This is the second report of ‘Homelessness in the Garden State‘, a special Jersey Digs series focusing on the homelessness crisis affecting New Jerseyans throughout the state.
New Jersey is known far and wide for economic inequality. The country’s most densely populated state is home to some of its wealthiest residents, with major pharmaceutical and financial firms dotting the 21 counties along with mansions and luxury high-rise towers that are being constructed in many cities and suburbs. However, hundreds of thousands of New Jerseyans from Hoboken to Howell do not have the privilege of living in the state’s opulent houses and apartments. Some do not have a permanent, or even a temporary, place to call home at all.
Individuals can experience homelessness for a variety of reasons, from not being able to find employment to leaving their residence after being a victim of domestic violence. They can range in age from young children to senior citizens, and often try to stay with acquaintances or turn to shelters in the state’s cities. However, in a city like Trenton, for instance, there is just one emergency shelter for people of all ages and backgrounds, and it serves the entire county. In Newark, the city’s first municipal shelter just opened last month, but it is only expected to remain open until March.
As a result, some homeless individuals and families attempt to stay overnight at train and light rail stations or under bridges and overpasses, but it is difficult to determine just how many people are sheltered or unsheltered altogether. Because of this, New Jersey will be participating today in the national 2018 Point-in-Time Count, an annual project that aims to determine how many people are affected by homelessness.
Throughout the day, volunteers from groups throughout the state will look for people who are currently homeless in order to distribute resources and survey them on where they slept last night, if they earn an income, what factors they believe resulted in them becoming homeless, how long they have been in their current situation, and other topics.
In New Jersey, a Cranford, Union County-based organization called Monarch Housing Associates will be leading the project, which it is branding as NJCounts, and will produce a final report. However, all kinds of agencies and organizations will be participating in the gathering of this data, including Ocean County Hunger Relief, which will give a voucher for $100 to those who agree to take the survey.
The Point-in-Time Count is required by the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) in order for statistics to be gathered in regards to the state of homelessness and poverty in the United States and to determine the amount of funding that will be issued to organizations that address the issue. This is the 13th year that it is being conducted, and last year’s count found 8,532 homeless individuals in the state.
Jersey Digs will be participating in Mercer County’s Point-in-Time Count, which is being held in partnership with the City of Trenton’s CEAS Center and organizations such as Anchor House, which assists youth and young adults in and around Trenton who are currently homeless or are at risk of experiencing homelessness. In addition to the regular count today, this year’s project will also include a Youth Connect event tomorrow at Trenton’s Turning Point Church specifically for engaging young adults who are homeless.
Although the final results of the 2018 Point-in-Time Count will not be available until a statewide report is released, we will have a special report tomorrow on what volunteers and homeless residents experience during the project.