Cuts to Voucher Program, Low Pay and High Cost of Living Contribute
Bags sit on a ledge outside of the Trenton Transit Center in Trenton, NJ.
On November 16, 2015, BloombergBusiness reported that “As New York City cracks down on panhandling, towns served by New Jersey Transit’s busiest rail lines are in a homelessness crisis, with a surge of people taking shelter in train stations and other public places.”
According to NJCounts, since 2011, New Jersey has seen its total homeless population drop 27% but the un-sheltered homeless population is on the rise – increasing 5% from 2014 to 2015.
The un-sheltered number is increasing significantly in Bergen (22%), Hudson (55%), Essex (86%) and Mercer (105%) Counties which are all home to major public transit stations.
“ … New Jersey Transit train and bus stations offer warmth, and potentially new streams of money, food and other handouts from empathetic commuters.”
There are many examples of the increasing demand for shelter and housing.
In Hoboken, a local shelter is already at capacity even before winter and the cold weather arrives. “They find places like Hoboken being welcome and safe,” Mark Singleton, 54, president of the Hoboken Shelter board, said in an interview.
New Jersey Transit, Newark and the Mental Health Association of Essex County have had an intervention program since 2012 to direct homeless people toward permanent housing and to help them obtain vital papers such as birth certificates and Social Security cards.
A city program at Newark Penn to sign up 500 people for free housing reached capacity on the first of five planned sign-up days in September.
Since March, South Orange has closed its New Jersey Transit train station from 2 a.m. to 5 a.m. after reports of as many as eight people sleeping there and engaging in what police Chief Jim Chelel called “aggressive panhandling.”
In September, a City of Newark program offering free housing to 500 individual filled all spots in the first of the five days that had been planned to sign-up new tenants.
“Around the U.S., homelessness has been driven in part by cutbacks in voucher programs and low pay, according to Kate Kelly, a public-policy associate for Monarch Housing, a non-profit group based in Cranford, New Jersey, that oversaw the 2015 count known as Point In Time. The New York metropolitan area has the added stress of a high cost of living.”