Given the urgent need to provide safe housing in the midst of the pandemic, Newark has decided to use retrofitted shipping containers to protect the people living on the streets.

The city has converted seven containers into 20 units with bunk beds and heaters that can accommodate individuals or couples. Shower rooms will also be available. City officials said the pilot is a cost-effective solution to accommodate those who want more privacy than they can get in a meetinghouse where multiple people share each room.

“We want to get it [homeless residents] In this location, provide them with the services they need to convert them into permanent shelter, ”Mayor Ras Baraka said during a press conference on Monday to showcase the Newark Hope Village pilot initiative.

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In one of the shelters

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Officials said they identified 24 people who have been in the Penn Station corridor in Newark, sometimes in tents, who are considered the most vulnerable. You will be housed in the new units for 90 days. During this time, they will be asked to move into permanent accommodation with rental vouchers. If they are unable, they are offered internships at one of the town’s meetinghouses.

The containers will be parked on a property on Newark Street and Central Avenue.

According to the latest available data from a federal government census, Newark has 349 people living unprotected.

The shipping container model has been used in places like Los Angeles as a cheaper alternative to traditional living. The initiative has been criticized in England for being unsuitable for families.

The shipping container model “seems to be just one way to further marginalize people while providing very questionable quality protection,” said Giselle Routhier, political director with the Coalition for the Homeless in New York City.

Mayor Baraka at an outside lectern while wearing a mask

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Mayor Ras J. Baraka on March 8, 2021

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However, Richard Uniacke, executive director at Bridges Outreach, which provides engagement and outreach services to the homeless in Newark, said the retrofitted containers will be a solution for some customers who have consistently declined offers to assemble shelters.

“This is truly a unique opportunity for some of the most vulnerable and perhaps most difficult cases to achieve the ultimate goal of ending their homelessness permanently,” he said.

The $ 900,000 cost for the pilot was funded by the CARES Act, the federal COVID relief package passed last year, and by state and municipal funds.