NEWARK, NJ — Across New Jersey, more than 9,600 people experiencing homelessness were counted in 2020, according to Monarch Housing Associates, a 9% increase from the year prior.
Newark accounts for 1,859 of those individuals with about 350 living unsheltered. With services like warming centers, soup kitchens and libraries are unavailable during the cold winter months due to COVID-19, those living on the streets are in dire need of alternatives.
Sakinah Hoyte, the city’s Homelessness Czar, said Wednesday that Newark is hoping to meet the unsheltered population’s immediate need for winter shelter with a site constructed out of shipping containers. One of the first of its kind, the container shelter will offer temporary single-units with beds, full bathrooms, meals, transportation and wraparound services.
Other states, like California, where exorbitant housing prices have pushed out of their homes, have also begun experimenting with the cheap, easy-to-build sheltering solution that provides certain advantages over traditional shelters. Many people experiencing homelessness refuse traditional shelter due to the lack of privacy and dangers they’ve experienced in shelters in the past.
The container site is set to open in early February, but the city released no other details. In Los Angeles, the moveable, stackable homes have proved an effective way to house the unsheltered in a pandemic.
In Newark, the leading cause of homelessness stems from individuals being forced to leave shared dwellings. With the state’s eviction moratorium set to expire on March 21, officials are bracing for an increase.
“Fortunately, we have not seen many people in need of homeless eviction resources because this moratorium has really acted as a catch-net for folks,” Hoyte said during the city’s engagement forum on homelessness. “We are keenly aware that we are approaching the end of the eviction moratorium and that there will be an influx in homelessness as a result.”
A 166-unit, city-owned shelter and 100 units of permanent supported housing through the Making Housing Homes program are also in motion to help alleviate current and future need. Hoyte added that the new offerings will also include meals and wraparound services, including links to permanent housing.
The goal, Hoyte said, is to bring the number of homeless individuals in Newark to functional zero.
“Fourteen communities across the country have functionally ended either chronic or veterans homelessness,” she said. “Here in this city, that would be a huge undertaking.”
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