Report: Fewer living on streets of NJ
Nearly 1,600 fewer people were homeless in New Jersey this year, according to a new report from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
The 13.5 percent decrease underscores a dramatic continued drop in the number of people living on the streets, both in the Garden State and nationwide.
The 2015 Annual Homeless Assessment Report to Congress out last week revealed that homelessness decreased by 2 percent, or 12,000 people, in the U.S.
The report estimates that 565,000 Americans were homeless on a single night in January. In New Jersey, that figure was 10,100, 41.7 percent lower than in 2007.
But local advocates for the homeless caution that many New Jerseyans without a permanent home — and those most at-risk to be — are missed by such “point-in-time” counts.
“The reality is that there are lot more people that are at-risk or meet other definitions of homeless,” said Taiisa Kelly, an associate with Monarch Housing, a New Jersey nonprofit proponent of affordable housing.cq on taiisa.
The new estimates are based on a tally — coordinated on a single night nationwide during the last 10 days of January — conducted at shelters and on the streets. So-called “couch surfers,” however, wouldn’t be captured in the data.
Consider Keith St. Clair, 53, who has been living at The Center in Asbury Park for four months. In the three years since he last had a home to call his own, St. Clair told the Asbury Park Press that he’s spent countless nights sleeping at friends’ apartments.
Another concern: the tally is made in cold-weather January, when the homeless are least apt to sleep outside.
“It was a 24-7 thing to find a place to sleep,” said St. Clair, formerly of Toms River. “Some nights I didn’t. I’d walk around on the boardwalk if the weather was nice.”
Still, Kelly said the report is a valuable tool to measure the problem.
“If you are sleeping outside in the middle of January, then you really have no other options,” she said.
Some other findings for New Jersey:
•90 percent of those homeless were staying in shelters while 10 percent were found outside of shelters, including outdoors.
•Fewer than 700 veterans were counted as homeless. On a conference call with reporters Thursday morning, HUD officials said they were confident that homelessness among veterans would soon be effectively eliminated.
•The number of chronically homeless actually grew slightly, about 3 percent, and is up nearly 35 percent in five years. Chronic homelessness is defined as those who have been homeless for a year or more or have been temporarily homeless four or more times in the last three years. St. Clair, now that he is “safe and secure” at the Center, said he is planning a new life with his partner, including a home of their own.
“I’m focused now and I’ve got my self-esteem back,” he said.
At a glance
Here's Monarch's county-by-county breakdown of the actual counts from January: