On Tuesday, Lowenstein Sandler LLP and the Legal Aid Society announced that New Jersey’s largest city had rolled back a local law banning anyone who moved or sought to move from a New York City homeless shelter to a New York apartment using money from New York. The city’s one-time special assistance (SOTA) program.
The program pays a year’s rent to people who live in homeless shelters in New York City. Participants can choose to find a place to live in the city, or they can use the money in another state – which many have done.
After the launch of SOTA in 2017, more than 2,000 families moved across the Hudson River to New Jersey. City officials said earlier that this includes about 1,200 who have moved to Newark.
But according to Newark Mayor Ras Baraka, the problem came when the year for free rent was over, and the necessary but tax job of helping homeless families who had been relocated was put into the arms of Newark officials. To complicate the situation, many SOTA beneficiaries – including those with young children and infants – found themselves living in dilapidated and unsafe housing once they arrived in Brick City due to unscrupulous landlords, who let the property status lapse once their payments were made. in hand.
In 2019, Newark also filed a lawsuit against New York City in federal court, which is still under litigation. Lawyers for both sides have reached a temporary agreement to protect homeless families trapped on the sidelines while the lawsuit winds down, with New York City agreeing to temporarily stop sending any other SOTA recipients to Newark.
Newark has also passed a local ordinance that imposes inspection and reporting requirements on any agency or person that provides rental subsidies to tenants seeking housing in the city. But according to Weinstein-Sandler, the law prohibits a person from “intentionally bringing in anyone[ing]or causation[ing] a person in need of the City of Newark for the purpose of making him a public charge”—which is illegal and unconstitutional.
In November 2021, Lowenstein, Sandler and the Legal Aid Society led a class action lawsuit against Newark challenging the needy ban — which they claimed was a big factor in the city’s recent decision to rescind the ordinance.
“The Newark City law, which denied New Yorkers seeking to move to Newark to take advantage of the benefits of the SOTA program, was clearly illegal and unethical, and was threatening the well-being of our clients seeking safe, secure, and affordable housing,” said Josh Goldfein, an attorney with the Homeless Rights Project. In the Legal Aid Society.
“We welcome this cancellation which will provide our customers with more opportunities to secure the housing they deserve, and we will monitor this development in the following days to ensure that the City of Newark complies with the law,” Goldfein added.
In 2021 — as in past years — Essex County led New Jersey in its homeless population with 1,693 — about 21 percent of the entire state’s total. About 85.9 percent of those counted in Essex County lived in Newark.
Newark officials recently took several steps to improve conditions for the city’s homeless population. According to Baraka, they include:
Hope Village – “Last year the city established an emergency shelter called Newark Hope Village, a safe sleeping village that allows the most vulnerable people to stay for up to 90 days and find pathways for mental health, drug treatment and social services available to them.” See related: Newark turns empty storage containers into homeless shelters
From school to shelter – “Nearly a year ago, the city began converting Miller Street Elementary School into a transitional facility of 166 beds for men, women and families, complete with social and health services.” See related: Newark turns old school into a huge homeless shelter