WASHINGTON — The high cost of housing in New Jersey helped lead to a 10.1 percent increase in homelessness this year, the sixth biggest increase in the country.
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s 2018 Annual Homeless Assessment Report to Congress found 9,398 homeless individuals in the state this year, up from 8,536 in 2017. The homeless are counted on one day each year.
In the last decade, the number of homeless individuals in the state has declined by 32.1 percent.
Kate Kelly, an associate with Monarch Housing, blamed the recent increase in part on the high cost of housing. Monarch based in Cranford, works to expand the supply of affordable housing in the state.
For example, she said, a household would need to earn $28.17 an hour to afford a two-bedroom apartment, but the average salary is $18.21 an hour.
“That speaks to the housing affordability crisis in our state and how expensive it is to afford a home in New Jersey,” she said.
The figures are slightly higher than the figures reported in October by Monarch, which leads the annual count. The 2018 count was conducted on Jan. 23.
In October, Monarch senior associate Taiisa Kelly said more homeless individuals may have been counted than in previous years due to state programs, including Housing First, which finds apartments for individuals before trying to provide any social services they may need. In addition, the state has been partnering with hospitals who treat homeless individuals their emergency rooms, Kate Kelly said.
Nationally, the number of homeless individuals remained steady from 2017 to 2018, growing at just 0.3 percent.
President Barack Obama’s administration in 2010 began a nationwide effort to eliminate homelessness. Since then, the number has declined by 13.2 percent.
“Much progress is being made,” Housing Secretary Ben Carson said on a conference call with reporters. “Much work remains to be done.”