Legislation Assembly Democrats Raj Mukherji, Pamela Lampitt, Tim Eustace, Joseph Lagana, Gordon Johnson and Joann Downey sponsored to help homeless veterans in New Jersey secure housing gained approval from the General Assembly on Thursday.
“With thousands of veterans among New Jersey’s homeless population, this legislation will set aside vouchers and catalyze the construction of new affordable housing units to ensure that those who served our country in uniform are not abandoned when they need our support,” said Mukherji (D-Hudson), a former Sergeant in the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve who served in military intelligence. “There is no excuse for us not to deploy every tool at our disposal to combat veteran homelessness, and this bill is part of a multi-faceted effort to do just that.”
The bill (A-2098) would establish the “Veterans Affordable Housing Section 8 Voucher Pilot Program.” Under the legislation, the commissioner of the Department of Community Affairs would establish and operate a pilot program under the federal Section 8 Housing Voucher Program for veterans and their families in need of housing.
The measure would require the DCA commissioner to allocate at least 1.5 percent of the unencumbered amount of budget authority the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development provides to New Jersey’s Section 8 program to the pilot program annually for five years.
“The fortitude of our military relies, in part, upon how we demonstrate reverence for those who serve,” said Lampitt (D-Camden/Burlington). “Reserving housing vouchers for veterans is one way to show our support for them and their families.”
“Thousands of men and women served in this nation’s military then came home to no home,” said Eustace (D-Bergen/Passaic). “This legislation takes resources already available to the state and employs them in a manner that will help get veterans into housing and off the street.”
“The very least New Jersey can do for veterans is ensure that they have adequate housing,” said Lagana (D-Bergen/Passaic). “Those who were willing to give their lives for this nation should never feel helpless when it comes to one of their most basic needs.”
“The transition back to civilian life is difficult for many veterans, and being without a home makes it even harder,” said Johnson (D-Bergen), who served in the U.S. Army Reserve for 30 years, including two combat tours. “Getting veterans off the street and back on their feet must be a priority in New Jersey.”
“Veterans should never feel they have nowhere to turn when it comes to meeting one of their most fundamental needs,” said Downey (D-Monmouth). “This bill will move New Jersey closer to putting a roof over the head of every man and woman who has served this nation.”
New Jersey has among its homeless population an estimated 7,000 to 8,000 veterans, according to the New Jersey Department of Military and Veterans’ Affairs.
The measure passed the Assembly unanimously. It now awaits further consideration by the Senate.