NJCounts 2017 found 8,532 homeless men, women and children, in 6,340 households, across the state of New Jersey. This number of the overall homeless population decreased by 409 persons (4.6%) from 2016.
“Still, the report concluded that the number of people lacking reliable housing in the Garden State remained roughly the same year after year. Within that number, specific populations of homeless ebbed and flowed.”
One trend among New Jersey’s homeless population to watch is the unaccompanied homeless youth population which was 49. The number nearly doubled from 2016 to 2017.
Newsworks interviewed Monarch Housing Associate’s Jay Everett. “Even though there is a reduction in homeless, which is always a good thing,” said Everett, an associate at Monarch Housing, “there’s still a long way to go.”
Monarch Housing coordinated the statewide NJCounts, the statewide point in time count of the homeless.
“Monarch researchers say a number of factors can force stable New Jerseyans out of their homes. Low wages, limited access to the social safety net, the foreclosure crisis, and a high cost of living are among the risk factors for a life on the streets. ‘One of the things homelessness is sometimes called is the failure of every other system,’ said Everett.”
“Rising housing costs in New Jersey and across the nation put the gains made in recent years to address homelessness at risk,” said Diane Yentel, President & CEO of the National Low Income Housing Coalition. “We should be expanding investments in proven housing solutions to ensure that everyone has a place to call home.”
But Robin Weinstein, founder of the M25 initiative, a Cumberland County anti-homelessness project, said that local lawmakers and residents are realizing that homelessness can happen to anyone — and it’s preventable.
Robin Weinstein, founder of the M25 initiative, a Cumberland County group commented on the homelessness crisis in New Jersey. “Having a home should be a human right — not an economic privilege,” he said.
“Weinstein is aiming to end chronic homelessness in the South Jersey county by offering housing vouchers and wraparound services to people without a home for an extended period of time. “That way, when people lose a job, they’re not necessarily losing a roof over their head.”
“Dawn Metzger, executive director of Samaritan Inn, a program in Sussex County that provides emergency housing for the homeless, said that she is busier than she has ever been and is struggling to find housing for those in need.
In fact, Metzger said she had to split a single, two-bedroom apartment into two separate studio apartments — a process finished just last week — to allow two families to live in Samaritan Inn’s family shelter apartments. The day after the construction was complete, Metzger said two families had already moved in.”
Metzger’s observations about the homelessness problem in Sussex County point to the dire need for more affordable housing. “Metzger is also noticing that many of the families that stay in their temporary housing or apartments are staying much longer than the normal 90 days, preventing other families from having a place to stay.
They are staying longer, Metzger said, because of the lack of affordable housing as well as jobs.”
“We need more affordable housing, period,” she said. Metzger has a strong message which is one that advocates will take with them to Washington on July 26 for the Congressional Reception. “Homelessness doesn’t discriminate, bottom line,” she said. “Anyone is one paycheck away from being in a homeless situation.”