Officials throughout the state should show their compassion by caring for their homeless, not by sending them to Atlantic City, Assemblymen Chris Brown and John Amodeo, both R-Atlantic, said Tuesday.
“Our social services are overwhelmed and its draining resources needed to make Atlantic City successful,” Brown said during a news conference on the Boardwalk.
Amodeo added, “It’s not a benefit for tourists to see individuals that are homeless under the Boardwalk hanging out on the beaches and the benches and looking around the Dumpsters of the casinos so they can get their meal.”
The two lawmakers were joined by Assembly Republican Leader Jon M. Bramnick, R-Union, Morris, Somerset, Essex, and Tom Gilbert, commander of Atlantic City’s Tourism District, who said it was good to see the attention focused on the issue.
All were there to promote Amodeo and Brown’s bill to limit the ability of municipalities, counties and social-service agencies to send homeless people to Atlantic City.
“We want to ensure our state policy is clear,” Brown said. “All municipalities and counties throughout the state should not longer be able to simply turn their backs on our homeless population.”
The bill would require towns, social-service agencies and police departments that seek to relocate a homeless person to first have a case management plan prepared. The plan would include an explanation of why the person cannot receive the appropriate services where they are.
Then, arrangements would have to be made with the appropriate social service or public agency before the person is moved.
People who otherwise relocate a homeless person would face disorderly persons charges, with punishment of as much as six months in jail and $1,000 bail.
Amodeo and Brown introduced the bill May 14, and it was sent to the Assembly Human Services Committee. It has no Senate sponsors.
The proposal comes as lawmakers again debate how best to deal with the resort’s homeless population. The Atlantic City Rescue Mission has sued the Ocean County Board of Social Services after the board sent hundreds of people to the resort while not properly compensating it.
Republican Gov. Chris Christie called the practice of sending homeless people to Atlantic City “not fair and not right” in an Ocean County stop last month.
The issue gained international attention in May, when a homeless woman from Philadelphia allegedly stabbed two Canadian tourists to death outside of the AtlantiCare Regional Medical Center’s City Campus.
Tuesday’s news conference took place at the side of the stage at Kennedy Plaza, attracting the attention of a few of the dozens of people strolling the Boardwalk.
Some resort visitors were neither surprised nor disturbed by the city’s homeless.
Vincent J. Casey, 87, of North Merrick, N.Y., sat with his wife near the lawmakers. The couple have been coming to Atlantic City for years, he said, decades before casinos opened. While he hasn’t seen any homeless people during this trip, Casey said he has seen then for years, sometimes living under the Boardwalk.
“It doesn’t bother me,” he said.
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