Homelessness declines in NJ but many living in shelters, encampments
Homelessness remains a significant problem in the Garden State.
The most recent data, which is based on an annual point-in-time survey, shows there were 8,862 homeless individuals in New Jersey last year, compared to 9,398 in 2018.
Taiisa Kelly, the CEO of Monarch Housing Associates, said unlike New York City, many homeless New Jerseyans are not living on the street, so they’re out of sight.
“People are staying shelters, some are in transitional housing programs and there are also people on the street,” she said.
“In a suburban state like New Jersey, the majority of people we identify are staying in shelters," she said. “We also have encampments in wooded areas where people are staying hidden. We always hear about encampments behind large shopping centers.”
According to Kelly, people in the Garden State may become homeless for several reasons but the top reason seems to be that they were asked to leave a shared residence.
In a state like New Jersey, where the cost of housing is so high, she said “more and more people are doubling up, staying with friends and family, but that can be a tenuous situation.”
In the Monarch Housing Associates survey, 1,230 people said they were homeless because they had been asked to leave a shared residence.
Other reasons include losing a job or reduction in income — the reason named by 918 people in the survey.
While the unemployment rate in New Jersey is low, “the challenge is they’re not working jobs that are adequate to help them cover their housing costs," Kelly said. "So while people are working more hours they’re not making the income that they really need to support their families.”
A total of 796 individuals indicated they were homeless because of an eviction, while 664 individuals indicated drug or alcohol abuse had caused them to lose their home.
Other factors mentioned by respondents included domestic violence, mental illness, a household breakup and release from prison.
“They often have a hard time identifying an apartment. Landlords do background checks and may not take someone with a criminal history," she said.
New Jersey’s homeless population was more than 10,000 in 2015, so the overall number is gradually declining.
You can contact reporter David Matthau at David.Matthau@townsquaremedia.com