Government shutdown, weather may impact 2019 homeless count
New Jersey's 21 counties plan to participate in NJCounts 2019 this Wednesday, conducting a statewide point-in-time count of the sheltered and unsheltered homeless.
Jay Everett, associate with Monarch Housing Associates in Cranford, said many of the programs that provide shelter, transitional housing or hotel and motel placements for homeless people already provide an idea of how many people in the state experience homelessness.
Another way to count is to find homeless in shelters, woods, under bridges and in vacant buildings — people who refuse services.
NJCounts 2018 found 9,303 homeless men, women and children in 6,982 households across the state. The number increased by 9 percent from 2017. But in this year's NJCounts, there are several factors expected to affect the numbers.
One is the current partial government shutdown. Formerly homeless people housed through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development-funded rental assistance vouchers face increased risk of losing their housing as the shutdown freezes the agency's ability to draw down rental assistance funding.
The shutdown puts furloughed workers living pay check to pay check at risk of eviction and foreclosure and leaves programs receiving HUD funding worrying about making payroll.
Also, a shortage of funding for affordable rental housing in New Jersey drives up demand and cost.
The biggest factor to affect the count on Wednesday is weather. Everett said New Jersey recently enacted the Code Blue law. When the temperature reaches a certain freezing point, warming centers open for the unsheltered. If that happens, there may be fewer homeless people on the streets the night of the count.