HUDSON COUNTY — Eight days after construction workers in Union City found a homeless man’s body in a local port-o-potty, the county’s homeless hotline is again not working. Two reporters called the number for two hours in the middle of a cold, snowy day, and listened to the phone ring more than eight times with each call, or on two occasions got a busy signal.
This is the third time in two years the Hudson Reporter — in the course of routine reporting on the homeless situation — tried the 24-hour emergency line and got no answer.
Each time, we called county officials, resulting in apologetic responses and promises to fix the line — which homeless people are supposed to call in winter if they need shelter. While the county’s three regular shelters are often filled up, the county operates another shelter if there is overflow in winter, and picks up people by shuttle who need it.
It’s hard enough to call a number for two hours from a warm office — it might be much harder for a person who is homeless, cold, and desperate.
Want to check the hotline? Call it at 800-624-0287 any time.
Stories by the Reporter (hudsonreporter.com) back to 2016 showed problems with the line, with various county officials saying it was another department’s responsibility.
On Jan. 9, local workers discovered the man’s body in a port-o-potty at a construction site near a church in Union City, according to Police Chief Richard Molinari.
The construction site is the location for the Sts. Joseph and Michael Church, severely damaged in a fire last March. A company is currently performing repairs to the church, located at 1314 Central Ave.
According to Molinari, the man was Hispanic and in his late 20s. The chief believes that he used the port-o-potty to escape the freezing temperatures.
“The weather was certainly a factor in causing his death,” Molinari said. “If someone’s going to seek refuge in a port-o-john, that does not protect you from the low temperatures.”
Based on preliminary information given to Union City police by a medical examiner, Molinari believes the body was only there for a few days.
No foul play is suspected, according to the chief. Any further investigations are closed, he added, barring any new information from the medical examiner.
Got a story or reaction for the reporter? Email email@example.com and editorial@Hudsonreporter.com.