Senator Richard Codey of Essex County has been supporting the causes of the mentally ill for years, and he hit the streets of Newark for information on Monday.
Codey disguised himself as a homeless person to see if he could find a homeless shelter. He didn’t find a lot of success.
NJ.com reported that Codey said he called more than 20 shelters and facilities in Newark, and a lot of them said they wouldn’t accept the mentally ill. Most of Newark’s shelters want those who apply to have an official I.D., or be on government assistance.
"To find a place to take you if you were homeless was impossible, essentially," Codey said, according to NBC New York.
Codey, finally called someone he knew with the Mental Health Association of Essex County, and he was able to enter the Goodwill Rescue Mission by around 9 p.m. Bob Davison, executive director of the Mental Health Association, and Codey felt that more mentally ill individuals were out on the street than in shelters after recent hospital budget cutbacks.
That night, Codey had enough makeup applied that he could not be recognized, CBS New York reported that he put on a fake beard, phony tattoos, and had his teeth made to look tobacco-stained and his face to appear leathery. Codey played Jimmy Peters, a mentally ill individual who had just been released from the psychiatric ward of a local hospital.
The senator was one of about 20 homeless who slept on bedrolls on the floor.
Going undercover is not new for Codey. He assumed the role of a worker in one state mental hospital and slept overnight at another when he was governor.
According to againstmentalillness.org, Codey’s first official act during the time he was New Jersey governor was to establish a task force on mental health that reported to him on ways New Jersey can provide further aid to its mentally ill. Codey put together more than 90 percent of the task force's ideas while he was governor.