NJ Homeless Count in 2023 Viewed as a Win By Officials
Brand new figures from the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs suggest the state is pretty close to its goal of reducing by 25% the number of people who are living on the streets, in a car, or in a tent in the woods.
Compared to the same time period last year — from Jan. 1 through Oct. 31 — unsheltered homelessness is down by 23.4% in the Garden State, according to an annual report from DCA's Office of Homelessness Prevention.
The unsheltered count for 2023 is 7,669, according to the report. Last year's count was a little over 10,000.
Overall, homelessness fell in New Jersey by 1.37%, the report says. That includes a 12% jump in the number of individuals living in homeless shelters.
A quarter of the individuals without a real place to call home in 2023 are in such a position because they've been asked to leave a shared residence — that's the most common cause. Eviction is the No. 2 reason.
"It's not being diagnosed with a serious mental illness. It's not because you're struggling with addiction. It's because you're a normal person struggling with the realities of our economy," said Michael Callahan, OHP director. "They are living on the street and they shouldn't be, because life has dealt them a hand. And then it's our job to ameliorate and fix the causes of that."
Compared to the same time frame in 2022, the report recorded nearly a 29% increase this year in the number of people accessing prevention programs, which work with people in crisis to keep them from ever becoming homeless.
OHP aims to reduce unsheltered homelessness by 25% statewide by 2025; that's a federal target.
"While we still have more work to do, we are extremely encouraged by the tangible progress being made to address one of the most pressing issues we face as a state," said Jacquelyn Suárez, acting DCA commissioner.
Officials presented their findings on Monday during a news conference at HomeFront, a social services organization in Lawrence Township.
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