NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ - Corinthian said she has been living on the streets of New Brunswick since her landlord forced her out of her apartment last year.
She spends much of her time filling out applications for affordable housing and holding out hope that one of them puts a roof over her head.
"It's very hard at times because I've been clean for 20-something years and being out here on the streets, keeping and maintaining," she said. "What I do, I move around and stay busy, fill out my applications for low-income housing and wait."
Corinthian was at Elijah's Promise on Wednesday afternoon for the point in time survey, an annual nationwide census on America’s homeless.
The survey, which is mandated by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), attracted dozens of homeless men and women to the community kitchen on Nielson Street.
Elijah's Promise was an obvious choice to host the survey considering it is the most city's recognizable resource for the hungry and homeless. Many of them, like Corinthian, end up here for a hearty lunch of hamburgers, tater tots and other food.
Getting a homeless headcount is beneficial, said Bobbin Paskall, chief operating officer for the non-profit Coming Home of Middlesex County.
The number won't be too surprising, however, because those like Paskall who provide social services to the homeless in New Brunswick and across Middlesex County already know who the homeless are.
The survey, known as NJCounts, is vital because it provides a chance for city, county and state services to glean crucial details about the homeless' experiences and use that data to best help them.
"Yes, of course, we're counting them," Paskall said. "We need to know how many. But it also tells us about them. It paints a picture of who is homeless in our community. We get demographic information, age, race, gender. We learn about what disabilities they might have, if any. We ask them about why they became homeless. Is it because the loss of a job or the loss of some benefits? Or did they have an illness. So, we ask them those things."
The homeless at Elijah's Promise, with the help of a worker, filled out a questionnaire that sought to find out how they became homeless, where they had last been living, if they had any issues such as substance abuse or chronic health problems. Question No. 2 asks: In what town did you spend the night?
"What it will do, the federal government does and the state, is use this," Paskall said. "And that allows us to say, 'Hey, we need more of this kind of housing. We need more housing for families that is affordable. We need more housing for seniors.' It allows us to plan.
"We have actually done that. So when we get this data back, we analyze it and it allows us to know, 'We need this many unit that cost this much money.' So, it helps us to plan these services in the future. It is working because we are seeing an increase in our ability to house individuals because we are bringing in more resources based on the data that we're collecting."
On the night of Jan. 22, 2019, a total of 430 households, including 620 persons, were experiencing homelessness in Middlesex County, according to HUD statistics. That represented an increase of 23 persons (4%) and 23 households (6%) from 2018.
Paskall said the surveys gathered at Elijah's Promise and a site in Perth Amboy will be added to those collected by mobile teams that went out looking for homeless people to add to the point in time count.
"Everyone asks me in the moment what the number is, but I have no idea," Paskall said Wednesday. "We end up doing about a thousand surveys over the course of the whole day. Then we have to pull all that data and analyze it. We will not know for a couple of months what the numbers are."