Homelessness is on the rise in New Jersey — up 7% in Monmouth County and 4% in Ocean County alone this year, according to a non-profit organization tasked each year with counting those who have nowhere to live in New Jersey.
The report this week from Monarch Housing Associates said that the 2023 count represents the first time since 2015 that the number of known homeless people in New Jersey had surpassed the 10,000 benchmark, up 17% over last year.
The increase in homelessness was attributed to a couple of factors, including the lifting of an eviction moratorium last year that had been in place during the COVID-19 pandemic and a housing crisis in New Jersey precipitated by household incomes not matching the cost of living in the state. In other words, there simply isn’t enough affordable housing.
The report noted that the National Low Income Housing Coalition’s Gap Report has found that for every 100 individuals or families seeking affordable housing, there are only 31 units available — creating a shortage of 224,531 homes for low-income households.
The annual “point-in-time” survey of individuals and families experiencing homelessness took place on Jan. 24, 2023 by Monarch, which has coordinated the count for the state of New Jersey since 2014.
In Monmouth County, 483 people here were identified as homeless at the start of the year; while there were 434 people reported as homeless in Ocean County.
At A Glance:
Total known homeless population: 483
No shelter: 39
Temporarily sheltered: 444
Adults 55 and older: 20%
People with disabilities: 53%
Homeless for more than 1 year: 29%
Total known homeless population: 434
No shelter: 35
Temporarily sheltered: 399
Adults 55 and older: 13%
People with disabilities: 50%
Homeless for more than 1 year: 30%
In total statewide, 10,267 people were homeless with Essex County having the greatest proportion of the state’s homeless population — 1,595 people there were without homes.
The counties with the lowest percentage of the state’s homeless: Salem had 1% with 67 people homeless and Warren County also had 1% with 84 people homeless.
Monmouth and Ocean counties had 5% and 4% of the state’s total percentage of its homeless population, respectively.
Paul Hulse, chief executive of Just Believe, said the data from the survey was collected over a single day seven months ago and no one can possibly be certain how extensive the homelessness issue is in New Jersey. Hulse’s local nonprofit charity operates a Code Blue warming shelter for the local homeless population at the Riverwood Park Recreation Center in Toms River, when winter temperatures drop to at least 35 degrees.
He said the count was “as accurate as it’s going to be for counting people for one day.”
Though it may not be an exact measure, the annual "point-in-time" count by Monarch Housing Associates is the most robust and consistent effort to count unhoused individuals in New Jersey. Monarch Housing Associates has been contracted by New Jersey to conduct the federally mandated count each year since 2014.
The new data was released just weeks after the Ocean County Board of Commissioners approved a homelessness trust fund that is expected to raise between $275,000 to $390,000 annually, but will not be used to construct a shelter.
After more than a decade of resistance to the concept, the all-Republican board joined 12 other New Jersey counties in levying a $5 surcharge on most documents recorded with the county clerk’s office to provide a continuous revenue stream to the trust fund. The ordinance also established a task force that will provide oversight of the program, but the revenue is expected to complement the county’s existing social service programs.
The commissioners signaled the change in policy just days after the Asbury Park Press reported that the county Board of Social Services paid $1.5 million last year to the estate of a 29-year-old homeless woman who was murdered in a Seaside Heights motel room the county had placed her in.
Ocean County’s government has been criticized for decades over not having a full-time shelter or transitional housing facility for the homeless. On average, about 114 people are placed in some form of emergency housing each night — mainly low-budget motels — that the county government contracts with. Between 2016 and 2021, that amounted to a cost of millions of dollars in taxpayer money, including $2 million over five years spent housing local people who are homeless at motels in Seaside Heights alone.
Contact Asbury Park Press reporter Erik Larsen at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article originally appeared on Asbury Park Press: Homelessness in NJ: Numbers on rise in Ocean, Monmouth counties