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.