Newark providing safe housing for homeless during coronavirus outbreak

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Urban News Staff Reports

A $1 million program to immediately house people in need of shelter is being put in place in Newark. It is the second of Mayor Ras Baraka's six major initiatives to increase the safety and ease the financial strain of Newark residents due to COVID-19.

Baraka said the City has negotiated with lodging and housing providers to secure shelter for about 300 people without permanent housing and others who may otherwise be unable to self-quarantine, such as elderly in senior housing who have tested positive and risk infecting others. The locations are throughout Newark, and staffed with on-site medical and food services.

“This is a public health policy,” Baraka said. “We also know that some of our most vulnerable residents, residents without addresses, may not have a safe place to lay their head, so we needed to create a new intervention and new partnerships to ensure that we are all practicing social distancing so that we can flatten the curve.”

Newark has about 400-to-500 people who are chronically unsheltered or in and out of sheltering

Previously, the Mayor put the entire City on the state’s most restrictive shelter-in-place order, asking all people to stay indoors except for necessary outings, such as shopping for food and medicine, seeing a doctor, dog-walking or for a brief breath of fresh air right outside of one’s home, all while maintain six-foot social distancing from one another.

Since that order, City officials quickly secured housing for people without indoor options. The City needed immediate access to more than 200 units or rooms to house persons in need for up to 90 days and reached out to more than a dozen housing provider partners.

“Aggressive solutions, such as the Mayor’s strict shelter-in-place order will save lives,” said Mark Wade, M.D., Director of the Department of Health and Community Wellness. “We need to slow the transmission of this virus. To temporarily house an otherwise homeless population keeps them and our other residents safe.”

The program is one of six initiatives the City has created to help residents weather the economic downturn of the COVID-19 health emergency.

The other five are as follows:

  • Up to $2 million investment in a small business emergency fund with grants up to $10,000 for 200 qualified businesses – announced on March 26.
  • Up to $1 million investment in community-based non-profits that serve Newark residents.
  • A $1 million investment in the “Live Newark” program to provide down payment and rehabilitation funds for up to 100 Newark homeowners.
  • Up to $750,000 arts initiative investment that will support the local community of artists and cultural organizations with operating funds and support.
  • In addition, the Mayor has directed the tax assessor to accept applications from building owners with business tenants who have been negatively affected by COVID-19. The buildings will be reassessed to reduce the taxes owed by the building and the tax savings will be passed along to the small business tenants in form of a rent reduction.

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