TRENTON – Legislation sponsored by Senator Troy Singleton and Senator M. Teresa Ruiz, which would allow county homelessness trust funds to be used for Code Blue emergency shelter services, cleared the Senate today.
"The winter months are the toughest for the homeless. Shelters across the state struggle to house an increased number of people seeking refuge from the extreme cold," said Senator Singleton (D-Burlington). "Giving shelters the flexibility to access the county homelessness trust fund during a Code Blue alert is a compassionate solution to this very real, human problem. Instead of turning people away, the shelters can instead open their doors and help more homeless find the warmth and comfort they need and deserve."
“Winter can pose dangerous threats to the homeless population in New Jersey. The colder months can throw our most vulnerable population into truly dire circumstances,” said Senator Ruiz (D-Essex). “Permitting shelters to have access to the county trust fund during Code Blue alerts will enable them to have more options when assisting the homeless. These options include permanent affordable housing and rental assistance.”
According to Legal Services New Jersey, a Code Blue alert is declared whenever temperatures drop below the freezing point and weather conditions pose a danger to the homeless population. The Code Blue Alert allows authorities to take homeless people to local shelters or other agencies known as Warming Centers.
The bill, S-2737, would allow county homelessness trust funds to be used to help support homeless shelter services when there is an influx of people during a Code Blue alert. Currently, county homelessness trust funds may only be used for purposes tied to the provision of permanent affordable housing.
The funds can be used for the following: prevention services such as one-time financial assistance for those at-risk of homeless, rental assistance vouchers for affordable housing projects or units within housing projects that provide permanent affordable housing for the homeless and those at risk of homelessness, permanent affordable housing for the homeless and those at risk of homelessness, and supportive services such as social workers connected to affordable housing.
Currently, nine counties have set up a homelessness trust fund. The nine counties include: Bergen, Passaic, Hudson, Middlesex, Union, Somerset, Mercer, Camden and Cumberland.
The bill was released from the Senate by a vote of 39-0, and now moves to the governor’s desk.