The Montclair Times

Pleas And Thank-Yous

The Montclair Times — Wednesday, December 24, 2008

By Tanya Drobness

There are no more second helpings.

The beds are full.

The waiting list, endless.

"I used to be able to determine whether someone was walking in for help, or to offer help. I can't tell anymore," said Major Alastair Bate, commanding officer of the The Salvation Army's Montclair Citadel.

Addressing nearly 70 people attending a Town Hall meeting about the economic crisis last Wednesday, Dec. 17, Bate said he is troubled about how the downturn has hit home, and the homeless.

The Citadel's Cornerstone House, a shelter for transitioning families and individuals, has been at full capacity, 23 beds, for the past two years, and Bate is worried about maintaining the utility bills, which is mostly dependant on the dollars dropped in Salvation Army kettles.

"That is an area that concerns us," he said.

Held inside the Municipal Building's Council Chambers and hosted by Mayor Jerry Fried, the Town Hall was initially intended to give residents a perspective on the economy's impact on the community. The forum actually centered on the downturn's effects throughout the United States, Europe and Asia.

During the last half of the meeting, Bate, along with Larry Glover, a consultant from the United Way of North Essex, asked the public to continue donating.

"We're seeing the need grow more than we ever have before," said Glover, noting that the United Way acts as an epicenter of community service by working with other social-service organizations to help disadvantaged families in Montclair and surrounding areas.

"We need to set aside our differences in order to make real progress," Glover said.

Montclair Public Library Director David Hinkley told the crowd to use the library as a way to help them find information while on a job search.

"Even during the Great Depression, libraries were open for a reason, providing resources to people in any economic stage," Hinkley noted.

Montclair resident and community activist Sandy Pope addressed the crowd, stressing the need for community involvement and its impact on state and federal policies.

"In Montclair, we have so much talent. There is so much wasted resources of our population here," Pope said, adding that with a new mayor and new Township Council, some residents may be hoping that Montclair could be a green town some day.

"Some of us may have hoped we could reduce consumption," Pope said, "and instead we're spending more money in the stores and being asked to shop local."

Many residents might be financially assisting locally based businesses by doing their Christmas shopping in town.

E. Michael Taylor, director of the Essex County Department of Housing and Community Development, talked about the economy's effects on housing throughout the county, and provided information on various programs that may assist citizens in dealing with foreclosures.

The programs are needed to help residents get by, given that New Jersey has the fifth highest rate of subprime mortgages in the foreclosure process, Taylor said.

Montclair has a very low foreclosure rate, though the South End is the township's most impacted neighborhood, he said.

Montclair and Maplewood have the most proactive local governments in Essex County in preventing foreclosures, mostly because the governments target resources to help, such as a newly created state mandatory mediation program through the state Attorney General's Office, Taylor said.

That new program will be announced in January, according to Taylor, who said Montclair officials have been reaching out to state mortgage assistance programs through the county, as well as the New Jersey Citizen Action group.

"At a time like this, nobody can borrow against their house because the banks won't lend, but you can come to us," Taylor told the audience.

Several speakers from municipal departments and local agencies attended to provide additional information about forms of available assistance, including the departments of Planning and Community Development, and Health and Social Services; HOMECorp and the Human Needs Food Pantry.

Montclair State University Department of Economics and Finance Professor A. Seddik Meziani kicked off the forum, outlining the history of problems that led to the downturn. Meziani also cleared up misperceptions of the term "recession," saying that the United States is "not technically" in a recession until the results of the Gross Domestic Product report are released and analyzed in January 2009. The report is used to help determine a recession, noted Meziani, who said the data shows the nation's economic strength is slipping.

"The fourth quarter of 2008 does not look good," Meziani said.

Some of the factors that led to the economic downturn included rising inflation during the summer months and the battered real estate market, with the nation suffering the worst housing downturn since the Great Depression, he said.

With the credit market turmoil, the sustained value of assets is grim. "Lenders and investors are more reluctant to take risks," Meziani said.

Noting that he "never thought Merrill Lynch would go down," Meziani said that the collapse of Lehman Brothers global investment bank led to "a mistrust in the [U.S.] government."

"If the banking sector is not healthy, then the economy is not healthy," Meziani said.

"If it goes down, we all go down with it."There are no more second helpings.

The beds are full.

The waiting list, endless.

"I used to be able to determine whether someone was walking in for help, or to offer help. I can't tell anymore," said Major Alastair Bate, commanding officer of the The Salvation Army's Montclair Citadel.

Addressing nearly 70 people attending a Town Hall meeting about the economic crisis last Wednesday, Dec. 17, Bate said he is troubled about how the downturn has hit home, and the homeless.

The Citadel's Cornerstone House, a shelter for transitioning families and individuals, has been at full capacity, 23 beds, for the past two years, and Bate is worried about maintaining the utility bills, which is mostly dependant on the dollars dropped in Salvation Army kettles.

"That is an area that concerns us," he said.

Held inside the Municipal Building's Council Chambers and hosted by Mayor Jerry Fried, the Town Hall was initially intended to give residents a perspective on the economy's impact on the community. The forum actually centered on the downturn's effects throughout the United States, Europe and Asia.

During the last half of the meeting, Bate, along with Larry Glover, a consultant from the United Way of North Essex, asked the public to continue donating.

"We're seeing the need grow more than we ever have before," said Glover, noting that the United Way acts as an epicenter of community service by working with other social-service organizations to help disadvantaged families in Montclair and surrounding areas.

"We need to set aside our differences in order to make real progress," Glover said.

Montclair Public Library Director David Hinkley told the crowd to use the library as a way to help them find information while on a job search.

"Even during the Great Depression, libraries were open for a reason, providing resources to people in any economic stage," Hinkley noted.

Montclair resident and community activist Sandy Pope addressed the crowd, stressing the need for community involvement and its impact on state and federal policies.

"In Montclair, we have so much talent. There is so much wasted resources of our population here," Pope said, adding that with a new mayor and new Township Council, some residents may be hoping that Montclair could be a green town some day.

"Some of us may have hoped we could reduce consumption," Pope said, "and instead we're spending more money in the stores and being asked to shop local."

Many residents might be financially assisting locally based businesses by doing their Christmas shopping in town.

E. Michael Taylor, director of the Essex County Department of Housing and Community Development, talked about the economy's effects on housing throughout the county, and provided information on various programs that may assist citizens in dealing with foreclosures.

The programs are needed to help residents get by, given that New Jersey has the fifth highest rate of subprime mortgages in the foreclosure process, Taylor said.

Montclair has a very low foreclosure rate, though the South End is the township's most impacted neighborhood, he said.

Montclair and Maplewood have the most proactive local governments in Essex County in preventing foreclosures, mostly because the governments target resources to help, such as a newly created state mandatory mediation program through the state Attorney General's Office, Taylor said.

That new program will be announced in January, according to Taylor, who said Montclair officials have been reaching out to state mortgage assistance programs through the county, as well as the New Jersey Citizen Action group.

"At a time like this, nobody can borrow against their house because the banks won't lend, but you can come to us," Taylor told the audience.

Several speakers from municipal departments and local agencies attended to provide additional information about forms of available assistance, including the departments of Planning and Community Development, and Health and Social Services; HOMECorp and the Human Needs Food Pantry.

Montclair State University Department of Economics and Finance Professor A. Seddik Meziani kicked off the forum, outlining the history of problems that led to the downturn. Meziani also cleared up misperceptions of the term "recession," saying that the United States is "not technically" in a recession until the results of the Gross Domestic Product report are released and analyzed in January 2009. The report is used to help determine a recession, noted Meziani, who said the data shows the nation's economic strength is slipping.

"The fourth quarter of 2008 does not look good," Meziani said.

Some of the factors that led to the economic downturn included rising inflation during the summer months and the battered real estate market, with the nation suffering the worst housing downturn since the Great Depression, he said.

With the credit market turmoil, the sustained value of assets is grim. "Lenders and investors are more reluctant to take risks," Meziani said.

Noting that he "never thought Merrill Lynch would go down," Meziani said that the collapse of Lehman Brothers global investment bank led to "a mistrust in the [U.S.] government."

"If the banking sector is not healthy, then the economy is not healthy," Meziani said.

"If it goes down, we all go down with it."

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