For decades, New Jersey’s largest city has included a large population of residents who are experiencing homelessness. Although exactly how many individuals live on the streets and shelters of Newark is not clear, the 2017 Point-in-Time Count by Cranford-based Monarch Housing Associates estimates that Essex County, where Newark is located, has over 2,000 homeless residents, an increase of 15.1% from the 2016 count. Of the 2,048 total, the 2017 count found that 52 people were veterans. Although 22 veterans were living in an emergency shelter and 12 were in transitional housing, 18 people had no place to stay at all.
Now, there could soon be a new place for these veterans to temporarily call home. According to a legal notice from the City of Newark, an office building in the Ironbound section of the East Ward is slated to be converted into a shelter. The three-story structure at 179 Van Buren Street, at the corner of Elm Street, was previously occupied by the Ironbound Community Corporation. Now, it contains the administrative offices of Independence: A Family of Services, Inc., which intends to operate the new shelter.
The organization currently runs an education and program center in Irvington, along with a family success center in East Orange. It has applied to the Newark Central Planning Board for Preliminary, Final Site Plan, and Conditional Use approval with variances for lot size, lot width, insufficient street trees, and side yard.
The Board is scheduled to hear the proposal on Monday, September 25th at 6:30pm at Newark City Hall.
This news comes as the New Community Corporation is in the process of developing a new facility across town called A Better Life, which will contain 24 apartments for individuals experiencing homelessness. Plus, WNYC reported earlier this year that the City could soon develop its own municipal shelter, since all existing facilities are run by non-profit or religious organizations like Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Newark and the YMCA of Newark.
Homelessness is far from a new crisis in Newark. The New York Times reported in 1986 that Newark might have the highest percentage of individuals experiencing homelessness in the nation.