The Ocean County Board of Social Services called the Atlantic City Rescue Mission earlier this month about sending a homeless person to stay at the mission. They say they didn’t get the answer they were hoping for.
“For the first time, we started being told that the mission was full,” said Ocean County administrator Carl Block. “And since we have always been sending people to the mission, but on a sporadic basis, it was obvious to us that they were not taking anyone from Ocean County anymore.”
Bill Southery, President of the Atlantic City Rescue Mission, said the mission was filled to capacity
“We couldn’t take anybody else in and we were having some difficulties with the community about receiving people from out of town,” said Southery.
Ocean County sends a $17,000-yearly donation check to the Mission. Block estimates about 75 to 100 people are sent each year from the Ocean County Board of Social Services to the Atlantic City Rescue Mission. But Southery says that money only covers the cost of caring for 15 people. The Rescue Mission filed a lawsuit against the Ocean County Board of Social Services a year ago, alleging the county gave the mission $105,000 over six years to provide more than $2 million worth of care to the homeless sent to the rescue mission.
Southery said Ocean County was “one of the counties most prolific in sending people to us, so we [decided] to launch a warning shot across the bow of everyone.”
Block says there’s no documentation to prove the $2 million price tag is accurate and Ocean County provides over 60 programs for the needy and homeless.
“We do house and provide some housing assistance to over 3,000 people every single night,” said Block. “So at 3,000 people a night versus 75 to 100 a year, I think Ocean County is certainly doing its share. Sixty million flows through the board of social services. Direct appropriations — the county funds them, just in county taxpayer dollars is 20 million.”
According to Southery, counties rarely call before sending people to the Rescue Mission, saying communities need to realize “that people can help their people in their own communities if they choose to.”
And he’s been told by Atlantic County officials to just say “no” to accepting people from other counties. Moving forward, Southery says the Atlantic City Rescue Mission will accept people on a case by case basis, but he wants to ensure that counties examine their own resources first.
Lauren Wanko reports from Atlantic City.