EAST ORANGE, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — A homeless family in need of a place to sleep says their problems only got worse after getting help from New York City.
When the city offered to pay a full year’s rent for the Nicholsons, they say it felt like a dream come true. Even though both parents were working, they still weren’t making enough to get by.
They moved out of their shelter, but say the home they were placed in is so bad they’re better off in the streets.
“Anything you flush goes in the sewage in the floor,” father Kevin said. “There are supposed to be heaters on the floor that don’t work.”
The Department of Homeless Services placed Kevin, his wife, and their two sons in the East Orange, New Jersey home in June. It has no heat, no lights, and no running water.
“We had to put buckets here to put the water from the bottles to wash,” Kevin said. “We had to call people to be like, can we come shower?”
HOW TO HELP: Visit the family’s GoFundMe page.
It’s so cold, the water has turned to ice and there aren’t enough blankets to keep their youngest from crying.
“I tried sticking it out and putting my own money in the house but we don’t own the house so anything we would’ve done it would’ve been the owners’,” Kevin said.
Under what’s called the Special One-Time Assistance Program, the city will cover one year’s rent for eligible homeless families. Kevin says DHS gave him three houses in New Jersey to choose from, even though both parents were working in Manhattan and their children are enrolled in Manhattan schools.
“You can only turn down two places, if you turn down more basically they say you gotta leave the shelter,” Kevin said.
Making matters worse, they haven’t provided transportation to their jobs in the city. Kevin says DHS also assured him construction would be complete within three weeks of moving in.
“Every time we reached out to them they wouldn’t reply to us,” Kevin said. “If we called it’d be like we’ll see. They sent an inspector out here from New York and he said in the summertime it’ll be nice. In the summer we won’t know if we don’t have heat cause it’s hot outside.”
The private landlord has also stopped answering his phone, even for CBS2.
“This is still our residence, we’re still on the lease so we can’t go anywhere,” Kevin said. “I have family, but they all have families. They have kids of their own.”
In a statement to CBS2, DHS said: “We will investigate this case to determine whether… the landlord neglected their obligations, and will continue to work closely with the family.”
Meanwhile, Kevin is left searching for answers.
“I feel like I messed my kids’ life up, and I owe them so much and more,” he said. “I just can’t give it to them right now.”
The Nicholsons say after their son was hospitalized for asthma in December, DHS allowed them to temporarily stay in a city shelter. They aren’t eligible to even apply for a different home until their lease is up in June. What they’ll do before and after that, they can’t yet say. In the meantime, they’ve set up a GoFundMe page in hopes of moving into an apartment.