IMPACT
03/07/2012 12:43 pm ET | Updated Mar 07, 2012

Richard Codey, Former N.J. Governor, Disguises Self As Homeless To Expose System Shortcomings

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Covered with a fake beard and touches of makeup, former New Jersey Gov. Richard Codey, became Jimmy Peters, a homeless Newark man.

Accompanied by a social worker to get him into an emergency one-night stay, Codey -- now serving as a state senator -- showed up to the Goodwill Mission just before 9 p.m. Monday to survey the conditions of the homeless shelter where he would spend the night, MSNBC reports.

He slept on the mattress on the floor, a luxury many homeless weren't afforded that night.

"To find a place to take you if you're homeless was impossible essentially," Codey told the news source, "unless you're on some government entitlement program."

Codey found the most trouble came from telling the shelters he had just been released from a psychiatric ward of a local hospital. In those instances he was almost immediately denied -- as is the case for real mentally ill homeless men.

Robert Davidson, executive director of the Essex County Mental Health Association cited a study from the Corporation of Supportive Housing which showed that nearly 90 percent of the New Jersey's homeless population suffer from a mental illness, NJ.com reports.

"The system does everything it can to divert that person from getting service," Davidson told MSNBC. "It's absurd."

The Goodwill Mission is working on making updates to their services, and are adding beds and emergency shelter options in the next few months, MSNBC reports.

To support efforts to fight homelessness in your area, find information at the National Coalition for the Homeless.

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