Social service agencies seek to understand more about the homeless population in New Jersey in order to design
programs and services to better serve the individuals in need of help. Each year, one critical step in gathering data of our homeless is called the “Point In Time Survey,” conducted on the same day in every county of NJ. Agencies offer free coats, food, county resources and other services, for example, to draw individuals forward on that day in order to assess their needs on a standardized questionnaire.

Other teams cover geographical areas with their questionnaires in an attempt to find as many people in need as possible. At the end of the day, all the data is gathered and reported to the Corporation for Supportive Housing in New Jersey which organizes the data into a comprehensive format and then reports it back to the social service agencies, government bodies, general public and other interested parties around the state.

The highlights of this year’s Point In Time 2009 Survey revealed that 27,628 men, women and children are estimated to be homeless across New Jersey over the course of the year. In Monmouth County there are 1,627 adults and children who are homeless over the course of a year.Nearly 33% of all homeless surveyed said that loss of their job or inability to find a job contributed to their homelessness. A third of those responding said that the high cost of housing kept them homeless. Of those responding in the survey, 89% were originally from NJ and 94% were U.S. citizens.

Families with children represent 30% of the NJ homeless population. Children represented 33% of the total number of homeless people in 2009.  The number of homeless children rose 12% from the 2008 count.36% of those who are homeless have been without a permanent place to stay for more than one year, 16% have been homeless for three to six months, and 19% for seven to 12 months. This translates into more than 72% who experience homelessness for extended periods of time—not just a week or two! The families in the survey averaged one to two children per household, and 70% were led by single women heads-of-household. We know from data collected over the years that surviving in NJ is nearly impossible on one salary, and in many cases is still difficult with two income earners.

The majority of these homeless families stay in transitional housing, with family or friends, or in emergency shelters. Unfortunately, 6% did admit that they stay on the streets with their children and 2% said they needed an emergency shelter and 49 % needed affordable housing.

HUD does not have a classification for “chronically homeless” families; they only consider single adults to fall into the chronically homeless category. However, 33% of all homeless families with children have had at least four episodes of homelessness within the past three years.

There is more data that will be released from these ongoing studies, as well as information on how agencies around the state will be using it for funding and planning purposes. Family Promise will keep you all updated on the data as it is released. Share these numbers with volunteers, friends and others so that everyone understands the importance of the work we do each and every day. Thank you for keeping families with children off the streets, helping them find some permanency in their lives, and giving them hope!