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Union County Has Most Homeless in NJ, Report Shows

On one January night, 1,648 individuals and 371 families did not have a roof over their heads, government report detailed.

Union County homeless statistics (Credit: NJ Spotlight)
Union County homeless statistics (Credit: NJ Spotlight)
While the number of homeless in New Jersey may be declining over the past five years, Union County still holds two unenviable top spots for the number of unhoused in the state.

According to a report released by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, 1,648 of the roughly 12,000 homeless people in New Jersey reside in Union County. Worse yet,approximately 18.7 percent of the state's homeless families - approximately 371 families comprising 1,122 individuals - reside in Union County, the largest number of such families in New Jersey.

The numbers were drawn from HUD's 2013 Annual Homeless Assessment Report to Congress and the Source for Housing Solution's report on New Jersey released in May. Both reports conducted surveys on one night in January in an effort to provide a snapshot of homelessness, of both sheltered and unsheltered homeless populations.

In the Elizabeth/Union County CoC, or Continuum of Care Jurisdiction (one of 19 such groups which survey the homeless in the state's 21 counties),the number of homeless had risen from 1,116 individuals in 2009 to 1,658 in 2013, an increase of 47.7 percent, NJ Spotlight reported.

The 1,658 figure represented an increase of 13.2 percent since just last year. Almost 80 percent of the homeless families are headed by a female, the Source for Housing Solutions report said.

The biggest reason for homelessness, from surveys conducted among the homeless, is the loss of a job and an inability to find work, according to the Source for Housing Solutions. The high cost of housing, relationship breakups, and eviction followed job loss on the list of causes.
 
Alcoholism and drug abuse were also listed as causes of homeless, as were mental and emotional problems, the Source for Housing Solutions report said.

While the numbers in Union County are up,homelessness in the state overall has dropped over the past five years, NJ Spotlight said. In New Jersey, 12,002 homeless people were counted in 21 counties, which the article said represents a drop of about 8 percent from 2012 and an 11 percent drop from 2008, the HUD report detailed.

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