Fewer Vouchers for Households on
Brink of Homelessness

Plainfield homelessAmong those counted during NJCounts 2016 in Union County at the end of January, were a college professor and a young married couple – the wife works and the husband is actively pursuing employment.

“The man was sitting in a homeless shelter on a winter night, finishing a newspaper crossword puzzle. He explained that he was an adjunct math professor at a state university, but didn’t earn enough to pay for housing.”

These individuals stayed in homeless shelters in the County.

The demographics of the County’s homeless population have shifted in recent years. Frank Guzzo, Union County’s director of human services, has participated in the count since the effort began in 2007, along with other county employees and volunteers.

“It’s changed over 10 years. Ten years ago you saw mainly males. Over the years, you’re seeing more women and families with children.”

Guzzo said.

Last year, NJCounts 2015 found 504 homeless individuals in Union County and this year’s numbers are not available.

In addition to the sheltered count, police assisted county officials and volunteers with the street counts, of mostly the chronically homeless population, conducted in Elizabeth and Plainfield.

“You walk in the streets, and you still see people living in the conditions they do, and you wonder how much of an impact are you really and truly making. Anybody that does this, they can’t help but ask that question of themselves on a regular basis.”

Guzzo said.

Union County Sheriff Joseph Cryan participated in this years Count at a “Code Blue” shelter in Elizabeth. Through Code Blue, temporary emergency shelters provide warm places for the homeless on nights when the temperatures dip below freezing.

The results of the Count point to the need for increased federal resources for ending homelessness.

“Although recent figures show that homelessness is decreasing nationwide, Monarch senior associate Taiisa Kelly said that recent changes and federal funding regulations for housing threaten the progress, because there will be fewer housing vouchers for very low-income individuals and families living on the brink of homelessness.”

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