Pinkin & Vainieri Huttle Bill to Create Work-for-Housing Pilot Program for Residents with Special Needs Advanced by Assembly Panel

(TRENTON) – Legislation sponsored by Nancy Pinkin and Valerie Vainieri Huttle to establish the Special Needs Work-for-Housing Pilot Program in the Department of Human Services was recently approved by the Assembly Human Services Committee.

The sponsors said the intent of the legislation is to help many individuals with special needs to obtain adequate housing accommodations for themselves and their families. The sponsors note it will also help to fill a gap in the housing continuum for those individuals with special needs who are in need of shelter, social services, medical services, and meaningful work activities, including alternative work experiences.

“It is my hope that this bill will provide a chance for us to help those who may be down on their luck to have an opportunity to both reside in a place where their individualized special needs may be taken care of and they would be able to develop skills for gaining and retaining long term employment,” said Pinkin (D-Middlesex). “But before we can achieve that, we do need to provide residents with a stable home so that they can over time develop these skills.”

The bill (A-3651) established a pilot program to license at least five project sponsors through the state to participate in a program to provide residential accommodation, including supportive services, for individuals with special needs, and including a component requiring the individual with special needs to perform, at least 40 hours per month, a work activity or alternative work experience in exchange for their housing voucher. Individuals or households displaced by natural disaster, such as Superstorm Sandy, also would qualify as individuals with special needs.

“Let’s see if it is possible to build a program on our own that will help provide housing to residents in times of need, whether its because of a storm or life-changing situations, such as homelessness,” said Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen). “This legislation gives us the opportunity to explore the idea and to potentially help more residents who are in a bind and in need of a temporary place to live due to special circumstances.”

Under the bill’s provisions, the individuals with specials needs that would be served by the pilot program are individuals with mental illness, physical or developmental disabilities, victims of domestic violence, ex-offenders, youth aging out of foster care, disabled and qualified homeless veterans, individuals and households who are qualified homeless, individuals and households who are displaced by a natural disaster resulting in a state of emergency declared by the President of the United States or the Governor of the State of New Jersey, individuals with AIDS/HIV, and individuals in other emerging special needs groups identified by State agencies.

The bill was approved by the Assembly panel on Thursday, October 9.