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Housing First assistance programs.

Families seeking financial aid from Housing First will need to participate in various case management sessions, which include everything from job training to credit counseling. The client will need to both have the desire as well as ability to overcome their hardship, as any cash grants from the non-profit that are issued for paying housing expenses such as rent are provided as a hand up and not a hand out.

When funding allows, income qualified families in Bergen County can receive everything from one time rental help to energy bill assistance. Other services from Housing First include, but are not limited too, access to a shelter, hot meals from a soup kitchen/free pantry, transportation, basic medical care, and a thrift store/clothing closet.

Short term housing and emergency shelter

The Housing First Emergency Shelter is used as a bridge for people to move from transitional to  permanent housing. This resource will help those that both need a place to stay for a night or two as well as for people who need additional supportive services to move out of homelessness. Guests are given the following.

  • Free food or hot meals, including at the holidays.
  • Clothing for work or interview.
  • Information on applying for government aid, including disability, TANF grants, or section 8.
  • When all of the facilities are full, then are referrals to motel voucher programs in the community.

These transitional housing as well as shelter programs in Bergen County allow individuals to enhance their confidence as well as gain stability. They may gain the coping skills needed to sustain everything from a full time job to permanent housing.

Chronically homeless individuals suffering from mental illness can turn to a supportive housing program managed by Housing First. The options range from shelter to transitional housing and managed apartments. The goal is to provide stable, affordable accommodations for persons who have struggled in structured and/or more restrictive settings. This housing program is a last resort for most clients.




In addition to mental illness, approximately 75% of the people who use this Housing First service struggle with an alcohol and/or substance-abuse problem. These individuals are referred to local hospitals or specialists where they will be treated on an individualized basis that emphasizes the progress they have made.

Housing First case managers help individuals also find off-site resources, such as medical doctors, government benefits such as section 8, meal sites and psychiatrists. Other on-site support services include coordinated care management, daily life-skills training and entitlement advocacy. Tenants of the supportive housing units must contribute 30% of their income towards rent expenses.

Financial help from Housing First-time

For low-income families facing rent and utility arrearages, there are short-term subsidies available to prevent evictions and interruptions in utility services. Some involve money being paid out to the client, others may be enrollment payment plans or other solutions.

Examples of help available from Housing First and Partners such as the United Way include assistance with eviction notices, first month’s rent for homeless families, utility termination notices, payments to prevent foreclosures on a home and other innovative activities to prevent homelessness. For those leaving a transitional home, there may be money for security deposits. The non-monetary solutions from Housing First or partners range from mediation programs for landlord-tenant disputes; legal services programs for the representation of working poor tenants in eviction proceedings; and budgeting classes.

A portion of the rent on single family dwellings, units in apartment buildings, and mobile homes can be provided by the Section 8 Rental Assistance Program. This resource is a federally funded housing assistance program administered by non-profits that work with Housing First. A voucher is available to help eligible, low-income families.

A voucher will subsidize a portion of the tenant's monthly rent, based on the client's total household income. All of the money goes to help residents pay for decent, safe, and sanitary housing. As part of the terms and conditions, the property owner retains normal management rights and responsibilities, the client needs to pay for utility bills and deposits, and the landlord needs to ensure the property is properly maintained.

FSS - Family self-sufficiency – This will help very low income families, those on section 8 rent vouchers, and the working poor obtain a new or better job. It is a HUD program that not only involves Housing First but incorporates entire communities. It touches on providing affordable child care, homeownership counseling, transportation, education, household skill training, substance/alcohol abuse treatment or counseling, and of course job training and employment counseling.





Most of FSS is for people on section 8 HUD vouchers or those that live in poverty. The FSS contract requires that the tenants become independent of welfare, adhere to the lease, and that the head of the family aggressively seek and maintain employment in Bergen County.

Clients of Housing First must fulfill all requirements set by their case manager in order to obtain full benefits, whether it is financial for paying rent or placement into housing. Possible sanctions from the HUD agency for noncompliance are withholding or termination of supportive services, termination from the FSS program, forfeiture of the FSS escrow account, and no additional rent help from the choice voucher assistance.

The long term goal is economic independence and self-sufficiency of the client. Housing First as well as local public housing agencies partner with welfare agencies in Bergen County, schools, businesses, WIA job centers, and other groups to develop a comprehensive program that gives participating FSS family members the skills for them to obtain employment that pays a living wage.

For more details on housing solutions in the county, dial 201-291-4050. Housing First and other agencies partner together to tackle homelessness in Bergen County.




By Jon McNamara











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