Newark repeals ‘needy person ban’ measure amid federal court case
Newark has formally repealed its so-called “needy person ban.” The 2019 measure placed restrictions on some out-of-state housing vouchers and was a response to a flood of homeless people coming into Newark from New York City.
“There are so many people who are living one paycheck away from homelessness,” says Josh Goldfein, staff attorney for the Legal Aid Society of New York City. “A disaster befalls them and they end up losing their housing and they do everything they can to get back on their feet and sometimes that involves a stay in the shelter system.”
Faced with a growing homelessness issue in 2019, the city of Newark passed a law intended to keep New York City residents who were taking New York’s temporary assistance out of Newark. The temporary assistance would pay a part of the residents’ rent, and they would then hop on a bus to train to Newark.
“And we intervened in those cases on behalf of people who had to use the program to already move to Newark and were living in apartments in Newark,” Goldfein says.
A federal judge decided Newark’s ban on using the assistance vouchers was “an unconstitutional barrier to the right to travel.” Now the city has repealed the ban.
“There’s no reason why Newark shouldn’t be happy to have people moving to the city who want to live in Newark, who are hardworking people, who just want a place to go home to every day,” says Goldfein.
Goldfein says most of the homeless seeking the vouchers have jobs.
“We have to plan together to enable everyone to have a safe and stable place to live, every day, and work to help people land on their feet again,” he says. “And not be punishing people or stigmatizing them because they’ve been caught in a difficult situation for a period of time.”
The full federal case is still pending. The Baraka administration did not reply to any request for comment.
Legal Aid worked with the major law firm Lowenstein Sandler on the case.