New York pauses homeless relocation program with New Jersey

Access to Counsel for Newark tenants
Mayors Bill de Blasio and Ras Baraka of Newark. (Photo courtesy of Michael Appleton/Mayoral Photography Office/Flickr)

New York City has temporarily halted its program to provide special assistance for homeless residents relocated to New Jersey.

The cities of Newark and New York seem to have resolved a dispute over the de Blasio administration relocating homeless families across the Hudson River and sometimes under squalid living conditions.

As a result of a face-to-face between the two cities, there will be a temporary halt to the Human Resources Administration’s Special One-Time Assistance program and Newark will have a full list of people placed in order to provide services, Newark Mayor Ras Baraka said.

The pause in SOTA placements will only pertain to Newark.

Newark filed a lawsuit in federal court a week ago claiming that the SOTA program did little to vet housing where people were placed in Newark and other towns.

The city’s own Department of Investigation delved into the matter itself backing up claims from Baraka that housing was often not inspected before families were suddenly forced to cope with apartments and houses that posed dangers to their health and safety.

A day after meeting with city officials, Baraka said Tuesday that his administration would have greater involvement in making sure SOTA recipients are not left out in the cold.

“So far, we’ve gotten much of what we asked for and we look forward to continue to work collaboratively with New York City to improve the quality of life for their SOTA recipients,” said Baraka. “For us, this was always about making sure these people were in safe and sanitary housing, and they were handled in a dignified manner, not just jettisoned here with no safety nets.”

Baraka’s administration pressed for a list of SOTA recipients in their jurisdiction and the addresses of where they live for the sake of providing social services and protection from bad landlords.

“This Administration wholeheartedly believes that people have the right to a roof over their heads and to choose where they want to live,” City Hall spokeswoman Freddi Goldstein said. “In the spirit of productive conversations and with the goal of moving toward an improved program, we will be temporarily pausing placements in Newark. We will resume discussions on Thursday and if a satisfactory agreement is not met, we will file a formal challenge to the ordinance the next day.”

But City Hall said it would not be so simple.

With more discussions planned for Dec. 12, the de Blasio administration does not plan to hand over the names and addresses to the city of Newark without a confidentiality agreement in place beforehand.


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