Report: Neary 1,600 homeless in Essex County

Affordable housing non-profit Monarch Housing Associates released its annual point in time count, a statewide count of households experiencing homelessness in New Jersey.

Broken down by county, the report was released on Aug. 14 and breaks down the population and reasons that people included in the report are experiencing homelessness.

In Essex County, the report is broken down into three sections:

• Racial disparities among the total homeless population;

• The total homeless population;

• Subpopulations, which includes unsheltered, chronically homeless, veterans, victims of domestic violence and youth.

The data was collected from the Homeless Management Information System and from client interviews done by virtual survey.

According to the report, as of January 2023, there were 1,595 people who are experiencing homelessness in Essex County. Of that total, 186 are considered chronically homeless and 126 were unsheltered on the night of the count.

Newark has the highest number of homeless people with 1,361. Orange and Essex Fells had the lowest number with two each; the other towns included in the report were East Orange (66), Montclair (62), Bloomfield (38) and Irvington (34).

“The 2023 Count represents the first time the identified population experiencing homelessness has been over 10,000 people (statewide) since 2015,” Monarch wrote in the report. “These numbers represent a convergence of many system changes.”

Monarch Associate Nadina Azari said she can’t speak to what caused the drop in homelessness back then, but said there was a slight rise in the number of people who were homeless before the pandemic started. The 2020 report was done in January of that year before COVID shutdowns began.

Several reasons were given for the spike. One is the COVID-19 pandemic; the statewide eviction moratorium was lifted on Jan. 1, 2022, and as the court system is working through its backlog, many of those who could not keep their homes have become homeless.

Another reason given in the report is the rent increases that New Jersey has seen, 8.38 % increase in recent years.

“With the pandemic funding dwindling down, we’re seeing a huge need for housing vouchers.”

Azari said in a phone interview on Sept. 1. “People who were safe in their homes are now being evicted.”

The other two reasons Monarch highlighted in the report are related to the housing crisis.

“New Jersey, like the rest of the nation, is in the midst of a housing crisis. There are not enough homes affordable to those making 30 percent of the area median income or less,” the report says. “The National Low Income Housing Coalition’s Gap Report has identified that within New Jersey for every 100 households looking for a place to call home, there are only 31 units available to them creating a shortage of 224,531 homes for extremely low-income households.”

According to the St. Louis Federal Reserve Bank, which the report cites, Federal Reserve Economic Data says that New Jersey “had a vacancy rate of 3.7 percent for rental units, a significant drop from an 11.2% vacancy rate in 2012.”

In the section of the report discussing racial disparities, Monarch found that people who identify as Black or African American and non-Hispanic/Latino are overrepresented in the population experiencing homelessness.

“While 35.9% of the general population, persons identifying as Black or African American are 45.8% of the population in poverty and 70.5% of the population identified as experiencing homelessness,” the report said.

There are also racial disparities in several subpopulations of people experiencing homelessness, such as young people and along gender identifying lines.

“The majority of persons identifying as White non-Hispanic/Latino identified as female (51%), whereas the majority of persons identifying as Black or African American and Hispanic/Latino identified as male (53% and 55%, respectively),” Monarch wrote in the report. “Of persons identifying as Black or African American, 18% reported receiving Earned Income, compared to 12% of persons identifying as White non-Hispanic/Latino and 13% of persons identifying as Hispanic/Latino.”
Of the total in Essex County, there are 136 homeless adults between the ages of 18 and 24, making up 9%. There are 1,044 adults over the age of 24, which makes up 65% of the total. The rest of the population is children under 18. The age range most represented in adults between the ages of 35 and 34.

“Fifty-four percent (856) of homeless persons were male, 45% (713) were female and four homeless persons (0.3%) identified as transgender,” the report said.