Former Governor Goes Undercover as Homeless Man & You Won’t Believe What He Finds

new jersey governorIf all of our politicians were as dedicated to serving their constituents as former New Jersey Gov. Richard Codey, this country would be a much better place. Codey, who is now a state senator, disguised himself as a homeless man in Newark so he could see for himself what it was like to live in another person's shoes. Of course, it was just for one night only; after that he went back to his life as a state senator. But it was enough to reveal to him -- and us -- a very sobering and horrible truth: If you are homeless, it's "essentially impossible" to find a shelter that will take you.

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Codey has long been a champion of the mentally ill: In the past, he went undercover as a worker in a state mental hospital and, later, as governor, slept overnight at another. But you have to admit this latest undercover role -- as "Jimmy Peters," a mentally ill individual who had just been released from the psychiatric ward of a local hospital -- sounds like the toughest one yet.

And Codey certainly faced his share of challenges, namely, being unable to find a shelter that would take him. It wasn't until he contacted a personal connection with the Mental Health Association of Essex County that he was able to find a place -- a chapel where he slept on the floor with 20 other people. Codey was lucky; obviously, most homeless people wouldn't have access to the connections that he has.

It's infuriating when so many politicians -- who often have so much more than the average American -- lecture from their ivory tower about how people who don't have enough are just "lazy." I'd be more apt to believe them if they were brave enough to do what Codey did: spend a night on the streets and see what it is really like for these people. The fact is many people who are poor are mentally ill or have other setbacks and can't access the care they need because of cuts to psychiatric care or other help that they need either to get back on their feet or to simply survive. What would our country look like if more than a few politicians actually were able to comprehend this?

It's easy to ignore the poor and downtrodden in our midst and hope they just go away. But as Codey showed us, they simply have nowhere to go.

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