The Bergen Record published an article entitled “Many struggle to survive in Bergen County“. The article focuses on the reality that there homelessness and hunger exist in a county as wealthy as Bergen.The article highlights the gap between the wealthy and the poor. It notes “in Bergen County, where the median household income was $75,851 last year, according to the U.S. Census Bureau — 34th among the nation’s counties and up 16 percent since 2000. Fair-market rent on a two-bedroom apartment is $1,163 — 34 percent higher than it was just six years ago, according to The Legal Services of New Jersey Poverty Research Institute. The institute estimates that someone earning the $7.15-per-hour state minimum wage would have to work 122 hours a week to afford it.”
In affluent Bergen County, it’s getting easier for someone like Theresa Johnston to slip to the margins.
For Johnston, 45, the bottom fell out in October 2005, when she was laid off from her job at JPMorgan Chase in Secaucus. Unable to afford rent on the four-bedroom apartment that she shared with three of her children in Englewood, she ended up spending five months in a homeless shelter.
Advocates for the homeless and the working poor say her story is emblematic of a growing, if still largely invisible, problem in Bergen County. The cost of living, already higher than other parts of the state and nation, continues to rise faster than wages, they say, leaving people at the low end of the income scale struggling to stay afloat.
At the same time, the county’s reputation for affluence is making it harder for advocates to draw attention and money to the fight against hunger and homelessness.
“There’s an impression that there is no hunger or homelessness in Bergen County, and that’s far from true,” said Elizabeth Calabrese, a Bergen County freeholder who pushed for a $6.2 million homeless shelter that is being built on River Street in Hackensack. “I think the gap between the very wealthy and the poor is getting larger and larger.”
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