Ocean County Commissioners Create Task Force To Implement Homelessness Trust Fund

A task force to oversee and implement the Ocean County Homelessness Trust Fund was recently created by the Ocean County Board of Commissioners.

“This is a critical step in our creation of a Homelessness Trust Fund which was implemented Sept. 1, 2023,” said Director of the Ocean County Board of Commissioners Barbara Jo Crea, liaison to the Homelessness Trust Fund. “This Task Force brings together representatives from our communities, the County and non-profits that will work together to implement the best options for the funds that are being collected.

“These individuals will help to advance our efforts to help the needy and vulnerable in Ocean County that may not fit into the federal and state requirements of programs already available through social service agencies.” she said.

The initial appointments approved April 3 making up the inaugural task force include Crea and Maria LaFace, Director of the Ocean County Office of Senior Services.

In addition, the business administrators of Brick, Lakewood and Toms River townships were named to the panel representing those municipalities with the highest homeless populations, based on the results of the annual Point-In-Time Count, and Community Development Block Grant Entitlement Communities.

While the County is required to have three representatives from local private or non-profit organizations with experience in assisting the homeless or providing low income housing, the Board has expanded that representation to five including Mark Harding from Soldier On; Steve Heisman from Habcore; Glen McDonald from Homes for All; Elizabeth Golla from Family Promise, and Kim Santora from Toms River Housing and Homeless Coalition and Contact of Ocean County.

Ocean County Department of Human Services Director Tracy Maksel was also appointed a member to represent the organization responsible for developing the local plan to address homelessness.

“All of these individuals bring a great deal of expertise and compassion to the table,” Crea said. “They will look at the issues faced by our seniors, veterans, families, and individuals struggling with homelessness and together we will make the best decisions on how to fund programs that will provide the most help.”

Crea noted that the Task Force will also include three individuals that have experienced homelessness.

“These three representatives will help greatly in our efforts to help us bolster programs for the underprivileged,” Crea said.

The Task Force is responsible for a number of duties associated with implementing the Trust Fund including identifying funding priorities through community focused planning activities, measuring progress, working with stakeholders and community members; and providing input in the development of initial funding solicitations.

“Last year, with the support of the Board of Commissioners, we created a homelessness trust fund in Ocean County,” Crea said.

Under the Homelessness Trust Fund, a $5 surcharge is now applied to most recorded instruments with the Ocean County Clerk’s Office for deposit into the Trust Fund. The money stays in Ocean County to support ongoing programs.

“To date, the fund has raised $91,056,” Crea said. “Based on the number of documents recorded over the last three years, the fund could raise anywhere from $275,000 to $390,000 annually. The funds raised will be used to support ongoing homelessness and housing instability programs along with the Code Blue program.”

Crea noted as per the trust guidelines provided by the state, the funds cannot be used by the County to build a homeless shelter.

“However, the funds will help in many other areas including supportive services, prevention services, and also better engagement with homeless individuals seeking shelter during Code Blue to determine their needs and provide them with the services that can help them,” she said.

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