The results of Hudson County’s 2019 Point-in-Time Count are in. Each year, Monarch Housing Associates conducts a volunteer-driven, nationwide survey in which canvassers attempt to capture a complete census of New Jersey’s homeless population.
Each county is tasked with creating a snapshot of its general homeless population, while also calling attention to various sub-populations of homeless people who are especially vulnerable. The survey breaks down the homeless population by age, gender, race, and contributing factors to homelessness.
The results are used to help deliver better services as defined by funding priorities set by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, and to help local agencies target resources to combat the chronic problems homeless people face.
Because canvassers conduct the survey in a single night, the report is not a comprehensive, long-term project, but rather a snapshot of homelessness on the night of Jan. 22.
“It’s widely accepted that because the Point-in-Time count represents a single night in January, the PIT will undercount the overall homeless population,” the report reads. “This data should not be viewed as a comprehensive measurement of all families and individuals who experience homelessness throughout the year, but rather as a minimum number of persons who experience homelessness on a given night.”
Experts don’t speculate on what percentage of the homeless population is missed. It varies wildly, based on circumstances in each county.
The report cited other challenges, including incomplete surveys, volunteer shortages, and homeless people choosing not to seek housing services on the night of Jan. 22.
HUD’s guidelines for who qualifies as homeless are another consideration. households sharing living spaces, people living in illegal or overcrowded units, discharged from a facility or prison with no residence, scheduled to be evicted, or paying for a motel unit are not considered homeless by the federal government.
Here are the number of homeless people counted in each Hudson County municipality:
Jersey City: 421
North Bergen: 5
Union City: 172
West New York: 8
Numbers show disparity
Homelessness appears to have risen since the Jan. 2018 count. Racial disparities marginally worsened since last year.
Thirty-five volunteers found that there were 890 homeless people this year, compared to last year’s 860.
The report concludes that disparity along racial lines is evidence of “systemic racism,” because the portion of homeless people who are black or African American is considerably larger compared to Hudson County’s black/African-American population.
Black/African-American people represent 11.6 percent of Hudson County’s population, but, according to the PIT count results, 46.7 percent of all homeless people in the county are black or African-American. In 2018, black and African-American homeless people made up 46.2 percent of the homeless population.
“Disparities in who experiences homelessness highlight the impact of a pervasive structural force: systemic racism,” the report said. “Understanding and acknowledging the impact of systemic racism on those experiencing homelessness is key to developing an effective system responsive to the community and strengthened in cultural understanding and awareness.”
The study goes on to report that homeless people who are black or African-American have much higher rates of physical and mental disabilities and other chronic health conditions, including mental health issues, substance abuse disorders, and HIV/AIDS than homeless people in other racial/ethnic backgrounds.
According to the study, homeless people who identify as black or African-American are more likely to be homeless for three years or longer.
The breakdown of the homeless population by race/ethnicity is:
Black/ African-American: 46.7 percent
Hispanic/Latino: 31.8 percent
White: 20.4 percent
Asian: 1.3 percent
Native American: 0.3 percent
Homeless sub-populations, as designated by HUD are the unsheltered, chronically homeless, veterans, victims of domestic violence, and youth 25 years old and younger.
According to the study, 267 of the 890 homeless people are unsheltered, meaning they have no access to suitable sleeping accommodations, sleeping in parks, public spaces, cars, and transit stations.
This is a steep increase in unsheltered homeless people. Five years ago, there were 169 unsheltered homeless people.
70.4 percent of unsheltered homeless people were male, and 59.6 percent were black or African-American.
Chronically homeless people have been homeless for a year or more and have a long-term disabling condition. 226 homeless people are chronically homeless, 25.4 percent of the total homeless population.
There are 29 homeless veterans in Hudson County, which is a 12 percent increase from 2018.
Thirty-four homeless people identified as victims of domestic violence. Fifteen of those 34 people listed domestic violence as the cause of their homelessness.
Fifty-seven of the 890 homeless people in the county were 25 years of age or younger, making up about 6.4 percent of the total homeless population.
Fifty-one percent of homeless people have some kind of disability. The most common disabilities are mental health issues and substance-use disorders.
Developmental disabilities are especially high among homeless children. Half the homeless children surveyed had at least one developmental disability.
Ninety-eight of the homeless people surveyed were children under 18 years old, 41 were adults 18-24 years old, and 751 were over the age of 24.
60.3 percent of the homeless people surveyed were experiencing their first episode of homelessness. The biggest factor contributing to homelessness was lost or reduced job income.
Most of the homeless people in Hudson County originally had residences locally. Only about 15 percent of homeless people surveyed came from places outside Hudson County.