Federal cuts squeezing NJ homeless shelters as more people seek their help
ATLANTIC CITY — Homeless shelters across New Jersey could be impacted by steep cuts this year in federal funding as the Department of Housing and Urban Development shifts grant money from transitional programs to ones that focus on permanent housing.
Nearly all funding the Atlantic City Rescue Mission receives to operate comes from individual donors but President and CEO Dan Brown explained that cuts across the board for shelters that rely on government vouchers to function will result in "an incredible new amount of people" being denied services.
"When a person presents themselves as homeless, they go to their county or municipality and they get a voucher that allows them to stay at a shelter," said Brown. He pointed out that those individuals will end up having to turn to privately-funded, faith-based organizations, such as the Atlantic City Rescue Mission for help.
HUD money is tied to a community's success at reducing homelessness, and the agency determined that local communities nationwide reduced homelessness by 11 percent since 2011.
Brown said in Atlantic City and across the state, organizations that help the homeless see the need growing.
"In fact, what's happening as the fee-for-service shelters are not able to continue to sustain because of those funds as they're removed, those people who would be seeking shelter there, who are now denied, they're going to go to shelters who don't function on vouchers," Brown said. "In that way, the Atlantic City Rescue Mission could be seeing a substantial increase in people who are searching for help."
Brown pointed out that people from all over end up in Atlantic City, and when the Atlantic City Rescue Mission finds an individual who becomes homeless, they do everything possible to reconnect that person back to their area of origin because he said, "that's where they should be eligible to receive the help that they need when they find themselves in this homeless situation."
Brown estimated the reduction in federal funding to be about $37 million.
"It is absolutely huge. Gospel rescue missions throughout the state are going to see an increase in their numbers because the fee for shelters, emergency shelters that are out there, those funds are being cut literally by about 40 percent," he said.
The Atlantic City Rescue Mission sees about 3,000 people a year, and Brown noted that number fluctuates depending on the time of year.
"We can have upwards of over 200 people sleeping a night very easily many times," said Brown. He anticipates an indirect financial impact on his organization will be created by the increase in homeless coming from fee for service shelters.
"I'm estimating that need for us by the end of this year, will increase by probably a half a million dollars, so that is a burden," said Brown. The Atlantic City Rescue Mission usually generates between $3 million and $3.5 million a year through fundraising efforts mainly from foundations and private donors, according to Brown.
"It's very tough," Brown said. "We have the highest foreclosure rate in the entire country in our area at the moment, and we're hoping to see a resurgence in the economy here so that there will be more jobs."
Brown is asking for people to support the ongoing effort of homelessness.
"It's not just all about the business of how many dollars businesses can raise. There's very important things that are needed within a community that raise our awareness of humanity, and I think that's really, really important," he added.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.