NEWARK, NJ - The temporary shelter that periodically closed amid public outcry will remain open for another month while city officials gear up for a year-round homeless sheltering plan.
The 224 Sussex Ave. shelter opened in December to house the homeless during extreme periods of cold weather and was only supposed to remain open until March. The city found funds for the shelter to stay open until about July, when it closed for about a week until private donors stepped in.
"We're not really interested in providing a shelter,” Mayor Ras Baraka said today at a city hall press conference unveiling the new plans. “What we are interested in doing is providing a job.”
United Airlines, PSEG, Prudential/NJ Devils, RWJBarnabas Health and University Hospital funded the shelter sot it can remain open until the end of August, the city announced today.
Now, the city will accept proposals from other organizations that can provide year-round sheltering to the homeless who may have used the Sussex Avenue shelter. The city hopes to utilize a network of about 30 independently-operated shelters in Newark.
Bids for the city's proposal will be in by Aug. 21, said Newark Health and Community Wellness Director Mark Wade.
City officials did not have an estimate for how much the plan would cost the city after bids were approved. The mayor said the lowest bidder that meets the city’s requirements will be selected.
The city owned the property for the Sussex Avenue shelter and subcontracted to a private organization to operate it when the facility first opened, officials said. It cost $200,000 a month to operate the shelter.
About 238 people used the shelter at least once in the month July, the mayor said. Since December, about 336 people used the facility.
Additional plans for the homeless were also unveiled at city hall today. The main focus of the city is to help those in the Sussex Avenue shelter gain access to jobs. Without income, it’s difficult to qualify for housing programs.
“We just want to make sure there's no stone unturned in terms of the possibility for providing housing for those who finds themselves homeless,” Wade said at the press conference.
The Newark Housing authority has 25 job opportunities at up $22 an hour for those who are willing to work construction and can pass a drug test.
The Newark Workforce Development team also presented job opportunities to 36 residents at the Sussex Avenue shelter on July 18. Twelve people at the shelter were offered jobs as a result, the city said.
There were 23 residents at the shelter who participated in the city's 100 Day Clean Up Program. From having those jobs, 15 were able to find permanent housing and leave the shelter, the city said.
Multiple county and city agencies are helping those who are both chronically homeless with severe mental illness gain access to supportive permanent housing, too.