On Wednesday, January 25, 2023, The Union County Board of County Commissioners through our Department of Human Services kicked off our annual Point-In-Time (PIT) Count and Survey of the Homeless population throughout the cities in our jurisdiction.
The PIT, also known as NJCounts, takes place every January and asks for a count of unsheltered and sheltered individuals experiencing homelessness. This program ran through Tuesday, January 31st, is mandated by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and for the tenth year, Monarch Housing Associates coordinates the statewide effort, along with Continuums of Care.
“The Point-In-Time Count is an important initiative that gives our Department of Human Services a more accurate count of persons experiencing homelessness and gathering information on what resources are needed, “said Commissioner Chairman Sergio Granados, who also serves as liaison to the Human Services Advisory Council. “At the end of the day, these individuals are members of our community and understanding the scope of homelessness in our County is vital. It also helps us assess what caused them to become homeless; how long they have been on the streets and what is preventing them from becoming or staying housed and most importantly providing them with the resources to get out of homelessness.”
In 2022, due to the effects of the pandemic, Union County altered how they conducted the count versus previous years. Teams of Union County staff, government officials and local nonprofit organizations banded together in smaller groups of 4-6 people during a seven (7) day period in the morning, afternoon and late evening hours. Smaller groups surveyed people throughout the County who “sleep outdoors, in parks, alleys, under bridges, or places not meant for human habitation, such as cars, abandoned buildings, garages, or other structures without electricity or water.”
For the 2023 unsheltered count, which took place at 3:00 a.m. on January 25th, thirty three (33) volunteers gathered at Social Services in Elizabeth and Plainfield and surveyed the areas of Elizabeth, Plainfield, Summit, Roselle, Roselle Park, Garwood, Linden, Rahway, Hillside and Union. The five groups that went identified fourteen (14) unsheltered homeless persons that were further assessed for services at the Union County DHS/Division of Social Services office. Over 200 adults and children were provided shelter through the County’s Code Blue program. The group also provided materials for the homeless, including blankets, coats, clothing, toiletries, socks, hats, gloves, sandwiches, provided by Be the Change from Kean University, scarves, soup, provided by Mo’s Café and hot coffee.
On Wednesday, January 25th and Thursday, January 26th, service fairs were held by the City of Plainfield and the Plainfield Action Services at the Plainfield Performing Arts Center and the Elizabeth Coalition to House the Homeless at the Mickey Walker Center in Elizabeth. Plainfield’s service fair had a total of sixty-one (61) persons in attendance and Elizabeth’s service fair had a total of two-hundred and seven-nine (279) persons in attendance. Both service fairs offered resources from over eighteen (18) social service providers. The Union County Office of Health Management also provided forty-three (43) individuals with the COVID-19 vaccination; of which sixteen (16) of them either received their first dose or completed their primary series. All forty-three (43) persons received a gift card from NJDOH for $25.
During the seven (7) day count, which took place from January 25 through January 31, 2023, from 8:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m. daily, a total of five (5) groups, representing a total of sixteen (16) volunteers went out to survey the homeless throughout Union County in: Elizabeth, Plainfield, Summit, Roselle, Roselle Park, Garwood, Linden, Rahway, Hillside and Union. The five groups that went identified twenty-four (24) homeless persons.
The data collected during NJCounts also helps determine how much McKinney Vento Homeless Assistance HUD funding Union County will receive and provides crucial resources for the homeless and housing insecure living in Union County.