Census crews set out to count the homeless

This was in the Asbury Park Press today and covers the Monmouth Project Homeless Connect event. To read the full article click here.

Census crews set out to count the homeless

Posted by the Asbury Park Press on 01/26/07


Abner Duarte wore a pullover sweater and carried a pair of boots, with a sleeping bag in a box nearby — all items picked up in a basement room of St. Peter’s Episcopal Church parish center in Freehold.

Duarte, 19, a Guatemalan national who has been in the United States for four years, said he needed the goods.

“For the snow,” said Duarte, a day laborer who is seeking American citizenship. “The cold. That’s why I take it.”

The free goods were available through “Project Homeless Connect,” a national grass-roots effort to assist the homeless held Thursday for the first time in New Jersey.

In Monmouth County, goods were distributed to the needy, whether they were homeless or, as in Duarte’s case, have a place to live, said Laurie F. Duhovny, coordinator of the Monmouth County Human Services Council.

In New Jersey, Project Homeless Connect coincided with the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development’s annual mandate to do a census of the homeless — the “Point-in-Time Counts of Homeless Persons” — to qualify for specific HUD aid.

In 2006, Monmouth County received $1.75 million in those HUD funds, said Lynn F. Miller, director of the Monmouth County Department of Human Services. The money is used for such things as permanent and temporary housing and preventing homelessness, Miller said.

Firm statistics on this year’s census — described by Duhovny as a one-day snapshot — will not be available until coordinated and released by HUD in about five weeks.

In 2006, the census was done in May and showed 1,418 homeless in Monmouth County, Miller said.

“It’s a very important event to bring (federal) dollars into the county,” said Miller, speaking of the census.

But officials believe the census produces a low figure because it is voluntary, being homeless is cyclical and, as Miller said, there are the “hidden homeless” that cannot be tracked.

But, “that’s about as true as we can get,” Miller said of the census figure.

The census was conducted by county workers and volunteers from private social service agencies. Census-takers visited the four county Project Homeless Connect sites in Freehold, Keyport, Asbury Park and Long Branch, along with food give-away programs and other sites where the homeless gather, Miller said.