Newark Mayor Ras Baraka recently announced a $1 million program to immediately house people in need of shelter. It is the second of the mayor’s six major initiatives to increase safety and ease the financial strain of Newark residents due to COVID-19.
The city has negotiated with lodging and housing providers to secure shelter for about 300 people without permanent housing and others who may otherwise be unable to self-quarantine, such as elderly in senior housing who have tested positive and risk infecting others. The locations are throughout Newark, and staffed with on-site medical and food services. Newark has about 400 to 500 people who are chronically unsheltered or in and out of sheltering.
“This is a public health policy,” Baraka said. “We also know that some of our most vulnerable residents, residents without addresses, may not have a safe place to lay their head, so we needed to create a new intervention and new partnerships to ensure that we are all practicing social distancing so that we can flatten the curve.”
Baraka previously put the entire city on the state’s most restrictive shelter-in-place order, asking all people to stay indoors except for necessary outings, such as shopping for food and medicine, seeing a doctor, dog-walking or for a brief breath of fresh air right outside of one’s home, all while maintain six-foot social distancing from one another.
Since that order, city officials quickly secured housing for people without indoor options. The city needed immediate access to more than 200 units or rooms to house persons in need for up to 90 days and reached out to more than a dozen housing provider partners.
“Aggressive solutions, such as the mayor’s strict shelter-in-place order, will save lives,” said Mark Wade, M.D., director of the Department of Health and Community Wellness. “We need to slow the transmission of this virus. To temporarily house an otherwise homeless population keeps them and our other residents safe.”