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Study: Homelessness Rises 20% in Middlesex County

NJ Organizations Pressure Congress to Maintain Federal Housing Funding
Homeless Graph
The total number of homeless people counted in Middlesex County increased by about 20% in 2017. Monarch Housing

NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ—According to this year’s NJCounts “Point in Time” (PIT) survey--an annual count of homeless statewide--the number of homeless persons counted in New Jersey has decreased by 409.

However, Middlesex County saw a 20% rise in homeless persons counted, according to the report produced by Monarch Housing Associates.

The county ranked fourth in the state in terms of total homeless counted, behind Essex, Hudson and Burlington Counties. Of the homeless households counted in Middlesex County, nearly 20% were families with at least one child under the age of 18 and one adult.

“While the slight decrease in homelessness in New Jersey is a positive result, the reality is that the size of the homeless population has remained relatively the same from 2016 to 2017,” said Taissa Kelly, a senior associate at Monarch and head of the Ending Homelessness Team that coordinated the 2017 survey.

In fact, the number of chronically homeless rose over 30%, according to the study.

“Although we welcome any indication of a decline in homelessness, our mission is far from complete,” said Deborah De Santis, President and CEO of the Corporation for Supportive Housing.

She stated that organizations such as Monarch Housing deserve praise for embracing solutions proven to end and prevent homelessness.

She too added that the proposed federal budget cuts would be a blow to progress made toward eliminating homelessness.

“This progress will not continue if our leaders in Washington dismantle the housing investments and services effectively changing the lives of New Jerseyans who otherwise would face a very bleak future on our streets,” De Santis said.

Despite the slight decline in statewide homelessness, relentless representatives from organizations across New Jersey still traveled to the nation’s capital in July to advocate against proposed cuts to the federal housing budget.

“This year’s NJCounts [survey] results are timelier than ever,” Kelly said.

“Budget cuts to vouchers and other key programs would be disastrous and cause a reverse in the progress made to date.”

President Donald Trump’s proposed budget would slash federal investments in U.S. Housing and Development affordable housing by 15%, or $7.4 billion, compared to the current budget.

“Unfortunately, proposed cuts in funding from the Trump administrations come at a time when it is more expensive than ever for New Jersey families to afford housing,” Kelly said.

She added that it is essential that Federal Housing and Urban Development (HUD) resources and U.S. Dept of Health and Human Services funding - including Medicaid funding - is protected from the proposed budget cuts.

“We need to remind our elected officials in Washington that lives of vulnerable individuals and families lie in the balance,” Kelly said.

Diane Yentel, President & CEO of the National Low Income Housing Coalition, echoed Kelly’s words.

“Rising housing costs in New Jersey and across the nation put the gains made in recent years to address homelessness at risk,” Yentel said. “Now is the time we should be expanding investments in proven housing solutions to ensure everyone has a place to call home.”

The PIT report highlights many concerning statistics, such as:

  • 1,939 children under the age of 18 who were homeless (nearly one out of every four homeless statewide.) Over 50% of homeless children were under the age of five.
  • 583 veterans were identified in the count, an increase of 4.3% from 2016
  • 46.2% of homeless persons sited some type of disability, with mental illness being the most prevalent.
  • 20% of households reported that they had been homeless for more than one year.
  • While family homelessness statewide showed a decrease, 49 unaccompanied youth were identified in this year’s count, which was a 44% increase over last year.

According to the report, Monarch housing identified five barriers to shortening and eliminating bouts of homelessness in New Jersey:

  • limited access to programs that can provide stability and services to those experiencing homelessness
  • a rental housing shortage which drives up demand costs
  • proposed federal budget cuts which include the Federal Housing Choice Voucher Program
  • a foreclosure crisis that causes many renters and owners to lose their homes
  • the fact that many NJ jobs do not pay a “living wage”

The 2017 Point in Time Survey was conducted on January 24 in locations across New Jersey, including Elijah’s Promise soup kitchen in New Brunswick.