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Advocates for homeless fear new Hackensack site too remote=20
Thursday, April 27, 2000=20









By PAUL ROGERS
Staff Writer=20


When the homeless in Hackensack have needed a place to bathe, escape the =
cold, or seek counseling, they've turned for years to a red-brick corner =
building on State Street.=20

Though cramped and run-down, the so-called drop-in center run by the =
Bergen County Community Action Program has offered an easily accessible =
refuge. Centrally located at 214 State St., the center is only two =
blocks from an overnight shelter, and is a short walk from the public =
library and a soup kitchen at the Salvation Army.=20

But next week, Bergen CAP will move the center to Orchard Street, off an =
industrial alley on the outskirts of town. The new building, a former =
health club, will be larger and better equipped than the current one, =
agency officials said, and a daily van service will shuttle people to =
the site.=20

Homeless advocates, however, said the new location, more than a mile =
from the heart of town, could create a hardship for the homeless. =
Because of poor footwear or disabilities, many will have trouble walking =
there or following a rigid shuttle schedule, said Paul Burns, who runs a =
Bogota-based ministry for the homeless.=20

Some homeless people themselves voiced the same concerns, despite the =
promise of more space and better showers and lockers at the new drop-in =
center.=20

"It sounds very good, but they're going to be hurting a lot of people =
doing it, because it's so far away," said Warren Gundling, 46, who has =
been homeless on and off for years. Even though he's now staying at a =
rooming house, he visits the drop-in center often, to use the phone and =
pick up his mail and donated food.=20

On a typical day, the drop-in center serves about 150 people.=20

Ideally, Bergen CAP officials said, the agency would have moved its =
drop-in center into a planned 24-hour homeless shelter and social =
service center in Hackensack.=20

Conceived of more than three years ago as a way to centralize the city's =
homeless services under a single roof, the shelter plan has all but =
died, a casualty of a political impasse between the city and the county. =
After disputes about where the shelter would be located, the most recent =
talks broke down over the City Council's refusal to approve the project =
unless the county promised to return several of the buildings it owns in =
Hackensack to the tax rolls.=20

Bergen CAP officials said they had expected the shelter to be open by =
now and held off moving the drop-in center as long as they could.=20

"We've got to meet our specific set of needs," said Allan De Giulio, the =
agency's deputy executive director. "We can't wait any longer."=20

Proponents of the 24-hour shelter plan say it would meet all of the =
homeless's needs -- from job training to drug counseling to a warm place =
to sleep -- without forcing them to shuttle among a patchwork of =
agencies in Hackensack and other towns, as they do now.=20

Burns said that in a county as prosperous as Bergen it is unforgivable =
that the round-the-clock shelter proposal has been derailed by a =
political stalemate.=20

"No one in this community cares a lick about where these guys go," he =
said. "There's been no response. There's been no public outcry. There's =
been no attempts at pressuring mediation. There's been more talk about =
baseball stadiums in Leonia or E-ZPass on the highways."=20

Short of a 24-hour homeless center, Bergen CAP officials said the new =
drop-in center at 67 Orchard St. is the best solution.=20

For example, the building has four showers, compared with one at the old =
State Street site. It also has several exercise machines left over from =
its former days as a health club. The center will also include a =
spacious pantry for the Center for Food Action, which collected and =
handed out donated foods in a cramped room at the old Bergen CAP =
building.=20

And at least one homeless person, Christopher Smith, 28, said he =
welcomed the move to larger quarters.=20

"I haven't seen the new place, but hopefully it's better than this," =
Smith said as he stood in a closet-like storage room at 214 State St. =
and packed two wool blankets, a bare pillow, and some toiletries into a =
garbage bag that he would lug to a shelter Tuesday night.=20

As far as having to travel out of his way to Orchard Street, he said: =
"I've walked from Ramsey to Hackensack, so walking down the street a =
mile isn't going to be too bad."=20



Copyright =A9 2000 Bergen Record Corp.=20


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Advocates for homeless fear new Hackensack site too remote

Thursday, April 27, 2000=20

By PAUL ROGERS
Staff Writer=20

When the homeless in Hackensack have needed a place to bathe, = escape=20 the cold, or seek counseling, they've turned for years to a red-brick = corner=20 building on State Street.=20

Though cramped and run-down, the so-called drop-in center run = by the=20 Bergen County Community Action Program has offered an easily accessible = refuge.=20 Centrally located at 214 State St., the center is only two blocks from = an=20 overnight shelter, and is a short walk from the public library = and a=20 soup kitchen at the Salvation Army.=20

But next week, Bergen CAP will move the center to Orchard Street, off = an=20 industrial alley on the outskirts of town. The new building, a former = health=20 club, will be larger and better equipped than the current one, agency=20 officials said, and a daily van service will shuttle people to = the site.=20

Homeless advocates, however, said the new location, more than a mile = from the=20 heart of town, could create a hardship for the homeless. Because of poor = footwear or disabilities, many will have trouble walking there or = following a=20 rigid shuttle schedule, said Paul Burns, who runs a Bogota-based = ministry for=20 the homeless.=20

Some homeless people themselves voiced the same concerns, despite the = promise=20 of more space and better showers and lockers at the new = drop-in=20 center.=20

"It sounds very good, but they're going to be hurting a lot of = people=20 doing it, because it's so far away," said Warren Gundling, 46, who = has been=20 homeless on and off for years. Even though he's now staying at a rooming = house,=20 he visits the drop-in center often, to use the phone and pick up his = mail and=20 donated food.=20

On a typical day, the drop-in center serves about 150 people.=20

Ideally, Bergen CAP officials said, the agency would have moved = its=20 drop-in center into a planned 24-hour homeless shelter and social = service center=20 in Hackensack.=20

Conceived of more than three years ago as a way to centralize the = city's=20 homeless services under a single roof, the shelter plan has all but = died, a=20 casualty of a political impasse between the city and the county. After = disputes=20 about where the shelter would be located, the most recent talks = broke=20 down over the City Council's refusal to approve the project unless the = county=20 promised to return several of the buildings it owns in Hackensack to the = tax=20 rolls.=20

Bergen CAP officials said they had expected the shelter to be open by = now and=20 held off moving the drop-in center as long as they could.=20

"We've got to meet our specific set of needs," said Allan = De=20 Giulio, the agency's deputy executive director. "We can't wait any=20 longer."=20

Proponents of the 24-hour shelter plan say it would meet all of = the=20 homeless's needs -- from job training to drug counseling to a warm place = to=20 sleep -- without forcing them to shuttle among a patchwork of = agencies=20 in Hackensack and other towns, as they do now.=20

Burns said that in a county as prosperous as Bergen it is=20 unforgivable that the round-the-clock shelter proposal has been derailed = by a=20 political stalemate.=20

"No one in this community cares a lick about where these guys = go,"=20 he said. "There's been no response. There's been no public outcry. = There's=20 been no attempts at pressuring mediation. There's been more talk about = baseball=20 stadiums in Leonia or E-ZPass on the highways."=20

Short of a 24-hour homeless center, Bergen CAP officials said the new = drop-in=20 center at 67 Orchard St. is the best solution.=20

For example, the building has four showers, compared with one at the = old=20 State Street site. It also has several exercise machines left over from = its=20 former days as a health club. The center will also include a spacious = pantry for=20 the Center for Food Action, which collected and handed out donated foods = in a=20 cramped room at the old Bergen CAP building.=20

And at least one homeless person, Christopher Smith, 28, said he = welcomed the=20 move to larger quarters.=20

"I haven't seen the new place, but hopefully it's better than=20 this," Smith said as he stood in a closet-like storage room at 214 = State=20 St. and packed two wool blankets, a bare pillow, and some toiletries = into a=20 garbage bag that he would lug to a shelter Tuesday night.=20

As far as having to travel out of his way to Orchard Street, he said: = "I've walked from Ramsey to Hackensack, so walking down the street = a mile=20 isn't going to be too bad."=20

Copyright © 2000 = Bergen=20 Record Corp.
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