On the night of Jan. 24, volunteers canvassed the state to find out how many people in New Jersey have no real place to call home.

Kim Reinick, ThinkStock

It was announced Tuesday that their efforts — better known as NJCounts, a product of Cranford-based Monarch Housing Associates — helped tally 8,532 homeless men, women and children. That represents a decrease of 409 persons since 2016.

More than 1,300 homeless individuals were found to be living completely unsheltered in this year's count. Nearly 50 unaccompanied minors were identified in the count.

Homeless count by county:

  • Atlantic — 422
  • Bergen — 302
  • Burlington — 604
  • Camden — 540
  • Cape May — 119
  • Cumberland — 151
  • Essex — 2,048
  • Gloucester — 128
  • Hudson — 822
  • Hunterdon — 130
  • Mercer — 478
  • Middlesex — 546
  • Monmouth — 399
  • Morris — 378
  • Ocean — 224
  • Passaic — 449
  • Salem — 17
  • Somerset — 244
  • Sussex — 99
  • Union — 475
  • Warren — 57

Volunteer tallies from January were combined with data pulled from New Jersey's Homeless Management Information System.

Essex County accounted for nearly a quarter of the state's total homeless. More than 180 individuals in Essex County are considered "chronically homeless," meaning they have a long-term disabling condition and have been homeless for a year or more, or at least four times in the past three years and the length of those episodes add up to a year or more.

Middlesex County experienced an increase of 89 homeless persons from 2016 to 2017. But since 2013, total homelessness in the county has fallen by 485 individuals.

"We've been committed, since 2009, to put in our budget $1 million a year to end homelessness," said Middlesex County Freeholder Director Ron Rios. "If we could have zero homelessness, that's a grand slam. And believe me, our folks are really working hard at that."

Rios said a major piece of the puzzle in getting people off the streets or out of shelters is connecting them with the services and programs that can correct the problems — such as unemployment or addiction — that got them there in the first place.

"Once they may find the place or people that can help, I think they'd want to help themselves also and start taking an aggressive approach," he said.

Jay Everett, an associate with Monarch, said the homeless count is likely an underestimate of how many New Jerseyans are without a home. Despite a smaller total this year compared to last, knowing more than 8,000 individuals are homeless is not acceptable, he said.

Services such as rapid rehousing and permanent supportive housing have helped make a dent in the state's homeless numbers, he noted.

"What we’ve discovered in terms of evidence-based practices in housing homeless persons is that reducing the length of time that people spend homeless increases the likelihood that they’ll be successful when they leave homelessness," Everett said.

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