MIDDLESEX COUNTY TO CONDUCT ANNUAL SURVEY OF HOMELESS

JANUARY 28, 2014 -- On Wednesday, Jan. 29, Middlesex County will conduct its Point-in-Time Count 2014 (PITC) survey throughout the County’s 25 municipalities. This annual survey assists in developing a snapshot of the number of, and reasons for, homeless persons living unsheltered outside, in emergency shelters or transitional housing programs.

“This event is essential to our role as caring, humane communities and people,” said Middlesex County Freeholder Blanquita B. Valenti, Chairperson for the Community Services Committee. “We have a moral duty to identify the men, women and children in our cities and towns whose quality of life can be jeopardized because they lack a place to live, safe from the elements and other conditions that might threaten their well-being.”

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) requires localities across the United States to conduct the Point-in-Time survey as a prerequisite to apply for supportive housing funds for the homeless.

The annual census will occur on the same date in each of New Jersey’s 21 counties.  This year, as in the past, volunteers will complete surveys for homeless persons who visit any of the three sites in Middlesex County:  Elijah’s Promise Soup Kitchen at 18 Neilson St. in New Brunswick; the Salvation Army at 433 State St. in Perth Amboy; and the Woodbridge Housing Authority at 20 Bunns Lane, Woodbridge.

All three sites will remain open from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Other volunteers will conduct “street outreach” visits to indoor and outdoor locations where homeless persons tend to congregate or reside.

During the 2013 survey, 1,528 homeless men, women and children were counted in Middlesex County. The statistical count usually reflects only a portion of those individuals who are homeless or at risk of homelessness in the County and the State.  It is estimated that approximately  2000 adults and children were homeless, or at risk of homelessness,  in Middlesex County during the year 2013.

“There will continue to be a need to address acute housing emergencies for families and individuals in our community,” states Eileen O’Donnell, Executive Director of Coming Home of Middlesex County, Inc., the nonprofit organization coordinating efforts to end homelessness locally.  “We are, however, also hoping to draw attention to the longer term goal of ending homelessness in Middlesex County through the concerted creation of affordable homes for those at low income levels, alongside the provision of community-based case management to assist people on the path to self-sufficiency”.

In last year’s count, hundreds of individuals were surveyed at the New Brunswick, Perth Amboy and Woodbridge sites, and additional surveys were completed during the outreach effort.  An estimated 100 volunteers participated in the day’s activities.

Middlesex County Freeholder Director Ronald G. Rios said: “We expect this event to be a great success as a community-wide effort to help some of our most vulnerable Middlesex County residents and to assist us in obtaining the funding and knowledge we need to continue our efforts.”

To increase the survey’s accuracy and offer direct help to the homeless, Middlesex County will, again, incorporate Project Homeless Connect (PHC) into this year’s process. This initiative supplements the survey, setting up sites around the County for the homeless to visit and be connected with case management services, donations and information on resources, such as social services, mental health services, housing, substance abuse resources, disability funding and health care.

Some of the special services that will be available at all three sites will be: showers and haircuts; flu shots; blood pressure screenings; food; clothing; hygiene kits, etc. This year Affordable Care Act (ACA) counselors will also be available to assist persons to sign up for health care through the ACA.

This year a special appeal is being made to the general public to donate unwanted, yet useable, coats of all sizes.  Also needed are new gloves, scarves, blankets, socks, underwear, thermal wear and toiletries that can be distributed to the men, women, and children who come to the sites or are found during the “street outreach.”

Homeless persons can also participate in the Point-in-Time survey by calling 2-1-1, the State’s information hotline.

Details about the 2014 Point-in-Time and Project Homeless Connect events are available at www.cominghomemiddlesex.org.  Volunteers can download English and Spanish versions of the survey from the Coming Home website as well as training on how best to administer a person-to-person survey.

Law enforcement agencies in Middlesex County have been notified of the survey schedule and have been asked to assist volunteers in locating sites where unsheltered homeless persons may congregate. 

For more information, contact Melyssa Lewis, Middlesex County Office of Human Services, at 732-745-4186 or  Melyssa.lewis@co.middlesex.nj.us  or Aaron Kennedy, Assistant Director, Coming Home of Middlesex County, Inc., at 732-745- 8863.