Moral Low Ground

US Government

‘The Moral High Ground’: Former NJ Gov. Richard Codey Goes Undercover as Homeless Man to Expose Shelter Troubles

A former governor of New Jersey went undercover on Monday night, disguising himself as a homeless man on the streets of Newark in an attempt to gain a better understanding of the hardships the homeless endure on a daily basis.

NBC New York reports that Richard Codey, a Democrat and current state senator who was governor of the Garden State in 2004 – 2005 after Jim McGreevey resigned over a gay sex scandal, put on makeup and assumed the role of Jimmy Peters, a mentally ill man who’d just been released from the psychiatric ward of a local hospital.

But “Peters” ran into immediate difficulties in finding a place to bed down for the night. Most Newark shelters only accept applicants who are on government assistance or who have government-issued ID.

“To find a place to take you if you were homeless was impossible,” he told NBC.

Codey did something that no other homeless person would be able to– he got in touch with a contact at the Mental Health Association of Essex County, which he represents part of in the state senate. His contact then connected him with case worker Ross Croesmann, who pulled some strings and got Codey a spot in the Goodwill Rescue Mission in downtown Newark. It was a one-night-only arrangement, and Codey was luckless as he phoned other shelters and found them even more difficult to get into. Budget cuts have eviscerated both state and local psychiatric hospitals and wards.

At the Goodwill Rescue Mission, Codey was one of around 20 homeless people who slept on bedrolls on the chapel floor.

Incredibly, this wasn’t Codey’s first undercover foray. He once worked incognito at a state mental hospital, and while governor he actually spent the night at another one.

This time, Codey returned to his job as a state senator after leaving Goodwill Rescue Mission and washing off his makeup. The longtime champion of the mentally ill said he’d never forget the people he met Monday night and that he will keep pressing the governor and state lawmakers to improve their lives.

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