Union County will once again participate in the national Point-in-Time Count and Survey of the Homeless. This national census of homeless persons takes place each January. In Union County, it will be conducted countywide on the streets in the early morning hours of Wednesday, January 24, from 3 a.m. to 7 a.m. The number of people staying at homeless shelters in Union County will also be recorded.
“While the Union County economy is strong, it is important to recognize that any person or family can fall upon hard times. As a community we strive to lend a helping hand to those in need, and the annual Point in Time Count provides valuable insights into the issue of homelessness in our neighborhoods, throughout New Jersey and across the nation,” said Union County Freeholder Chairman Sergio Granados.
The annual Point-in-Time Count is mandated by the US Department of Housing and Urban Development, and is intended to guide efforts to end homelessness.
In New Jersey, the NJCounts 2018 survey will focus on homeless families, youth and veterans. It includes both persons staying in shelters and those without shelter, in all 21 counties.
The Point-in-Time Count in Union County is coordinated by the Union County Department of Human Services with volunteers from the public and additional assistance from the Union County Sheriff.
As needed, the Union County Police Division and the Plainfield Police Department will provide rides for those requesting shelter.
“Many factors contribute to homelessness. New Jersey faces a number of challenges, including a shortage of rental housing, the loss of living-wage jobs, and the failure of Congress to increase funding for the federal Housing Choice Voucher program,” said Vice Chairman Bette Jane Kowalski, who is the Freeholder liaison to the Human Services Advisory Board. “Even under current levels, the wait for a Section 8 voucher ranges from five to 10 years in Union County.”
In order to help homeless persons connect with resources in Union County, two outreach events have also been scheduled for Jan. 24.
The Salvation Army at 615 Watchung Avenue in Plainfield will host an event from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. including free winter coats, clothing and toiletries, and free HIV testing among many other services.
The Elizabeth Coalition to House the Homeless at 118 Division Street in Elizabeth will also host an event from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. on Jan. 24, offering free haircuts, food, clothing, legal aid, veteran’s services and more.
According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, 165,800 people in 70,000 New Jersey households use a voucher to afford decent, privately owned housing. In 2018, New Jersey could lose 5,500 vouchers if Congress does not increase renewal funding sufficiently to cover rising rents and other costs.
The 2017 Point-in-Time Count recorded a total of 291 households in Union County, totaling 475 persons. A total of 43 persons in 43 households were identified as chronically homeless. Fifty households totaling 55 persons were unsheltered on the night of the count.
“The fact is that any homeless person is one too many,” said Freeholder Granados. “When people lose their homes, the impact ripples out to their families and communities. Solving the problem of homelessness requires a renewed commitment on all levels – state, federal and local.”
Union County Granados’s Chairman’s initiatives for 2018 include UC HEART, a series of measures that deploy existing County resources to focus on community well-being and inclusiveness. This includes the creation of the Union County Office of Community Engagement and Diversity, the first county-based LGBTQ Office in New Jersey, and the first People with Special Needs Office in New Jersey, along with continuation of the UC-HERO program for veteran’s services.
The Point-in-Time survey is coordinated statewide in New Jersey by the nonprofit housing organization Monarch Housing Associates. For more information visit Monarch Housing online at monarchhousing.org.