Forty Percent of Those Experiencing Homelessness in NJ Have No Income Source

Monthly Income of Those Homeless Reporting Income Do Not Nearly Keep Up with NJ’s High Housing Costs

NJCounts 2019 found 8,864 men, women and children, in 6,748 households, experienced homelessness across New Jersey. This number decreased by 439 persons (5%) from 2018. NJCounts 2019 counted individuals who were homeless on the night of January 22, 2019.

Monarch Housing’s Nadine Azari who is an Associate with the Ending Homelessness team compiled the following data that helps us look at the connection between income and homelessness in New Jersey.
“Unfortunately, New Jersey continues to be one of the most expensive states to live in. According to the National Low-Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC) Out of Reach report, NJ is the 6th most expensive state in the nation,” said Taiisa Kelly at the time of the NJCounts 2019 report release in July 2019. “A family renting a 2-bedroom apartment would have to earn $28.86 per hour in order to afford an apartment within the state. We applaud New Jersey’s work to raise the minimum wage, but it is still not quite enough. It is critical we invest in our future by assisting those experiencing homelessness to regain stability.”
A household’s experience with homelessness often results from a financial crisis. Individuals and families can become homeless because of loss of employment, a cut in work hours, or simply because they cannot afford the average cost of rent in their community.
NJCounts 2019 found that the most common source of income amongst homeless households was Social Security Insurance (SSI) (15%), followed by work income/wage (12.8%) and general/public assistance/welfare (12.1%). Benefits provided through income support programs are often not enough to assist families in affording rent.
And close to the majority of homeless persons (40.6%) reported having no source of income.  Just imagine how you would begin to even think about affording the basic necessities of food, shelter/a home of your own, clothing, medication, and transportation to work with no income at all month after month.
The average monthly income amongst homeless persons who reported a source of income in NJCounts 2019 is broken down below by the housing situation. Individuals who are living in:
  • Transitional housing – $962.81/month,
  • An emergency Shelter – $641.25/month,
  • A Safe Haven – $574.28/month, and   
  • Unsheltered – $335.43/month
On August 30, 2019, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) announced the Fiscal Year (FY) 2020 Fair Market Rents for New Jersey’s Metropolitan Areas and 21 Counties. Fair Market Rents for one-bedroom apartments in New Jersey’s counties range from $960 – $1,439/month and for two-bedroom apartments from $1,171 – $1,770/month.  
Based on the NJCounts 2019 data around monthly income of individuals experiencing homelessness, no individuals in any of the housing or shelter categories earn enough money to afford rent (and other expenses) even, in the least expensive counties of Cumberland and Warren.
What can we do to ensure that households experiencing homelessness have the capacity to increase their income to better afford their own homes?  We can continue to advocate to incrementally increase the minimum wage and also work to expand the supply of affordable homes in New Jersey. And some opportunities to help indivdiuals experiencing homelessness or at risk of homelessness find employment with a livable wage are available through the Workforce Investment and Opportunity Act.