In Union County, the 2018 Point-in-Time Count Found 459 Homeless Persons

ELIZABETH, NJ – With the proposed addition of a shelter to the roster of places the homeless can go during freezing temperatures, Union County government is looking out for its homeless population.

The “Code Blue Emergency Shelter Initiative” is designed to “prevent death and injury among homeless people during periods of extreme weather conditions” by providing access to shelters, according to the county’s website.

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During Thursday night’s freeholder board meeting, Debbie-Ann Anderson, director of the Union County Human Services Department, explained how the program works.

“Any resident [who] is homeless can go to the human services offices in Elizabeth or Plainfield, and say they’re homeless and they need shelter for the evening,” Anderson said. “It’s really to make sure that anyone, who is experiencing homelessness, has a place to sleep.”

The county’s Office of Emergency Management activates a Code Blue when the temperature drops below 25 degrees, or below 32 degrees with precipitation, the county’s website states. Once a Code Blue is activated, the county’s Human Services Department must provide sheltering as well as motel and hotel access for the homeless, under the state's procedures.

A Code Blue is active in Union County through Monday night, but the department may add additional nights based on the forecast.

The county’s Department of Human Services received $250,000 in funding for the initiative’s winter 2018-2019 season and has used $81,000 of the monies so far, Anderson said. The use of funding thus far is in line with the department’s expectations for the season’s weather conditions, she said.

The department is not requesting additional funding from the freeholders, but it is seeking to add Elizabeth Coalition to House the Homeless to the county’s list of Code Blue vendors.

The move to add the homeless shelter in Elizabeth to Union County’s list of Code Blue vendors comes just days before NJCounts, an annual count of the homeless conducted statewide on the night of Jan. 23.

In 2018, the count conducted by volunteers found 9,303 homeless people statewide, including 459 persons in 283 households in Union County, according to Cranford-based Monarch Housing Associates, which coordinates the annual effort.

Statewide, last year’s count marked a 9 percent increase in the tally of homeless people over the prior year. In Union County, the tally, also referred to as the “Point-in-Time Count,” found 16 fewer homeless persons when compared to the year prior.

During business hours

From 8:30 a.m. – 3:30 p.m. Monday – Friday (except for holidays) Homeless persons seeking shelter are encouraged to visit the Union County Department of Social Services Elizabeth Office at 342 Westminster Ave., or the county’s Department of Social Services Plainfield office at 200 West 2nd St.

Outside of business hours and during a Code Blue

The individuals and families sheltered during a Code Blue must be screened and referred by the Union County Division of Social Services.

From 3:30 p.m. – 8:30 a.m. When social services offices are closed, unsheltered persons during a Code Blue in Union County should be directed via the Union County Homeless Hotline at 908-249-4815. Walk-ins will be accepted at the Gateway Family YMCA, 135 Madison Ave., and the Salvation Army, 11 East Jersey St.

For the full list of Code Blue alerts, locations and designated warming centers across New Jersey, visit the state http://www.nj211.org/nj-warming-centers.

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