By Christie Duffy
It’s estimated that nearly 12,000 people have no place to call home in New Jersey. Tour the state, and you’ll find just 61 homeless shelters, serving both families and individuals. Do the math. It adds up to one shelter for every 194 people seeking a safe place to spend the night.
“There is a lot of things that need to be done to actually solve the issue. It’s not just one solution,” said Taiisa Kelly, community homeless planning for Monarch Housing Associates.
NJTV assembled data comparing the number of homeless people to the number of shelters available in each county. Counties with the most lopsided ratios include Monmouth, Ocean and Burlington. In fact, Monmouth has only one shelter for an estimated 564 homeless men and women.
Ocean and Burlington counties each support more than 400 homeless people, and each offers only one individual or family shelter — that, according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
After Superstorm Sandy, Ocean and Monmouth counties saw their homeless populations spike. Tent communities cropped up — makeshift housing for desperate people who feel there’s no place else to go.
“I’m looking to get permanent housing somewhere,” said Pat Maloney, who lives in a tent community in Toms River.
Along with Salem and Sussex, Passaic County boasts the best ratio of homeless population to available shelters. At Eva’s Village, they offer more than 80 beds for men, women and children, and also provide 15 support programs designed to end homelessness.
Click on the interactive map above to see the statistics in your community.
“Right now I’m a full-time culinary student in training,” said Eva’s Shelter culinary student Zach Ariah-Sanderson.
Ariah-Sanderson’s lived at Eva’s for three months and says without the combination of a bed and support program like job training, he doesn’t know where he’d be.
“I probably would be struggling. Or have to make my way to a place like Passaic County,” Ariah-Sanderson said.
Shelters are not the only option. Counties and shelters offer dozens of support programs to move the homeless into transition and permanent housing.
“Each community has a different way that they organize their sheltering system. Some communities do have the traditional emergency shelters. Other communities use funds to put people in hotels or motels, if they don’t have those traditional shelters, or to supplement the shelters they do have,” Kelly explained.
Burlington County, for example, has an aggressive 10-year plan to end homelessness. They emphasize breaking the cycle of poverty.
Every day, Monmouth County places 200 homeless people in hotels and motels across the state. This patchwork of solutions tries to keep pace with the problem of homelessness.