TAPINTO - County Contracts with Hunterdon Helpline to Provide Shelter for the Homeless on Freezing Nights
FLEMINGTON, NJ - The Hunterdon County Board of Chosen Freeholders discussed another unfunded state mandate Sept. 1, citing the new need for counties or municipalities to pay for shelters for homeless populations when temperatures outside drop below 32 degrees Fahrenheit.
The board authorized Freeholder Director Shaun C. Van Doren to execute a provider services contract with Hunterdon Helpline for the provision of a Code Blue Warming Center for the period of Oct. 1, 2020 through Sept. 30, 2021. The funding amount for this one-year period is $29,640.Additional funding for an excess of 80 code blue nights is “expressly conditioned upon funding availability and level of service achievement,” the resolution stated.
Hunterdon Helpline is a nonprofit organization with a P.O. box in Flemington, and it has been in existence for 50 years.
Van Doren said while he appreciated the great efforts made by the the county Department of Human Services, led by its administrator Meagan O’Reilly, and those of county purchasing agent Ray Rule, the Code Blue Warming Center has posed “a vexing problem” for Hunterdon County.
With Code Blue set for declaration at 32 degrees Fahrenheit, Hunterdon County experienced a Code Blue as late as May 9, 2020.
“The law was changed by the state legislature at the beginning of this year, moving Code Blue declarations from 25 degrees to 32 degrees,” he said. “When a Code Blue is declared based upon weather predictions, the law requires that some type of warming stations be activated for the homeless, no matter how few there are. While the Code Blue law mandates that municipalities should provide warming centers, there are not many homeless in Hunterdon County, and there is not a cost-effective means for our 26 municipalities to meet that requirement. So the county will provide this as a shared service for our municipalities.”
"The Code Blue Law should be considered a state mandate without any state pay, which is a violation of the State of New Jersey’s Constitution,” he added. “The legislature, however, worked itself around that issue by telling counties that they could add a fee surcharge of $3 for each document recorded by our county clerk, and that could be used to pay for the service. Increasing fees is not something that is well-received by the residents of Hunterdon County as well as the board, including myself.”
THE NEXT DOOR facility will soon be open for our homeless clients.