Recently, the county conducted its annual Point in Time survey, counting those who are homeless on a particular evening. The results were reported in The Record and, several days later, an editorial in The Record urged politicians and others to address the issue of homelessness.
The problem? There was absolutely no mention of homeless families. Not one word. The entire focus was on the number of homeless adults.
For those of us deeply involved, that was not a real surprise. Families are at risk if they self-identify as homeless, fearing repercussions for their children who could be taken away from them. Of all nights in a year, the Point in Time census night is the last one where you’ll easily find homeless families.
There are organizations that assist homeless families, but there are many holes in that safety net. For example, there is no emergency shelter for families in Bergen County. While there is a Code Blue program in place for homeless adults on bitterly cold winter nights, until this winter there was nowhere for families to go – until we helped to arrange space for them. See the article in this issue about how Family Promise recently welcomed a family on a Code Blue night.
And no other organization focuses on working families as Family Promise does. We need to address these issues. And over the next months you’ll hear more about how we are doing that.
One thing we know is that this is a long-term problem requiring long-term focus and support. In that light, I want to thank a long-time friend and fellow Board member, Tom Flood. After 20+ years, Tom stepped down to spend more time with his family and on other endeavors. For all of his time, effort, care and support, we thank Tom for all he has done for Family Promise and the families over all those years. His mark will be a lasting one and an inspiration for all of us.
Paul R. Shackford
March 5, 2018