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December 16, 2020 - DCA Announces Launch of Housing First Expansion

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Wednesday, December 16, 2020

Goal of Initiative Is to Improve Quality of Housing and Services for People Experiencing Long-Term Homelessness 

TRENTON, NJ – The New Jersey Department of Community Affairs’ (DCA) Office of Homelessness Prevention (OHP) today launched Housing First Expansion, an initiative to engage regional stakeholders in a planning process to address rising unsheltered and chronic homelessness across the state. The Housing First Expansion (HFE) will use lessons learned from previous Housing First projects to help create a consistent Housing First strategy and implementation plan for the state.

Housing First is a nationally recognized approach that focuses on moving individuals and families experiencing homelessness into safe, permanent housing as soon as possible and then providing supportive services to help them remain in their home. Guiding this approach is a belief that housing is a basic need that must be met before people can concentrate on activities such as employment, substance abuse treatment, household budgeting, education, and mental and behavioral health.

“Housing First projects in our state have saved lives by quickly getting people into stable housing so that they can begin to tackle other challenges that are holding them back from achieving personal goals and being the best they can be,” said Lt. Governor Sheila Oliver, who serves as DCA Commissioner. “Th new Housing First Expansion program seeks to broaden this practice so that we can stably house as many homeless people as possible and provide them with a foundation to start improving their lives.” 

Under the Housing First policy, DCA has worked with the Camden Coalition and Hudson and Middlesex counties to provide housing vouchers to 500 chronically homeless individuals. The vouchers assist them in moving directly into long-term housing while they simultaneously receive wraparound supportive services that help improve their health, stabilize their lives, and sustain their housing. This policy has also resulted in savings due to the decreased use of public resources such as emergency rooms since many of the individuals were high utilizers of hospital emergency services.

The HPE will engage community stakeholders, including philanthropic organizations, in a coordinated way and foster partnerships to develop high-quality Housing First projects, fund an innovation pool for projects, and share data collection.

“These efforts will not only improve the consistent quality of housing and services for people experiencing long-term homelessness, but will create a platform to most efficiently utilize both existing resources and any new resources from the federal or state government in the coming years,” said OHP Director Rebecca Rhoads.

Recognizing that homelessness doesn’t have geographic boundaries, the OHP will convene regional work groups to reach the most vulnerable people to understand if and how they are being served. The work groups will collaborate to share and match data across multiple systems such as healthcare, corrections, and Medicaid in an effort to find and help chronically homeless individuals and families. The work groups will include people whose lives have been impacted by homelessness, foundations, philanthropic organizations, supportive services providers, and housing developers.

The HFE mission is to:

  • Develop an implementation plan and curriculum for Housing First;
  • Create a high-quality Housing First assessment tool for future use that is based on statewide and national best practices and lessons learned from previous Housing First projects;
  • Fund an “innovation pool” to provide seed money for Housing First projects; and
  • Support efforts that promote data sharing across databases, better coordination of services, and high-level data collection to track program outcomes.

The DCA offers a wide range of programs and services, including affordable housing production, fire safety, building safety, community planning and development, local government management and finance, and disaster recovery.

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