[Hpn] City backs study of more help for homeless

chance martin streetsheet@sf-homeless-coalition.org
Wed, 20 Jun 2001 15:58:52 -0700


The Bergen County Record
Wednesday, June 20, 2001

City backs study of more help for homeless

Staff Writer

Homeless people could someday be able to eat, sleep, shower, and get
counseling all under the same roof in Hackensack.

The Bergen County Community Action Program, a private non-profit agency that
provides services to the needy, is developing a plan to provide these
services at an expanded shelter at East Kansas and River streets, near
Costco and the county government complex.

And Hackensack officials, long at odds with county officials and advocates
on how to serve the city's ever-increasing homeless population, say they're
willing to listen.

During its meeting Monday night, the Hackensack City Council endorsed CAP's
application for a $35,000 county grant to pay for a feasibility study.

"We're not necessarily committing to it at this point," said Richard Salkin,
the city attorney. "But it seems like an idea worth pursuing."

Robert Halsch, executive director of Bergen CAP, said his organization wants
to consolidate services that help 200 to 300 homeless people nightly in
Hackensack, the Bergen County seat.

Hackensack also is home to various county and non-profit agencies that
provide services to the homeless, but advocates say those programs are close
to being exhausted.

One of the city's largest shelters is Bergen CAP's busy 38-bed building on
East Kansas Street, which the new, possibly larger shelter could replace.
Another is Peter's Place, a privately run, 25-bed shelter at Christ
Episcopal Church on State Street, which isn't open during the summer.

Earlier this year, the city opposed Bergen CAP's plans to launch a hot-meal
program and offer showers and food-pantry items to the homeless at a smaller
center on Orchard Street. Bergen CAP already provides counseling services

Halsch said the East Kansas Street location would be better for those
services because, unlike Orchard Street, it's not near a large residential
neighborhood or a school.

"We're looking at options that will meet the needs of the city, the needs of
the county, and the homeless," Halsch said.

Halsch said he couldn't offer specifics because the concept is very new.
He'll know more, he said, after his organization completes the feasibility

Thom Ammirato, a spokesman for County Executive William "Pat" Schuber, was
pleased to hear that the city is pursuing the idea.

Ammirato said his office was disappointed when Hackensack and county
officials broke off talks a year ago on plans to open a shelter that would
provide beds, meals, showers, and treatment for the mentally ill or drug

"Anything to get us out of the logjam, he [Schuber] would support," Ammirato

Not everyone involved in homeless issues is excited about the idea. Paul
Burns, head of Salt of the Earth, a countywide ministry and outreach group
for the homeless, said he has heard such talk before. Every time, he has
been disappointed.

He's upset that a 54-year-old homeless man, Eugene Green, died on Main
Street last month. If the city, county, and Bergen CAP offered more
services, Burns believes Green could have been saved.

"They've haggled with [this issue] for so long, I don't think it's anything
substantive, and it's costing people their lives," Burns said.


Staff Writer Tom Davis' e-mail address is davist@northjersey.com

Copyright  2001 North Jersey Media Group Inc.

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