Shelters at Capacity and Turning Away Families
#NJCounts 2016 – the statewide Point-in-Time count of the homeless will take place across the state counting individuals and households who experience homelessness on January 27, 2016. Exact times of the count may vary by county.
Organizations, agencies and others that plan community efforts to end homelessness will conduct the local counts. Local count contacts are available here. For the third year, Monarch Housing Associates is coordinating the statewide NJCounts.
“We are pleased to fund NJCounts 2016 and collect data that will provide significant information about and a clearer understanding of homelessness. NJCounts 2016 makes a critical step toward ending homelessness in New Jersey.”
Said New Jersey Housing and Mortgage Finance Agency (HMFA) Executive Director Anthony L. Marchetta. HMFA funds NJCounts 2016.
NJCounts 2015 found 10,211 homeless men, women and children in New Jersey. 1,346 families and 2,471 children, under the age of 18, were homeless. Statewide and individual county NJCounts 2015 reports are available here.
“As the weather turned cold earlier this month, it is difficult to think of anyone living without a home on the streets, in the woods and in the shelter system. The results of this year’s count will inform our work to end homelessness through expanding Housing First, Rapid Re-Housing, and Coordinated Assessment and create affordable housing in New Jersey.”
Said Taiisa Kelly, Senior Associate with Monarch Housing who is directing NJCounts.
Monarch Housing expects to make the final report available in spring 2016.
“The State of New Jersey is working harder than ever to end the cycle of homelessness. The NJCounts 2016 statewide Point-in-Time annual count helps us to better understand the general demographic trends of this population so we can coordinate state, county and local activities to provide the most effective services to end their homelessness. We want families to have the ability to take back their independence and resume productive, healthy lives. To this effort, the DCA will continue to invest in permanent housing opportunities for homeless families.”
Said Charles A. Richman, Commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs.
Richman chairs the board of the New Jersey Housing and Mortgage Finance Agency (HMFA) and DCA offers a wide range of programs and services including housing production.
“The Point-in-Time homeless count is an important tool because it lets us know our progress, but is also lets us know how much more there is to be done to make sure every New Jerseyan has a home. Stable living conditions for the homeless save valuable resources and allow individuals and families an opportunity to thrive. HUD is committed to ensuring that the agency’s resources are best utilized, and to work hard to make homelessness in New Jersey a thing of the past.”
Said Maria Maio-Messano, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) New Jersey Field Office Director.
Every other year, HUD mandates that local communities conduct an un-sheltered count. While 2015 was a mandated year, it is expected that each county will conduct an un-sheltered count this year.
According to Monarch Housing Associates, several factors will contribute to the results of this year’s count of homeless families, youth and veterans including:
- Shelters reporting inability to house homeless families throughout 2015,
- A shortage of rental housing driving up demand and costs,
- Failure by Congress to increase funding for the federal Housing Choice Voucher program harming progress in creating affordable and supportive housing,
- Foreclosures causing many owners and renters to lose their homes, and
- The many jobs in New Jersey that do not pay a living wage.
The Elizabeth Coalition to House the Homeless reports that over 500 households sought housing services during the month of December 2015 alone. More than half of the families were working yet many of the households had few resources.
“As we see more and more people become ineligible for emergency assistance as they reach the maximum 5-year limit for cash assistance and reach the lifetime 12 month limit for emergency assistance, our services become stretched to serve more and more families. The very poorest of families that we serve do not have social resources such as family, friends or houses of worship to turn to for help. Our Coalition and agencies like us are quickly running out of funds to permanently house these families and help them become self-sufficient.“
Said Linda M. Flores-Tober, Executive Director.
According to the National Low Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC), in 2014, a family in New Jersey must earn a housing wage of $25.17/hour to rent a two-bedroom apartment and the Fair Market Rent for a two-bedroom apartment in is $1,309/month.
“Recent figures show that homelessness is decreasing across the country. Yet the newly approved federal funding package threatens the progress to end homelessness. Fewer housing vouchers means that very low-income individuals and families live on the brink of homelessness. I urge service providers, advocates and concerned citizens to join Monarch Housing in Washington, D.C. on April 5, 2016 to push for increased federal funding for vouchers and homeless services.”
Said Taiisa Kelly.
National policy experts expect 2016 to be another very tight budget year for federal housing programs. But ending homelessness continues to be a bipartisan issue and there is still opportunity to work over the next 12 months to expand supportive housing and services funding.
The solution to homelessness includes creating the necessary supply of supportive housing – permanent, affordable and independent rental housing with available support services.
The NJCounts 2016 results will help to implement and expand on strategies proven to be best practices in ending homelessness.
Volunteers will seek out homeless residents who spent the night of January 26, 2016 in shelters, in the woods, under bridges, in vacant buildings and at other locations where they are forced to live because there is insufficient affordable or supportive housing.
On January 27, 2016, many local communities will hold Project Homelessness Connect events that connect homeless individuals with a hot meal, warm clothes, services and housing applications.
For more information about Monarch Housing’s work to ensure that every person will have quality affordable, permanent supportive housing that fosters freedom, independence and community integration, visit Monarch Housing.
Join the conversation on NJCounts on Twitter.