Dr. Mark Wade doesn’t use the term “the homeless.” He prefers to say “residents without addresses.” The operative word is “residents,” as in people. Not a collective group, but individuals.
Dr. Wade is the director of the Newark’s Dept. of Health and Community Wellness (DHCW) and has been working for months on the comprehensive plan to aid people without permanent homes – long before the subject dominated the news this week because of the city’s actions to stop New York from sending their homeless people here without the city’s knowledge and without safety net resources.
For approximately 30 minutes Tuesday, with focus and absolute resolve, Dr. Wade gave his report to the city council which, to a member, applauded his efforts.
Dr. Wade reported the following facts from 2019:
· There are 2,214 mainly adult homeless people in the city.
· 75 percent of those are sheltered each night in 28 shelters funded by the county.
· In six of those shelters, the city adds additional funds for the 25 percent that don’t qualify for county aid. Many of those have severe mental health or drug problems, or just refuse to be sheltered.
· The city devoted $3.3 million in 2019 to shelter these must vulnerable residents.
· Newark has prevented 2,646 residents from becoming homeless through (DHWC) emergency shelter grants.
Moving forward, Dr. Wade said sheltering efforts in 2020 “will be more creative and place a heavy focus on case management” with an emphasis on placing people into “the needed supportive services and out of the shelters into transitional and supportive, permanent housing.”
He said the city has enlisted a wide range of community services including Integrity House, to provide outpatient, inpatient and detox drug rehab services, and Rutgers Behavioral Health Care and the Mental Health Association of Essex and Morris County, to tend to the needs of the mentally ill.
Other new initiatives include:
· Support of Goodwill’s Daycare Program for daytime hours of engagement, which will provide a wide range “of social, mental health, medical, motivational, training and other supportive services to individuals who have here-to-fore had nowhere to go.” Dr. Wade described it as “one-stop shopping” for people wanting to improve their circumstances.
· A contract with Bridges, Inc., to engage homeless residents between the hours 4 p.m. and 11 p.m. seven days a week, and develop an ongoing relationship to get them off the streets and to places of shelter and other health and wellness services.
· The relocation of volunteer homeless feeding programs to St. John’s Church, just a few blocks from Penn Station, St. James Community Corp. at MLK Blvd. and Court St., and St. Matthews United Methodist Church, which is located in the West Ward. These strategically located sites.
· Toilet facilities are being secured to provide an alternative to Penn Station and other public rest rooms, or outdoor relief. Security patrols will be provided by the Newark Police and Essex Sheriff’s Department, and Newark DPW will make trash pickups.
These programs will give the city one of the most comprehensive and aggressive programs to shelter “residents without addresses” and provide them with the services they need to help them stabilize their lives in transitional, then permanent housing.
“Followers recant the problems, leaders solve them,’’ said Dr. Wade.
The City of Newark under the leadership of Mayor Ras Baraka and Dr. Mark Wade have chosen to find and implement solutions that can be model for other cities that struggle with this problem.