The annual effort to count homeless people in New Jersey is usually a one-day event. Because of this week’s snowstorm, the count began in seven counties Wednesday and will be done in the rest of the state this week.
Taiisa Kelly, a senior associate at Monarch Housing Associates, a non-profit agency that works with communities to identify the needs of the homeless and apply for grants, says it’s difficult for volunteers to count the homeless who are not in shelters or transitional housing.
“Libraries, local businesses, train stations, bus stations are prime locations where people might go,” she said. “We try to target places like soup kitchens or drop in centers that might be providing services to people throughout the day. That way we can kind of catch the people who are on the street even if we don’t know exactly where they’re sleeping.”
About 14,000 homeless people were counted in the Garden State last year.
“We’ve had consistently between 12,000 to about 14,000 people that are identified as homeless throughout the state on the one day count. That shows while we have a lot of programs working in the communities, the numbers are just too overwhelming for people to keep up with the need,” she added.
The information is used to help identify any gaps in needed services and help towns determine how best to use federal funds to help reduce homelessness.