It will be the first veteran housing in Union County, said Debbie-Ann Anderson, executive director of Homefirst, the agency that is expected to administer the facility.
Council President Cory Storch, the president and CEO of another social service agency, questioned the plan and sought assurance that the renovation would lead to the desired use.
Storch had no qualms about the capability of Homefirst.
"I know of her work," he said regarding Anderson. "I respect the work of the organization."
He said he never had any doubt that they could do an excellent job, but he expressed concern over a $350,000 renovation "without any guarantee" of its function. He said he wanted a promise that it would come back to the council.
City Administrator Rick Smiley said the city did not have a memorandum of understanding yet.
"We're a little bit ahead of ourselves," he said.
Storch pressed again for an update on service funding and West responded that the MOU has to come before the governing body. Anderson had previously explained that there are federal grants that can be tapped and that her board is committed to the venture.
Anderson said the goal is "housing first" and then job training and care for substance abuse if needed in a program of "wraparound services and case management."
Although officials spoke of a $350,000 renovation to accommodate 18 residents, the resolution was to apply for $398,080 in NJ Department of Community Affairs Shelter Support funds. The city would make a 10 percent match of $39,808, bringing the total to $437,888 for a minimum of 25 residents. Homefirst is identified as a partner in the project.
Dudley House was operated and staffed by the city for many years, until the city faced a budget crisis in 2007 and the staff of five was laid off. The building also needed to be made handicapped-accessible at a cost of $250,000. Plaintalker reported on a 2007 protest at which many program alumni testified on its value.
In 2010, Sunrise House of Lafayette became the program operator. American Addictions Centers acquired the organization in 2015,
The Veterans Administration has programs to help homeless veterans, such as the Hope for Veterans program in Lyons, Somerset County, with 95 beds. A 2015 homeless count found nearly 700 veterans in New Jersey in need of shelter.