EAST BRUNSWICK, NJ - Mayor Brad Cohen has extended a welcome to the families and students displaced by Hurricane Harvey to come to the township and keep up with their education.
Cohen sent a message to Alan Bernstein, director of Communications for Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner extending an invitation to house and educate displaced students from Houston and the surrounding areas.
"This is what being a sanctuary city means. It can't be all talk. It's time to put your money where your mouth is," Cohen said, adding that he remembered the tremendous national outreach the people of New Jersey received during Hurricane Sandy and wanted to return the favor.
The heart of the invitation lay in its concern for children who may not be able to begin the school year for quite some time. Cohen wrote, "I am offering our township as a sanctuary city for your displaced youth. We know how disasters can cause such disruption to young people’s lives. Trying to help them put back a level of normality in the face of such loss is very difficult. For parents, the loss of work, home, and safety can be too much to bear. Any parent, at their core, wants what is best for their family and children.
"We are located in Central New Jersey, just outside of Rutgers University. As you may know, New Jersey’s public schools rank highest in the nation and East Brunswick has been one of the best public school systems in the state. Our schools are just about to open and there is excess capacity to take in additional students.
"We also have a community that has been writing to me about ways to help. Finding families to volunteer and host students will not be difficult."
Cohen went on to enumerate particular details related to travel, housing, and school accommodation, noting that he has been in contact with the Dr. Victor Valeski, superintendent of Schools. He added that United Airlines has hubs in both Houston and Newark, perhaps making transit a bit easier.
According to the US News and World Report, ""Monday was slated to be the first day of school for Houston's public school system, which serves about 215,000 students – 76 percent of whom are economically disadvantaged." Additionally, many school buildings are being used as shelters for people who have lost their homes.
Mayor Cohen wrote of New Jersey following the devastation of Hurricane Sandy, "The outpouring of compassion, assistance, and concern will never be forgotten. Much of that help came from places such as Texas. It is our turn to play it forward and do what is humane and right."