Is N.J. doing better than other states in reducing number of homeless people?

By Jonathan D. Salant | NJ Advance Media for
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on December 14, 2015

On the eve of Veterans Day, Trenton Mayor Eric Jackson and Mercer County Executive Brian Hughes announced their participation in first lady Michelle Obama's Mayors Challenge to End Veterans Homelessness. Pictured is Clinton Geddis, a formerly homeless veteran


WASHINGTON — The number of homeless people in New Jersey declined more than 45 other states in the last year, according to the U.S. Housing and Urban Development's annual report.

According to the 2015 Annual Homeless Assessment Report to Congress, the number of reported homeless in the state declined by 1,573, a 13.5 percent drop.

From 2007 to 2015, the state had 7,216 fewer homeless individuals, the fourth biggest drop in the country and a 41.7 percent decline. During that same five-year period, the national homeless rate dropped by 82,550, or 11 percent.

The Obama administration launched a nationwide effort in 2010 to end homelessness and said the report reflects that commitment. The survey is taken on one night in late January each year.

"We have made tremendous progress toward our ambitious goals," HUD Secretary Julian Castro said. "But our work is far from finished. We have to continue making smart investments in the strategies that work so that everyone has a place to call home."

While the drop in the number of homeless are welcome, housing advocates said the figures don't tell the whole story.

"Most homeless and housing advocates look at it as just a snapshot in time and not a great indicator of year-over-year progress," said Staci Berger, president and chief executive of the Housing & Community Development Network of New Jersey. "There are ebbs and flows I don't think anybody is going to look at that and say, 'Our job here is done.'"

For example, variables such as weather means the homeless figures fluctuate from year to year, and if there are more volunteers available to count the homeless one year, they'll come up with a bigger number than if there are fewer counters, Berger said.

"It's definitely encouraging," Berger said. "We'll take good news anytime we can get it. It just doesn't tell the full picture of everything we're experiencing."

On the way to New Jersey is $5 million in federal funds under the National Housing Trust Fund to help build low-income housing. 

"People continue to struggle to find homes they can afford," she said.

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