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January 5, 2011 / J. Shaw

N.J.Wants Small Fees to Build Trusts Funds for Homeless

I like this idea from N.J. in the story below.  The key is to keep the fees small, a standard three dollar fee would work.  the fees should be on a small handful of same services in each county.I know, corruption, mishandling of funds is always a worry. The tragedy of homelessness in our country has grown substantially since the deep recession started year ago. Ideas like a small $3 fee to provide long-term financial help to the homeless crisis could be prove invaluable. SHAW


With homelessness on the rise in his bucolic corner of New Jersey, Ernest Hemschot is on a self-appointed mission to persuade people three bucks can go a long way toward easing the problem.

In the coming months, the 55-year-old lawyer plans to barnstorm across Sussex County, talking to municipal officials in town after town. His goal is to build pressure on the county freeholders to establish a trust fund for the homeless that would draw cash from a new $3 surcharge on mortgages, deeds and other records filed with the county clerk’s office.

Eight counties have already established the trusts, which are permitted under a state law enacted in 2009.

To Hemschot, chairman of the county’s mental health board, the trust funds are a cost-effective way to get desperately needed services to the homeless. But at a time when the economy continues to lag, unemployment hovers at 10 percent and municipalities are coping with steep cuts in state aid, Hemschot could have a tough sell.

Freeholders in Sussex and other counties say they won’t ask residents to pay a new fee, however noble the cause.

“People want to give on their own,” Sussex County Freeholder Director Richard Zeoli said. “They don’t want the government to force them to do it. Taxpayers have had it with all these fees.”

Similar reservations have been expressed in Morris County, one of the wealthiest counties in the nation.

“The freeholders are concerned about adding additional charges, particularly to real estate transactions,” said Mary Jo Buchanan, director of the county’s department of human services.

In Essex County — which has the largest homeless population in New Jersey, according to one annual survey — county administrator Joyce Harley said the $3 fee “could have a chilling effect on the housing market which, for us, is very critical.” “We weren’t looking to do anything that would suppress the sale of homes,” Harley said.

Counties aren’t required to establish the trusts. Since the law took effect in September 2009, freeholder boards in Middlesex, Union, Passaic, Bergen, Hudson, Somerset, Mercer and Camden counties have voted to create them.

Several other counties have completed a 10-year plan to eliminate chronic homelessness — a required step in creating the trusts — but have not moved to schedule a vote.



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