East Orange takes proactive steps to fight homelessness in city

Photo by Joe Ungaro
Mayor Ted R. Green announces the formation of the city’s Homeless Prevention and Response Team from the steps of city hall.

EAST ORANGE — A Homeless Prevention and Response team has been created by the city to help people in danger of losing their homes and those who are already homeless.

Mayor Ted R. Green on Thursday introduced an expansion of his Mayor’s Homeless Initiative, which was created in 2020 to address the issue of chronic homelessness in the City of East Orange.

The expansion, which is under the Department of Health and Human Services, aims to provide assistance to individuals and families who are at imminent risk of homelessness due to an eviction summons, those already living on the streets or in emergency shelters.

It also aims to help those who have experienced domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, stalking, or any other dangerous or life-threatening condition that relates to violence against them or their family members.

“We believe that every member of our community deserves to live in safe, quality housing,” Green said. “Our emphasis this year is to strengthen our resources and cross-collaborative partnerships to help any individuals or families who are homeless or at risk of homelessness immediately get on a path toward self-sufficiency and stability.”

The Homeless Prevention and Response Team is: Keyron Blakely, manager; Lakina L. Rollins, social case worker supervisor; Bayina Ogburn, psychiatric social worker; and Keless Murray, social service assistant. The team plans on holding a public meeting on the third Tuesday of every month.

This unit falls under the leadership of Director Horace Henry of the Department of Health and Human Services. The team was selected based on expertise and experience in the field.

“It’s about improving the lives of everyone in the community,” Green said. “Today is a start.”

Henry said all people have basic needs, including food, clothing and shelter and the city of East Orange wants to help its residents.

“To see that every resident of our beloved city achieves the quality of life they deserve,” Henry said.

Blakely said one of the targets of the new program is people in imminent danger of losing their homes plus those already on the street and those who are homeless as a result of domestic violence.

“The team will help them find permanent housing,” Blakely said.

The initiative also aims to help people find jobs, transportation and food.

“A social network that will support families and help them gain self sufficiency,” Blakely said. “We urge all community members to help us make homelessness a thing of the past in East Orange.”

Second Ward Councilman Christopher Awe praised the mayor for “rolling up his sleeves and committing to getting the work done.”

“We will not be satisfied until we have eradicated homelessness in East Orange,” Awe said.

Second Ward Councilman Sammed R. Monk said people often end up homeless because they find themselves in a situation they never expected.

“If you go to the train station and see a homeless person, it should be hard to look at them,” Monk said. “Support this team and support your neighbors.”

Anyone facing homelessness and in need of help from the city, can call the Health Department at 973-266-5480.