipients get a visit from a nurse following hospitalization, to assess their living situations and set up a program that will help prevent re-hospitalization.

Concerning substance abuse, Bagchi said "there have been numerous reports about increases in heroin use and the systems of care that are out there that provide real treatment just haven't been well developed. There needs to be a lot more work and a lot more funding," said Bagchi.

Bagchi also addressed compensation inequities and said we're seeing corporate executives getting huge compensations that lead some to think they're making their money on the backs of the working poor. She noted President Obama's efforts to begin to address increasing minimum wage.

"I'm glad President Obama tried to do something about the Federal Minimum wage but if you think about what our minimum wage levels are, you can't feed a family on these amounts and it's a tragedy really," Bagchi explained.

Bagchi said the Sanctuary program provides breakfast at a Methodist Church on Main Street on Friday's and Breakfast and lunch on Saturday's. She notes it's one of several programs operating in the borough that helps provide a safety net to vulnerable populations.

"I just hope people will continue to support these kind of community initiatives that really give people a sense of dignity and respect and hope that they need," said Bagchi.

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