Township to Address Homelessness With Eye on Purchasing Former S.S. Building
Montclair will offer financing and funds to assist nonprofit organizations in town.
Montclair is taking a shared-vision approach to assisting the homeless within its borders as it looks to acquire the former Social Security Administration Building on Bloomfield Avenue.
Funding for the township’s numerous homeless organizations is expected to be maintained in the future by the township, according to a resolution passed by the council on Tuesday.
The township will seek to assist these organizations — such as the Salvation Army, Montclair Emergency Services for the Homeless and houses of worship — through state and federal programs and rent abatement, but also from its own coffers.
The council put up about $12,000 to fund respite care for the homeless through 2013, and pledged to make up the losses in future funding from federal and state sources for homeless organizations.
Local organizations received more than $300,000 from the federal Community Development Block Grant program this year. However, these and other federal funding sources have recently come under fire as the deep spending cuts known as sequestration went into effect recently.
Montclair also pledged to committee annual financing between $100,000 and $125,000 for homeless organizations, assist in locating office space, and emergency cooling and heating centers.
There are between eight and 18 homeless people in Montclair that require shelter on a regular basis, according to local nonprofits.
The resolution is nonbinding but rather a recommendation, and allows the township manager to work with local nonprofits to pursue financing, and state and federal grants.
These measures will be maintained until the township can put in place more permanent revenue streams, such as using taxes from developments in Montclair's downtown, said township attorney Ira Karasick.
"The hope is that we can develop a funding stream from [developments] ... two or three years down the road which could then provide ... permanent funding for these homeless organizations," said Karasick.
Mayor Robert Jackson was in support of the partnership, and said the township came to this approach after speaking with many organizations that provide homeless care in Montclair.
"I believe it is a moral obligation [to help the homeless]," said Jackson. He added the funding and financing put up by Montcliar is a "fairly serious commitment on the part the township."
Councilor Renne Baskerville was the only member on the council to vote against the resolution, arguing future financing and monies will depend not on a binding agreement but the capriciousness of future councils.
The best course, said Baskerville, would be helping homeless organizations purchase the former Social Security Administration Building on Bloomfield Avenue where they can provide a permanent shelter for those in need.
"There might be an opportunity for us to really set a model for the state on how to provide the best services we can for ... individuals in need," said Baskerville. "If we really want to committee to this, we will help make this [former Social Security] building theirs.
"This continues to be a piecemeal approach."
An Eye on the Former Social Security Building
This resolution, which is non-binding but what Karasick called “morally binding,” comes as Montclair leans toward purchasing the former Social Security building, located at 396 Bloomfield Ave.
The council voted in early February on a resolution announcing the township is interested in acquiring the property, which has sat unused since it was shuttered in March 2012. The federal building was determined to be “surplus” property by the federal government.
The property is located in the heart of Montclair's business district. The stand-alone building with more than 20 parking spaces is across the street from a row of businesses and restaurants, and around the block from the Wellmont Theatre.