There was a 15.8 percent rise in the number of homeless men, women, and children across New Jersey this year when the state conducted its annual official count in January, with an increase of 1,898 persons for a total of 13,900.
The report also found that there was a 22.7 percent increase for a total of 1,499 in 1,246 households, in those considered “chronically homeless.”
Each year, the federal government requires every state to count the number of homeless residents over a specific night in January. Known as the point-in-time report, it enables the government to understand the nature and needs of the problem.
The count did see a 33.4 percent decrease in unsheltered homeless, but officials cited the extreme cold weather the night of the count as a possible reason for it. There were 931 persons counted as living unsheltered.
Monarch Housing, which directed the NJ Counts 2014, noted that New Jersey has a number of programs aimed at solving homelessness but that not all counties have implemented them. Further, Congress is expected to cut funding for some of the programs.
Mercer County had the lowest lengths of homelessness among households, with only 6.4 percent reporting being homeless for over a year and 70 percent for less than three months. Mercer County has implemented two programs — Housing First and Rapid Re-Housing — that are aimed at shortening the length of time households experience homelessness.
The largest group of homeless, 9,762, is living in emergency shelters. The next-largest group, 3,183, is living in transitional housing. The three counties with the largest number homeless are Burlington, Essex, and Union, each with about 1,600 homeless people.
The report outlines the causes and length of homelessness, the disabilities these people suffer, and where they live. The number one cause is being asked to leave a shared residence, with the second cause loss of a job or income.