Monarch Housing Associates and the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs’ (DCA) Office of Homelessness Prevention (OHP) today announce a new partnership to address racial inequity in services provided to people who are homeless. The OHP will join 10 communities throughout the state, in partnership with Monarch and National Innovation Service (NIS), to begin the critical work of centering the homelessness service system on racial equity.

“There is no question that communities of color are disproportionately affected by homelessness and our goal with this new process is to understand the reasons why so we can more effectively tackle the problem,” said Lt. Governor Sheila Oliver, who serves as DCA Commissioner. “Exploring how racial disparities in our system play a role in perpetuating homelessness will help us to better target programs and services in the future. Monarch and NIS have always provided strong advocacy for vulnerable populations and we’re excited to partner with them on this new initiative to help end homelessness in our state.”

“The work we will embark on together with the Office of Homelessness Prevention, in partnership with National Innovation Service, will help us move beyond recognizing racial inequities to reach a deeper understanding of the historical roots of the challenges we see today and set about the intentional work of addressing the policies that perpetuate these disparities,” said Taiisa Kelly, CEO of Monarch Housing  Associates.

The project will focus on establishing a baseline understanding of the impact of racism on homelessness and creating pathways for people with lived experience of homelessness to participate in the decision-making process of the homelessness service system.  DCA is providing nearly $30,000 in Community Service Block Grant funding for this initiative.

New Jersey has reduced homelessness by 49 percent between 2007 and 2019. Our success is recognized by the National Alliance to End Homelessness, which highlighted New Jersey as one of only three states  to significantly reduce overall homelessness. We have accomplished so much. The OHP looks forward to this timely partnership and continuing to explore the most innovative solutions to meet housing needs amidst the increased challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic,” said OHP Director Rebecca Rhoads.

Over the years, Monarch and DCA have seen a consistent trend where homelessness disproportionately impacts communities of color with the most significant disparities seen in the Black and African American communities in the state.  The annual point in time count, a one-day count of all persons experiencing homelessness in sheltered and unsheltered locations across the entire state, has consistently demonstrated disparities in people who experience homelessness in New Jersey.  While persons identifying as Black or African American make up about 13 percent of the state population, they represent about 50 percent of the identified population experiencing homelessness.  This is in comparison to persons identifying as White, non-Hispanic who make up about 54 percent of the state population and 25 percent of the identified population experiencing homelessness.  These consistent disparities indicate that solutions to address and end homelessness must center on race and the impact of structural and systemic racism in order to effectively end homelessness.

“The Office of Homelessness Prevention recognizes the importance of evaluating the effectiveness of current policy and informing the development of new programs to address homelessness through a lens of racial equity. This partnership is a perfect opportunity to engage with communities across the state, benefit from the National Innovation Services‘ expertise, and join together with our valued local partner, Monarch Housing Associates, to address disproportionate levels of homelessness among communities of color,” said Rhoads.

“We see this project as an opportunity to build on our homeless services in New Jersey and create pathways to stable housing for all people experiencing homelessness,” said Taiisa Kelly.  “In doing this work, we can chip away at the structures of racism and set the stage to operationalize housing as a human right.”

The DCA Office of Homelessness Prevention capitalizes on the strides New Jersey is making in addressing homelessness by coordinating homelessness-prevention efforts among federal, state and local agencies and private organizations with a goal of implementing a statewide strategy to address homelessness. The Office also consults with stakeholders, including people who are homeless, to identify policies and initiatives that have been most successful, and evaluates best practices and analyzes national data, which will serve as the foundation for new initiatives.