NEWARK, NJ - The city officially closed a temporary homeless shelter at 224 Sussex Ave., with plans to pay third parties to provide more beds beginning in November instead.
The shelter opened in December 2017 to house the homeless during extreme periods of cold weather, but city officials only intended for it to stay open until March 2018. Responding to public outcry when it was originally slated to close, the city found multiple ways to keep the shelter open up until now.
The people who used the Sussex Avenue shelter often do not qualify for subsidized assistance. City spokesman Frank Baraff previously explained that without a job, it’s difficult to qualify for different federal programs.
"We're not really interested in providing a shelter,” Mayor Ras Baraka said at a city hall press conference in July, where he unveiled new plans for those at the shelter. “What we are interested in doing is providing a job.”
It cost $200,000 a month to operate the shelter, city officials previously said. Instead, the city decided to pay a third party to provide beds to people who don’t qualify for welfare programs.
The city put out requests for proposals (RFP) from organizations that could provide shelter to those who do not qualify for federal assistance. Wade said that 10 applications have already been received and expects contracts to start Nov. 1.
“Funding will be used to pay for the bed nights at shelters who responded to the RFP, to ensure all homeless individuals have the opportunity to access shelter, especially during code blue and code red weather,” Wade said in a statement.
The shelter stayed open in the Central Ward until the end of August using donations from private corporate sponsors. The owner of the shelter agreed to keep its doors open for an additional two weeks at no cost to the city, officials said.
Approximately 194 residents were using the shelter during the last weekend in August, Department of Community Health and Community Wellness Director Mark Wade in a statement. While some people were relocated to other shelters or found permanent housing, about 89 people at the Sussex Avenue facility did not.
Six people at the Sussex Avenue shelter were connected with construction jobs through the Newark Housing Authority and Laborers Local 55, the city said. The program paid $22 hourly and provided NHA housing with six months of rent support.
Fourteen people at the shelter - who the city said had “severe mental health illness” - were connected to permanent supportive housing vouchers from the state Division of Consumer Affairs.