Mayor Christian Bollwage of Elizabeth sharply criticized his counterpart in New York, Bill de Blasio, for the Special One Time Assistance Program (SOTA), which he said "takes the people in the most challenging aspect of their lives and ships them out of town."
Under the program, New York has placed homeless people in housing located in communities across the United States, including in Union and Essex counties. The program has drawn fire from mayors on this side of the Hudson because the SOTA families have often ended up in substandard housing, and without notice to the receiving communities.
Last week, Mayor Ras Baraka said Newark has filed a lawsuit calling for an end to the controversial program. Bollwage said Elizabeth will become a plaintiff in that suit. Officials in Union County have previously said they are considering legal action on behalf of Union communities where the homeless families have been placed.
"My objection to what Newark has done is they are demonizing the poor," De Blasio, defending the program, said on WNYC's The Brian Lehrer Show. "If there literally are not enough apartments to turn to — no matter how many we keep building, there's just not enough — and it's a right now program…we look to the region."
About 1,200 families have been placed in Newark and another 35 in Elizabeth, NY1 reported.
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