Homelessness Rising in Bergen County

Poverty and Homelessness rise in suburbs

New Jersey Faces New Poverty:  Rising Family Homelessness in Bergen CountyA new poverty brief from the Institute for Children, Poverty & Homelessness (ICPH), New Jersey Faces New Poverty: Rising Family Homelessness in Bergen County reports that over the past 20 years, the suburbs and not the cities have been the new center of increasing poverty in the United States.

In Bergen County, NJ, where the median household income is among the top 5% in the U.S., the poverty rate rose by 74% from 1989 to 2010. Over that same time period, homelessness has become a more suburban problem. Bergen County counted more than 1,500 homeless individuals during its 2011 Point in Time Count.

According to the report:

Despite Bergen’s rising poverty, common perceptions of its relative affluence have tended to obscure families at risk of homelessness. The results of a 2011 survey of homeless Bergen residents highlighted the precarious position of respondents: 31.9% were homeless due to job loss, 37.6% reported eviction, and almost 7.7% were working but not earning enough to afford housing. High rent both creates housing instability and prevents families from exiting homelessness. The fair-market rent for a two-bedroom apartment in Bergen County is $1,494, an increase of 64.9% since 2000. Families earning the minimum wage in Bergen County would have to work four full-time jobs in order to afford a market-rate apartment.

Bergen is not alone in experiencing recent increases in poverty and homelessness; both have had a growing impact on suburbs across the country, even as public awareness of the trend lags. The suburban or rural share of the family shelter population rose from 26.9% to 41.4% between 2007 and 2010. While the annual number of persons in primary cities accessing homelessness programs fell 16.4% between 2007 and 2010, this figure grew 56.9% in suburban or rural areas.

Click here to read the full brief.