NJCounts Four Year Trend Shows Decreases – Homeless Numbers Reflect Evidence of Racial Disparities in Homeless Population
NJCounts 2018 found 9,303 homeless men, women and children, in 6,982 households, across the state of New Jersey. This number increased by 771 persons (9%) from 2017. NJCounts 2018 counted individuals who were homeless on the night of January 23, 2018.
Click here for the full report and county by county reports are available at this link.Click here for the NJCounts Executive Summary.
Other key findings from NJCounts 2018 as compared to NJCounts 2017 include:
1,288 persons, in 1,211 households, identified as chronically homeless, showing an increase of 196 persons (17.9%) compared to the 2017 count;
1,623 persons living un-sheltered, showing an increase of 15% from the 1,415 persons counted in 2017;
1,059 (15%) of the 6,982 homeless households counted as families, showing a 4.1% increase in homeless families as compared to 2017. A family is defined as a household with at least one child under the age of 18 and one adult; and
35 unaccompanied youth under 18 were identified in the count. This represents a 28.6% decrease in the homeless unaccompanied youth population.
“While this year saw a slight increase in the overall homeless population as compared to 2017, the overall trend over the past four years is different,” said Taiisa Kelly, a senior associate at Monarch Housing Associates and head of the Ending Homelessness Team that coordinated NJCounts 2018. “The State of New Jersey’s major investment in its Housing First initiative, the implementation of a coordinated assessment system by many of New Jersey’s communities and the first year that state law required Code Blue warming centers most likely drew out homeless individuals and families across the state who may have never before been counted.”
The overall homeless population in New Jersey has decreased 33% when compared to 2014.
The number of homeless persons in emergency shelter, transitional housing and those un-sheltered increased 9%, 4% and 15% respectively compared to 2017. This year, New Jersey enacted Code Blue legislation requiring all counties to provide emergency warming centers to all individuals experiencing homelessness during severe winter weather events and when temperatures are frigid. This process brought new partners to the system and enabled communities to better identify and engage persons experiencing homelessness.
Communities across the state implemented coordinated assessment systems designed to standardized access to homeless services, shelters and permanent housing. As a result of this process, communities have developed a more comprehensive understanding of the scope of persons experiencing homelessness in their geographic region.
In addition to the Code Blue legislation and coordinated assessment systems, the State of New Jersey implemented a Housing First program enabling communities to successfully house persons experiencing chronic homelessness. This process assists counties in successfully connecting with persons experiencing homelessness.
This year’s NJCounts 2018 report went beyond documenting the numbers giving a picture of homelessness in New Jersey. This year’s report gives evidence of the racial disparities of the state’s homeless population.
“Individuals identifying as African American are over-represented in the population experiencing homelessness and living below the poverty level,” says Kelly. “While 12.7% of the general population, persons identifying as African American are 24% of the population in poverty and 48.1% of the population experiencing homelessness. As we work to truly end homelessness in New Jersey, the system we rely on to provide homeless services and housing must not only understand these disparities but work to end the racial segregation. We need to develop strategies that recognize and address the impacts of systemic racism in our society and in the homeless system.”
Other key findings around racial disparity include:
Persons identifying as Black or African American make up 48% of those counted as homeless and 55% of counted homeless households with at least one adult and one child under the age of 18;
African Americans represent 62% of the population experiencing homelessness between the ages of 18 – 24; and
70% of persons identifying as White indicated a disabling condition as compared to persons identifying as Asian (36%), Hispanic/Latino (40%) and Black or African American (44%).
According to Monarch Housing Associates, additional factors that contributed to this year’s count of homeless families, youth and veterans included:
An increased demand on the homelessness system;
A shortage of rental housing driving up demand and costs and putting more stress on homelessness services;
Failure by Congress to increase funding for the federal Housing Choice Voucher program;
New Jersey continues to have a higher than national average rate of foreclosures; foreclosures cause many owners and renters to lose their homes; and
Many jobs in New Jersey do not pay a living wage and jobs with living wage are leaving the state.
According to the National Low Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC)’s 2018 Out of Reach report, a family in New Jersey must earn a housing wage of $28.17/hour to rent a two-bedroom apartment. The Fair Market Rent for a two-bedroom apartment in New Jersey is $1,465/month. The State of New Jersey has the opportunity to support the creation of new affordable housing across the state through the enforcement of the Council of Affordable Housing (COAH.)
“While the NJCounts 2018 data is critically important, the new numbers do not tell the whole story. We need to remind our elected officials in Washington that lives of vulnerable individuals and families lie in the balance and that Opportunity Starts at Home,” says Richard W. Brown, CEO of Monarch Housing Associates. “This year’s NJCounts results are timelier than ever reminding our elected officials that is critical that there are No Cuts to Housing. Budget cuts to vouchers and other key programs would be disastrous and exacerbate New Jersey’s homelessness and affordable housing crisis.”
NJ Counts 2018 was designed to understand the nature and needs of individuals and families experiencing homelessness in New Jersey. Volunteers sought out homeless residents in shelters and other locations where they are forced to live because there is insufficient affordable housing available to them.
To end homelessness in New Jersey, it is imperative that we know how many individuals and families need housing, what counties they are from, and their service needs and circumstances. Timely data is necessary to implement and expand on strategies that have proven to be effective in ending homelessness.
Questions about the NJCounts results in specific counties. Click here for local county contacts.