Leaders from several Family Promise New Jersey Affiliates joined more than 450 affordable housing advocates in Washington, DC on July 26 for NJ Hill Day, imploring congress to take a stand against looming housing cuts. Directors Geleen Donovan (Union County), Kate Duggan (Bergen County), and Colleen Duerr (Hunterdon County) represented Family Promise in advocating for No Housing Cuts in the FY2018 budget.
The draft version of U.S. House of Representatives’ Transportation, Housing, and Urban Development (T-HUD) Appropriations Committee bill significantly cuts funding in several key areas—tenant protection vouchers, Community Development funds and grants, and the Public Housing Capital Fund—that states rely on for critical affordable housing resources that support extremely low income seniors, people with disabilities, families with children, veterans, and other vulnerable segments of the population. As the leading national nonprofit helping families experiencing homelessness attain sustainable independence, Family Promise is working to make sure that adequate federal funds remain in place to ensure the most vulnerable among us are safely and securely housed.
It was an impressive coalition that gathered in the Dirksen Senate Auditorium on Capitol Hill, comprising representatives from organizations including Family Promise, the National Low Income Housing Coalition, the National Alliance to End Homelessness, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, Enterprise Communities, Homefirst, and Monarch Housing Associates. Both New Jersey senators, Cory Booker and Bob Menendez, and nine of NJ’s U.S. representatives, including Donald Payne from the 10th district, attended the reception to speak to and hear from their constituents on the issue.
“Americans believe in justice for all and one of the most fundamental rights is a place to call home,” said Sen. Booker. “If we ever give up on the ideal of a safe, decent place to call home for every American, we give up on America. We have a right and obligation to fight for housing for all.”
Family Promise Union County (FPUC) graduate guest Simeria DeWalt also traveled to speak at the event – she has received a Section 8 voucher for the past 18 months. She talked about how getting that voucher provided her family with stable housing and allowed her to reunite her family as two of her four children were living in shelters and foster care until she secured housing. She shared that since receiving stable housing, she and her son have both earned GED’s and she will be going to college in the fall. She is concerned that, due to the housing cuts, she may lose her home, but she felt compelled to speak.
“I’m afraid of losing my kids—seeing them go back into the system again,” she said. “There’s a time to be quiet and a time to speak, and I went to Washington to speak. We should ‘be not silent in a noisy world with no peace.’”
Concerned citizens from all over the state stepped up to make their voice heard in the corridors of power. The lack of affordable homes and the resources needed to maintain existing public housing has created an affordable housing state of emergency in New Jersey. Family Promise Union County Director Geleen Donovan summed it up, “The proposed federal budget cuts will cause more homelessness, as thousands of people who were homeless and now live in permanent housing will lose their subsidy. There will be less funding for emergency shelter for the increased homeless population. These cuts will hurt the most vulnerable people in our country.”
All photos by Ashish Patel.