Counting the Homeless on One Night in January

Jan 16, 2019
Photo by: Jack Reynolds

Networks of organizations, agencies and others that plan community efforts to end homelessness will conduct the NJCounts 2019 across New Jersey’s 21 counties, from Jan. 23 through Jan. 29. Volunteers will ask homeless shelter residents and those in unsheltered locations where they spent the night of Jan. 22.

Ocean County’s Homeless Prevention and Assistance Coalition will be doing the count. HPAC is working with Family Promise, Ocean Mental Health Service’s PATH program and Community Affairs Resource Center to coordinate outreach in the woods, camps and any churches or programs that serve the homeless.

Additional sites in Ocean County are at the Lakewood Community Center, 20 Fourth St. in Lakewood, and The Beat Center at 1769 Hooper Ave. in Toms River.

Family Promise of Southern Ocean County Director Elizabeth Golla said there are two locations in Southern Ocean where homeless can walk in to be counted: the Ocean Community Church in Manahawkin at 1492 Route 72 West and The Greater Tuckerton Food Bank in Tuckerton.

Services will be provided to those who come to the two sites between 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. on Wednesday, Jan. 23, at the church in Manahawkin and between 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. on Thursday, Jan. 24, at the Tuckerton Food Pantry, 148 North Green St., behind the Methodist church.

The count asks for information on where a person slept on Jan. 22, for the Point in Time count that is compiled and used to grant funding to various helping organizations.

Free services that will be provided include food, flu shots, health and STD screenings, clothing, hygiene items, Board of Social Services help and Soldier On/Veterans Services.

Golla said there is a need for volunteers to drive people to the locations if that is an issue; potential volunteers should call the Family Promise Day Center at 609-994-3317.

Last year, Family Promise sheltered 37 individuals at area churches and host sites. These sites help with other expenses, providing meals, showers and beds. The idea is for working families who have lost their homes to be able to earn enough money for a security deposit and a new rental. “Families that came through our program typically stay for between three and six months,” said Golla.

Family Promise also offered referral assistance to just under a thousand callers.

According to Monarch Housing Association, the organization that collates the homeless count for all 21 counties, during the Point in Time Count held on Jan. 23, 2018, surveys answered in Ocean County found 102 people were unsheltered homeless, 201 were in emergency shelter, eight were in transitional housing, 68 were doubled up with other households and 304 answered “other.” Among those surveyed, 52 were chronically homeless, 10 were homeless veterans, 28 were youth, and 55 were in shelters for domestic violence victims.

Homeless people can be considered sheltered if they are living in a supervised publicly or privately operated facility designed to provide temporary living arrangements, including shelters, transitional housing, hotels and motels paid for by charitable organizations or by federal, state or local government programs.

Unsheltered homeless means the primary nighttime residence on Jan. 23 was a private or public place that is not designed for, or ordinarily used for, sleeping accommodations, such as a car, park, abandoned building, bus or train station, airport or camp.

Most of the respondants (68) were living in permanant housing in Ocean County before they became homeless; only 12 were in prisons or detention facilities, three in a substance abuse facility, two in foster care and two in a psychiatric hospital or treatment facility.

According to Monarch Housing, “Because the point in time count only represents one night during the last 10 days of January, it is widely accepted that the PIT will undercount the overall homeless population. The data should not be viewed as a comprehensive measurement of all families and individuals who experience homelessness throughout the year, but rather as a minimum number of persons who experience homelessness in New Jersey on a given night.” 

— Pat Johnson

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