Mary and Joseph, joined by leaders of New Jersey religious communities, made their annual visit to the Statehouse Thursday to call upon elected officials to make room at the inn for thousands of struggling New Jersey families.
"In many New Jersey towns, Mary and Joseph would definitely not be welcome today — they would just be seen as a bringing a poor child into the school system which would mean property taxes might go up." The Rev. Bruce Davidson, director of the Lutheran Office of Governmental Ministries, said.
"Many carpenters, health care workers, and janitors in our state do not make enough money to afford more than a humble apartment," the Rev. Julia Hamilton, director of the Unitarian Universalist Legislative Ministry of New Jersey, added. "But even when people of faith want to build homes through organizations like Habitat for Humanity, many towns do everything they can to keep people out."
On Monday, the Assembly overwhelmingly approved legislation that would drastically reduce the amount of affordable houses and apartment cities and towns would be expected to help provide. Housing advocates said the number is expected to drop from 115,000 to 30,000 to 35,000. The Senate and Gov. Chris Christie are also expected to approve the measure.
The couple portraying Mary and Joseph prayed with clergy, who read parts of the Christmas story from the Gospels of Matthew and Luke in the Statehouse. In the Christmas tradition of Las Posadas, they walked through the building asking Assembly and Senate leaders to make a room at the inn for all families in New Jersey. They also sought shelter and prayed outside Christie's office, where they delivered a letter.
"During this Holy Season, it is especially disturbing to hear so much talk about making our housing policies less fair," Cheryl Mrazik, associate director of the Romero Center of St. Joseph's Pro-Catheral in Camden said. "We need to make room for people like Mary and Joseph in our communities, not only at Christmas time, but always."
— TOM HESTER SR., NEWJERSEYNEWSROOM.COM