Interactive Map: Counting the Homeless Population in New Jersey

Colleen O'Dea | December 6, 2013 | More Issues
Annual survey shows 8 percent decline in numbers but thousands still live on streets or in shelters

Roughly 12,000 New Jerseyans were counted as homeless last year, the lowest level in at least the last five years, according to data from the US Department of Housing and Urban Development.

HUD recently released its 2013 Annual Homeless Assessment Report to Congress detailing point-of-time counts of the homeless throughout the nation. On one night during the last week of January each year, Continuums of Care Homeless Assistance Programs conduct a simultaneous count of the homeless in order to come up with an accurate, unduplicated estimate of how many people are living in shelters or on the streets.

In New Jersey, the state’s 17 CoCs counted 12,002 homeless people in the 21 counties. About 12 percent of those were unsheltered and a little more than 1 in 10 were considered chronically homeless, meaning they had a disability and had been homeless for at least a year or had had four episodes of homelessness in the prior three years. Almost half of the homeless were members of families – as opposed to individuals – and 4 percent, or 540 in total, were veterans.

The statewide numbers represent a drop of about 8 percent over the prior year, 2012, and an 11 percent decline since 2008.

That is not a complete count of the homeless during 2013, however, according to the Corporation for Supportive Housing. Using a formula it developed, CSH estimates a total of 25,612 people to be homeless over the course of this year in New Jersey.

“I do think that they have been going down overall,” Colleen Velez, senior program manager in the CSH Trenton office said of the number of homeless. “This is for many reasons, including additional resources from the government that target homeless families and veterans and the change in communities working toward ending homelessness, not just managing it, through planning best practices.”

“Extraordinary efforts on the part of federal agencies and our state and community partners have again led to reductions in homelessness, as seen in this year’s Point-in-Time count,” said Barbara J. Poppe, executive director of the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness. “This report shows that with strategic investment in evidence-based practices and proven solutions, we can end homelessness in this country.”

Nationally, the number of homeless dropped by about 4 percent over one year and by 8 percent since 2008, to a total of roughly 610,000 people. Federal officials attributed that at least in part to the Opening Doors strategic initiative launched in 2010, as well as a HUD and the US Department of Veterans Affairs collaboration that couples permanent supportive housing with services addressing mental illness and substance abuse.

The annual point-in-time homeless counts have not declined throughout New Jersey. Atlantic, Essex, Monmouth, Morris, Ocean, Somerset and Union counties all counted more homeless in 2013 compared to 2012 and to 2008. The largest increase was the more than doubling of the homeless population in Ocean County, where Lakewood is the home of a now famous tent city. The largest population was 1,648 people counted in Union County.

Hudson County had the largest one-year drop, with the number of homeless counted cut by half to 942 last January. The number of homeless in Salem County dropped by almost 86 percent from 310 in 2008 to 44 this January.

For county by county homeless counts and details of those counts, click on the above map.

CSH also has a statewide report that explores the reasons for homelessness – loss of job, inability to find work, discharge from jail. There are also detailed reports on each county available from the CSH website