ATLANTIC CITY - Gov. Christie says Atlantic County's new system to coordinate services for homeless people can become a model for New Jersey and the rest of the country.
The Republican governor met Tuesday with officials who run the Single Point of Entry program, launched this year with the help of a $1.9 million state grant.
The program refers homeless people to one office, where case managers make plans for them and connect them with services including long- and short-term housing and addiction recovery.
"We won't help everyone," Christie said to reporters after the meetings. "We never can. But every life we change is an individual miracle."
The appearance gave a governor with a reputation for tough talk a chance to show a gentler side on a day when lawmakers in Trenton held a public meeting to question a former aide about the political retribution scandal involving former Christie loyalists who arranged traffic jams at the George Washington Bridge. In Atlantic City, Mayor Don Guardian praised the governor as "sensitive," a word not often used to describe him.
Atlantic City strives to attract visitors, but also has been known as the state's primary magnet for homeless people.
Ann Thoresen, director of the Atlantic Homeless Alliance, which runs the new system, said that since it launched in February, it has served 750 people who are homeless or in danger of becoming homeless. She said 56 were found to have come from other communities, and were sent back to their home areas and connected with services there.
Thoresen said the coordination among agencies that serve the homeless represents a "system change."
A nationwide study released last year estimated that 25,000 people in New Jersey are homeless during the course of a year. One-third of them have mental health issues, and nearly one-third have been homeless for more than a year. The data, gathered in January 2013, found that Atlantic County had 7 percent of New Jersey's homeless population.