Is homelessness going down in NJ? We’ll know soon
Homelessness appeared to be on the decline in New Jersey last year — and advocates are hoping the trend continues when the state's homeless population is counted again later this week.
On Wednesday, all 21 New Jersey counties will participate in NJCounts 2017, a state-wide point-in-time count of the sheltered and unsheltered homeless.
Volunteers seek out homeless residents in shelters, woods, under bridges, in vacant buildings and other locations.
“It is also planned in order that we can get the resources and services necessary to help those folks who are experiencing housing crisis and homelessness," Jay Everett of Monarch Housing Associates, a non-profit aimed at helping New Jersey's homeless, said.
Once each community gets its data, it can use that information to make funding decisions about what types of resources it needs — whether for individuals or families, Everett said. All the point-in-time data is then reported to the Department of Housing and Urban Development, he said.
Last year’s number was a decrease of 1,270 homeless people in New Jersey — or 12 percent since 2015, signaling an impact. But Everett said with 8,941 folks last year, that’s still a lot of our neighbors living in homelessness.
“We’re seeing progress but there’s much more left to do," he said.
Many factors will contribute to this year’s homeless count, as shelters have reported lack of capacity to house homeless families, a shortage of rental housing has driven up demand and costs, and Congress hasn't increased funding for the federal Housing Choice Voucher program, Everett said.
New Jersey continues to have a higher rate of foreclosures than the national average as well, he said. Too many jobs in the state do not pay a living wage and those that do, are leaving the state, Everett said.
In December 2016, the Department of Housing and Urban Development announced more than $45 million in funding to New Jersey. Only South Dakota received a greater increase in HUD funding than New Jersey.
Learning about efforts in our community to help end homelessness is “really an important piece of helping our neighbors achieve self-efficiency and be stable in our communities, and enjoy what New Jersey has to offer without being in crisis,” Everett said.
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