Bill Is Inspired by Recent Incident in Palisades Park that Forced Church to Close its Doors
Assemblyman Tim Eustace introduced legislation on Thursday to help the homeless weather the cold winter months by allowing churches to use their facilities as temporary shelters, a move that was inspired by a recent incident in Palisades Park where city officials ordered a church to stop allowing homeless residents to sleep in the basement during frigid weather.
“Religious organizations have a long history of providing assistance to individuals in need,” said Eustace (D-Bergen/Passaic). “To deny them the opportunity to help the homeless during the extreme cold goes against everything they stand for and everything we should stand for as a compassionate and civilized society. During the cold weather they should be allowed to open their doors to those who are less fortunate if they have adequate facilities, especially if there are no other alternatives available in town.”
Specifically, the bill would allow religious organization to use their facilities as emergency homeless shelters in cold weather, notwithstanding zoning ordinances.
The bill would also provide immunity to religious organizations and their clergy, employees, and volunteers whenever shelter is taken at a religious organization’s facilities while used as an emergency shelter, except for intentional or willful and wanton misconduct.