County tallies homeless residents

This was in the Courier News today and covers Somerset and Sussex county. To read the full article click here.

County tallies homeless residents
Staff Writer

SOMERVILLE — Michael, 38, tries to stay positive about what it’s like to spend the winter homeless in Somerville.

You get some warm clothes, he said, mentioning a donated Nautica coat he just got for Christmas.

“I’m a military man, I get in where I fit in, and when the weather changes, you adapt,” Michael said from a couch at the Samaritan Homeless Interim Program on East High Street.

Michael was among the people interviewed as part of a “Point In Time” survey conducted in each of New Jersey’s 21 counties Thursday.

Organizers said the survey — mandated by the federal government for funding purposes — was the largest homeless census project attempted in the state.

Besides allowing social service agencies to secure federal funding, the survey is also designed to help officials and caregivers better understand the homeless population in their areas and adjust services as needed.

Participants were asked six questions ranging from where they planned to sleep that night to whether they have ever received mental health or substance abuse services.

In Somerset, where the program was run by the county Department of Human Services, the bulk of the surveys, 52, appeared to come from interviews at SHIP.

Free food, clothing and toiletries as well as information on counseling/treatment and housing services attracted people of all ages, some living on the street or out of their cars, others in temporary housing.

Curtis, 51, of Somerville, said he is a recovering alcoholic and drug addict now living at a local motel. Compared to a prior stay in a tent, he called the current accomodations a “retreat” where he could recover his bearings.

Curtis said people suffering from substance abuse need more treatment options, but didn’t have complaints with what was available for homeless people in county through the government and non-profit groups like SHIP and Catholic Charities.

“This is one of the counties that really does support the homeless people,” Curtis said.