Category Archives: Community News

Great news from the Governor’s Transition Teams on Housing!

The Mercer Alliance is supportive of the priority recommendations contained in the report. Of particular note is the recommendation to adopt Housing First­ as State policy. A policy that the Mercer Alliance and its partners have been forerunners in successfully developing and implementing in our community; and had made a key component of recommendations of the New Jersey Interagency Council on Homelessness in 2014. Included in the Housing First recommendations were suggestions to redirect Emergency Assistance policies, eliminating “compliance review” determination of individuals “causing their own homelessness, and allowing lifetime benefits. Additionally, collaboration across systems and funding streams, and prevention are recommended as priorities.

These are certainly key victories for advocates and providers, and are essential to the establishment of effective and sustainable Housing First systems.

We are reminded, however, that the Transition Team’s reports are “purely advisory”. Nonetheless, they constitute a promising approach to addressing homelessness and housing needs under Governor Murphy’s administration.

View the full ​report

US Senate bill would increase investment in affordable homes + More of Today’s News

Senate bill would increase investment in affordable housing
Philadelphia Inquirer

Due to success stories like these and so many others, competition for LIHTCs is intense. Two out of every three proposals are rejected each year, largely because of the limited resources available. But a bipartisan bill has a chance to further the program’s impact. Introduced by Sens. Maria Cantwell (D., Wash.) and Orrin Hatch (R., Utah), the Affordable Housing Credit Improvement Act of 2017 would double the amount of credits made available each year.

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Will Affordable-Housing Decision Be Derailed by Judge’s Ties to Developer
NJ Spotlight

New Jersey’s only municipality to receive its affordable-housing obligation from a judge’s order is continuing to appeal that number, even as construction is underway on the first new developments since the Supreme Court got back in the middle of the Mount Laurel housing controversy. The township is claiming the Superior Court judge was compromised by a relationship with the developer.

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Christie Signs Code Blue Standards into Law

We are thrilled to announce that this afternoon, Governor Christie signed a bill that requires county emergency management coordinators to establish a Code Blue Program to shelter the homeless during severe weather events. Congratulations to everyone who called and e-mailed, making this possible. On the new law, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Network Staci Berger issued the following statement:

“We are happy the governor has signed this bill that provides individuals out on the street with a warm place to rest during severe weather events. Homelessness is an emergency every day but when temperatures drop below freezing, it’s life or death.

“The level of services available throughout the state has varied widely, which is dangerous and unacceptable.  Statewide standards have been desperately needed to ensure the safety and well-being of our neighbors who need shelter, especially in extreme weather. We thank the co-sponsors of this bill, Assemblymen Land and Andrzejczak and Senator Van Drew, and the homelessness prevention advocates who fought to prevent anyone from being left out in the cold.”

Mercer Alliance to End Homelessness Receives Social Outreach Grant

Mercer Alliance to End Homelessness received a $1,500 Social Outreach grant from the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Princeton for the purchase of Out of State birth Certificates for individuals in Trenton/Mercer County with a history of homelessness.

Frank A. Cirillo, executive director of the Mercer Alliance to End Homelessness, said the funds would be used to support programming to ending homelessness in the Trenton/Mercer community. “The Mercer Alliance to End Homelessness is honored and excited to have been awarded a $1,500 grant from the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Princeton to help fund this much needed service.

The Mercer Alliance to End Homelessness developed the concept of an ID project as part of its planning for the Coordinated Entry and Assessment System (CEASe). This was done with its system partners; the County of Mercer Department of Human Services, the City of Trenton, Department of Health and Human Services and the Mercer County Board of Social Services. The CEASe system was developed to provide a systemic approach to serving the needs of the single homeless population in the Trenton/Mercer community. The goal of the system is to move individuals to housing as quickly as possible; thus ending their homelessness.

The ID project is based on the knowledge that many individuals have lost their identification while they have been homeless. These include birth certificates and social security cards. These documents are essential for any housing search whether the individual pursues housing on their own or is assisted by case managers. All applications for housing vouchers, whether Federal or State, require ID. All subsidized housing, Senior Housing and Housing Authority applications require ID.

The Mercer Alliance developed the process for obtaining local, State and Out of State ID’s. The Alliance used consultants (formerly homeless individuals) to implement this process.

Founded in 2004, the Mercer Alliance to End Homelessness is a public-private partnership of the county’s business, government and the non-profit sectors. Its mission is to develop and implement strategies and systems to end homelessness in Mercer County through permanent housing. 

Utilizing Housing First policy, the Mercer Alliance has developed systems that have become State and national models for ending homelessness for families, singles, and veterans; particularly those experiencing chronic homelessness. As a result of these initiatives singles homelessness in the Trenton/Mercer area has been reduced by 62% compared to the State average of 43% and the national average of 31%, and ended veterans’ homelessness in 2015. Family homelessness has been reduced by 79% compared to the state average of 58% and the national average of 18%.

As impressive as these accomplishments are, there is still a great deal of work to do to prevent homelessness, and to ensure that individuals and families experiencing homelessness are rapidly rehoused and can access the necessary resources and services to succeed.  Our census data indicates there were still 201 homeless families and 1443 homeless individuals in the Trenton/Mercer area in 2016.

The Mercer Alliance is extremely grateful that the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Princeton has recognized the value of supporting its ID initiative through the generosity of their grant funding.

Sharing the Center on Budget Housing Policy News

2017 Funding

In a new blog, Doug Rice explains that a recent HUD letter indicates that PHAs will likely have to eliminate vouchers for 55,000 low-income families, seniors, and people with disabilities if policymakers renew Housing Choice Vouchers for the rest of fiscal year 2017 at the average funding level that the House and Senate appropriations committees approved last summer. Even worse, 135,000 vouchers will disappear if policymakers extend the current freeze on voucher funds for the rest of the year.

Whether Congress includes an increase in 2017 voucher renewal funds probably won’t be clear until the week of April 24, when policymakers return from a two-week recess to wrap up the final 2017 funding bill. 

Separately, the Trump Administration has requested that Congress cut $18 billion from non-defense domestic programs in 2017, relative to the agreed-upon spending level established by the Budget Control Act. The proposed cuts include $1.7 billion in reductions to HUD programs (primarily Community Development Block Grants).  The Administration has proposed these cuts to partly offset its requests for $3 billion in additional funds for immigration actions (including a Mexican border wall) and a $25 billion increase in defense funding for 2017.  Both Democrats and Republicans have criticized the proposed cuts, and early indications are that they are likely to ignore them in finalizing 2017 appropriations.

2018 Funding

In a new analysis, CBPP’s Isaac Shapiro and other Budget team colleagues find that “President Trump’s “skinny” budget would eliminate four discretionary block grants that mainly serve low-income people [including CDBG and HOME], and set the stage for substantial cuts to others. As a result, it would reduce overall funding for block grants for low- and moderate-income people that are “discretionary” (or annually appropriated) programs by half or more just between 2017 and 2018.”  Even if Congress declines to go along with these proposed cuts, they underscore the danger of block-granting social programs, as policymakers may again propose for Medicaid and possibly for SNAP.
Vouchers Work
Starting today, we’re explaining the value and effectiveness of Housing Choice Vouchers in our “Vouchers Work” blog series.  In twice-weekly posts over seven weeks,  we’ll provide the latest facts and figures about the Housing Choice Voucher program, the largest rental assistance program to help families with children, working people, seniors, and people with disabilities afford decent, stable housing.
Today’s blog provides an overview of the HCV program and who it serves, including updated demographic data for 2016.  In subsequent posts, we’ll dig more into what the voucher program accomplishes.  The series will be available on a new Vouchers Work page soon.

Sharing the Housing and Community Network of New Jersey’s March 29th Issues

NJ Spotlight, NJTV to Host Two Gubernatorial Primary Debates
NJ Spotlight
NJ Spotlight, in partnership with NJTV Public Television, has been chosen to co-host two of the New Jersey gubernatorial primary debates this spring. The New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission yesterday picked the partnership to host two debates, one for the Democratic candidates and one for the Republican candidates.

Summit Planning Board Unanimously Endorses Fair Share Housing Ordinance Amended to Address Resident Objections Regarding DeForest Ave. ‘Overlay Zone’
The Summit Planning Board has endorsed an ordinance to comply with the City’s recent agreement on affordable housing, but that ordinance has been amended, apparently to assure that objections of residents of the area of 25 DeForest Avenue are overcome. When the Planning Board decided to go along with the agreement on affordable housing between the City and the Fair Share Housing Center in January, one of the linchpins to that agreement with the creation of “overlay zones” — eight areas of the City that could allow for affordable housing.

Plainsboro Planning Board approves 100-unit affordable housing project
While many New Jersey towns are struggling to determine the amount of affordable housing they need to provide, Plainsboro has taken the next step towards getting affordable units actually built. Last December, the town cut a deal with Community Investment Strategies, a for-profit builder based in Lawrence Township, to help meet Plainsboro’s latest fair share obligation. The township planning board approved the The Place at Plainsboro at its meeting on March 20.

Parsippany meeting an education in affordable housing
The Record
Parsippany’s biggest challenge is affordable housing, Mayor James Barberio told a group of residents at a recent meeting. The mayor said because there has been much discussion about affordable housing within the community he held the meeting to clear the air and educate residents on the issues…One resident asked about the impact of new residents to the township and Inglesino said “you can’t use an influx of school children as a basis to deny your affordable housing obligation.”

These Nonprofits Say Trump’s Budget Could Hurt the Fight for Homeless Veterans
The push to end homelessness among veterans would suffer without the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness, which is up for elimination under President Donald Trump’s proposed budget, nonprofits and local officials say….Adding to the ire and confusion, the budget proposal also says the Trump administration will support Department of Veterans Affairs programs for homeless and at-risk veterans and their families, but doesn’t elaborate. Trump, who promised on the campaign trail to support veterans, wants to give the VA a 6% increase. Still, the federal government needs someone to make sure housing resources are well spent, and to look across agencies for solutions instead of just down at their own, advocates say.

President Trump’s First Budget and Build a Thriving NJ

Mercer Alliance to End Homelessness is sharing information from Monarch Housing that relates to the federal budget for housing and related services.

President Trump’s First Budget Could Cripple Affordable Housing

View the PowerPoint slides

View the webinar video

Build a Thriving NJ campaign

If we build homes we can afford, and revitalize the communities where we work and live, we can Build a Thriving New Jersey. Our families, friends and neighbors are the heart of our state and the backbone of our economy. If we can’t afford to live here, we cannot get our economy back on track.

The next leaders of NJ must commit $600 million annually to create homes we can afford. For a one-pager on the campaign with details of how the $600 million will be used visit this link.

If you have not endorsed the campaign, we strongly encourage you to visit this link and do it today!!

We need resources on the state and federal level if we are going to end homelessness and housing poverty in NJ!

#NJCounts 2017 Reaches Out to Homeless Families, Individuals, Youth and Veterans

NJCounts 2017

On January 25th, 2017  homeless service providers and volunteers conducted a count of homeless individuals and families in Mercer County as part of the #NJCounts 2017. This count provides a snapshot of the scope of homelessness in our community and across the nation and is vital to assessing need and leveraging resources to prevent and end homelessness.   Click here​ to read the full article. 


The Mercer Alliance to End Homelessness applauds the work of the Fair Share Housing Center and their allies and the New Jersey Supreme Court decision in support of affordable housing obligations for the “gap period”  between 1999 and 2015.

This decision is a significant step forward in creating fair and balanced housing for tens of thousands of New Jersey families and people with disabilities, and a commitment to fight discriminatory interpretation of the Mount Laurel decision.

Moving forward, much work will need to be done to determine realistic solutions in implementing this decision, to ensure that its intent and spirit is not derailed by a continuing series of legal challenges and tangled bureaucracy. – Frank Cirillo