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Bergen County Ended Chronic Homelessness, So Can Every Other Community


Bergen County Ended Chronic Homelessness, So Can Every Other Community

James Abro

When I signed up to attend a symposium on Ending Homelessness in Newark, New Jersey on November 25th of this year the best I was expecting to hear was a much needed morale boosting pep rally for those of us who have experienced homelessness and are working on the front lines of this seemingly intractable situation.



For suggestion #1, my county at least has the health dept and social services at the same location and the bulk of public housing is in the same neighborhood but the unemployment office is elsewhere.

For suggestion #3, we had a speaker who runs a local faith-based non-profit speak to us at the health dept who started his speech with “gov’t can’t be depended on and can’t run things” and kept saying it. That sort of attitude doesn’t help. Here he was saying to us in the gov’t health dept, that we can’t do anything right. I found that insulting and very very untrue. There’s some fake news for you.


A sad fact is that if homelessness were to magically end tomorrow, a lot of MSWs would be magically out of work. “Kicking the can down the road” is a most apt phrase in this instance.

With that said, as a founding member of my county’s coalition for the homeless, this article resonates as truth born of experience, especially this item:

" 2) Adopt the Housing First Model; Change the focus from fixing people to finding them housing." Homelessness is a symptom of a failed system, NOT of a failed person.

We also looked into creating community land trusts, which could buy up residential properties and house people without depending on the kindness of slumlords, motel chains or Section 8 vouchers. Unfortunately, the county government was then, and is still, largely in the hands of bourgeois, racist old white males steeped in the “Welfare Queen” mythology. Between them and the IRS’s reluctance to issue 501c3 tax exemptions, a great idea was stillborn.


Abro’s and your frustrations also remind me (who just finally broke ties to Bergen County and spent numerous nights volunteering in its shelters, including an “overflow” shelter that bused clients to outlying churches, such as mine in the town of the “Real Housewives”) of the situation at the IRS documented in a study by ProPublica and The Atlantic. It found demoralized bureaucrats killing time before they could grab an early-retirement ring by auditing the low-hanging fruit of those who claimed the earned-income tax credit (under $20K per year) instead of the deep work on the wealthy, let alone those who just don’t file.

We have to decriminalize public service in the public mind.


Yes. Grandpa Caligula Reagan’s anti-government crusade—at the behest, and to the benefit, of the Kochroaches and their ilk—has done incalculable damage to this nation. Government itself is NOT the problem, but rather who controls the government. And as Page and Gillens have amply documented, it’s not we the people.



Great piece. Please just fix the incorrect spelling “Bergan” for the name of the county in the body of the text.