Homeless shelter that closed in sweltering heat reopens (for now)

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    A few of the homeless residents who were staying at the shelter on 224 Sussex Avenue waited in the park after the facility shuttered on Monday. (Karen Yi | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com)

    The Newark homeless shelter that shut its doors on Monday has reopened thanks to funding from private donors that will allow the facility to operate through the end of the month, city officials said.

    The announcement comes days after the facility on 224 Sussex Avenue closed as temperatures swelled to the 90s and the state remained on an excessive heat warning.

    About 180 residents were inside and some told NJ Advance Media on Monday they had nowhere to go. A few of the residents sat on plastic crates in the park across the street as passers-by donated water and snacks. A group of activists posted messages on Facebook seeking supplies and help for the displaced residents.

    Resident John Robinson said community members made some calls and were able to squeeze him into another shelter the last few nights. On Thursday, Robinson said he had just walked back from his job to find out that the shelter was letting residents back inside at 4 p.m.

    “I didn’t believe it at first … I’m very happy,” he said. “This is the only shelter in Newark that can house a lot of people like this, people that need it.”

    Robinson has a full-time job earning $14 an hour, but with mandatory child support, only makes $190 each paycheck and can’t afford his own place.

    The Sussex Avenue shelter opened in December as a temporary winter facility to house the homeless through March but the city was able to find additional funding to keep it open through June. It finally closed on Monday — in the middle of a heat wave — because it had no more funds to stay open.

    In a press release Thursday, the city said “several corporate donors” will keep the shelter open this month, which costs about $200,000 a month to operate. The list of private donors was not disclosed. City officials are still working on a plan to house the homeless after July.

    Newark will also issue a request for proposals for a facility with up to 250 beds and an organization to manage and operate the shelter in order to reopen the winter shelter in November.

    Victor Cirilo, executive director of the Newark Housing Authority, said the Department of Community Affairs also agreed to offer 21 continuum care vouchers at state-administered facilities and 24 slots at non-profits funded by the state.

    The Central Ward shelter principally targeted the homeless population who had nowhere else to go and gathered at Newark Penn Station, the Public Library, Military Park and Francisco Park. It was open 24 hours a day.

    The city said the health department will target key areas in the city where the homeless gather to inform them that the shelter is reopening.

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