Looming shelter closure may leave Newark homeless with nowhere to go

NEWARK, NJ — Panic has set in for some of Newark's homeless population; the shelter they sleep at is set to close its doors in a month.

Many feel they may need to sleep at Newark's Penn Station, but police have been shooing homeless men and women out of the transit hub.

Malik William said they don't want him in the building.

"It's like Fort Knox," he said.

With nowhere to go now that the Sussex Avenue shelter is set to close, Newark’s homeless population is desperately calling for the city to find additional funding to keep the doors open. There are about 400 beds at the facility.

By closing a major shelter and taking away recognized safe spaces like Penn Station, community advocates are beginning to question whether Newark Mayor Ras Baraka is pulling resources, and quietly sending the message, that “the homeless are no longer welcome in Newark” to make the city more attractive to economic development.

Community activist Donna Jackson noted several new buildings going up and the renovation of others.

Mayor Baraka declined PIX11's request for an interview. But his spokesperson sent PIX11 a letter he sent to homeless advocates, in which he details his administration’s creation of a winter shelter at 224 Sussex Ave – for the first time ever.

“The City is committed to the principle of helping those in need throughout the year through collaborating with local organizations to obtain funding for and to create additional supportive housing as well as a year-round emergency shelter," the statement said.

City officials say it will cost up to $200,000 a month to keep the Sussex Avenue shelter open beyond June 30. They've pledged to look for more funding.

If the shelter isn't saved and the homeless are not allowed to get some shut eye at Penn Station, they may resort to sleeping on the streets that are now home to Newark's economic renaissance.