NEWARK, NJ - A commission was reestablished this week that will review and make recommendations to the city about how resources should be spent to help the homeless.
The Newark Commission on Homelessness was approved unanimously by city council Thursday. There will be 15 to 30 members on the commission who will be unpaid and appointed by the mayor with the approval of city council.
“The membership would include folks from of course within the community and does include folks who may have been homeless in the past as well,” Corporation Counsel Kenyatta Stewart said at the council meeting. “We thought that was important. I don't think that it's a good idea to speak to an issue unless you get people who were once in that circumstance in the past.”
A similar city commission was created about a decade ago. It was meant to address medical issues for the city’s homeless, but morphed into the board for the Mary Eliza Mahoney Health Center on University Avenue, Mark Wade Health and Community Wellness Community Director explained.
The facility on University Avenue is a federally qualified health care center that provides primary care to people who are uninsured, underinsured, undocumented or unable to pay.
“So it grew and changed into not just services for homeless persons, but services for an expanded (group),” Wade said in a previous sit-down interview.
Plans for the commission were first introduced in July, when the city was preparing to phase out a temporary homeless shelter on Sussex Avenue. Multiple city programs were offered to those at the shelter to help them get a job so they could qualify for subsidized housing.
The commission's goal is to help homeless people transition to independent living and self-sufficiency, the ordinance reads. It will make recommendations on how to fund programs and define policy and plans for the city.
The commission will also advocate for state and federal policies that affect the homeless in Newark. It will also assess the annual point-in-time count to identify changing needs in the homeless population.
Labor organizations, religious groups and fraternal or benevolent organizations will be considered by the commission.
Members will include people from the public and private sector and will generally serve for two consecutive three-year terms. A former member could reapply for appointment after two years have passed.