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DHS Facing Tough Questions After CBS2 Report On Homeless Family's City-Sponsored Housing

EAST ORANGE, N.J. (CBSNewYork) - Yesterday, CBS2 introduced you to Kevin Nicholson, and showed you how his wife and two sons have been living since New York City's Department of Homeless Services, or DHS, relocated the family to East Orange, N.J. in June.

CBS2's Ali Bauman sought answers from the landlord and city officials about this forgotten family as they were once again staying in a shelter Friday.

Imagine having no shower or tub water.

"We had to put buckets [in the tub] to put the water from the bottles to wash," said Kevin Nicholson

It's a reality his family, whose temporary home has no heat, no water, no lights.

HOW TO HELP: Visit the family's GoFundMe page.

"The landlord never had a C of H, a certificate of habitability," Sade Collington said. "DHS dropped our bags and walked away."

DHS calls it their Special, One-Time Assistance Program. The city covers one year's rent, paying private landlords upfront for eligible working parents. The Nicholsons survived conditions in the home for months, while their requests for help fell on deaf ears, CBS2's Ali Bauman reported.

Sade Collington and Kevin Nicholson
Sade Collington and Kevin Nicholson (credit: CBS2)

"We showed them pictures, and they're like 'We're gonna send emails and try,' and it was never anything," Kevin Nicholson said. "We've been on their backs since we moved."

An East Orange inspector issued several violations to their landlord in August, but Nicholson says nothing changed. The landlord wouldn't answer the phone when CBS2 called, and lists a post office box for his address.

Coalition for the Homeless advocate Jacquelyn Simone says once a family leaves the five boroughs, they lose vital resources.

"They cant call 311 and get an HPD investigator to come look at housing conditions," Simone said.

Web Extra: Jacquelyn Simone Extended Interview 

There's been an outpouring of support since our story first aired, with $3,600 and counting in online donations for the family.

HOW TO HELP: Visit the Nicholson's GoFundMe page.

Bauman spent all day calling, emailing and reaching out to DHS every way she knows. Her phone calls went to a mailbox that was full and couldn't accept any new messages.

When they finally picked up Friday afternoon, Bauman asked if the city ever inspected the home before they sent the Nicholsons to live there.

A DHS spokesperson told her they're in touch with the family, but the commissioner couldn't do an interview Friday because he was "busy running the agency."

"An inspector went there and saw that, how come they were living there for almost a year instead of getting a new place overnight?" Bauman asked.

DHS told her in part that the landlord misled the agency and the family, and that the agency is trying to "recoup the rent and referring this potential fraud for further investigation."

When it comes to helping the Nicholsons, DHS said it was in contact with the family. Bauman spoke with Kevin Nicholson late Friday, who says DHS spoke to his family in the shelter this afternoon, and all they did was verify they were no longer living in New Jersey.

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