NEWARK, NJ — New York City officials have yet to disclose a list of the homeless or their whereabouts in Newark through the Special One-Time Assistance program, according to Newark Mayor Ras Baraka.
Baraka issued his statement less than a week after Newark filed a federal lawsuit against New York City to end the SOTA program. The lawsuit claims New York City officials did not properly inspect apartments before relocating homeless people from New York City.
“We have been trying for almost a year to come to workable agreement with New York City officials on how to make sure their Special One-Time Assistance recipients could be handled safely and with dignity by our city,” Baraka said.
Baraka and New York City Mayor, Bill de Blasio, plan to meet in person later this month to discuss the lawsuit. In the meantime, De Blasio has denounced the lawsuit, calling it "a statement against working poor people."
“New York officials have not yet provided us with a list of their SOTA recipients or the addresses in which they were placed. With New York paying one year of rent up front, it left some of the SOTA recipients at the mercy of unscrupulous landlords who, once they had the money, would let the properties lapse.”
Baraka said the issue boils down to respecting the dignity of the homeless.
"We are about to introduce a comprehensive program that includes ways to more safely feed and house them, and provide more efficient mental health and social services, as well as offering substance abuse treatment,” he said.
Baraka estimated there are about 2,000 homeless people in Newark who come from all over New Jersey, New York and other states. New York City's SOTA program sent an additional 1,172 homeless families to Newark with no safety net beyond their one-year rental assistance.
The influx of homeless families could potentially double Newark's homeless population and tax resources out of the ability to serve those in need.
“We want to make sure they are not taken advantage of by unscrupulous landlords. We want to make sure we can provide them the necessary social and educational services," Baraka said. "But we can’t do that if New York does not share information on who and where they are, which is not only disrespectful to our local laws but the people they are claiming to help.”