New Jersey is one of the richest states in the nation, but its homeless population continues to increase. 

Spencer Platt, Getty Images

One of state's leading homeless advocates said while there's many different factors that can cause homelessness, two of the main ones in New Jersey is a lack of affordable housing and not enough high incomes.

"Studies show that New Jersey has the fourth highest rent costs in the country, and our wages don’t keep up with that - so many times people have episodes of homelessness when they lose a job or their hours get cut, and they just can’t afford to make the rent,” said Deb Ellis, the executive director of the New Jersey Coalition to End Homelessness.

How can New Jersey turn things around?  Ellis said a statewide, comprehensive approach is needed.

“You need a combination of job training and job help, with more affordable housing, so you need both sides. There are some great models in the state that combine several different supports, but overall we have a very decentralized county-by-county system - and what we don’t have is a state plan to end homelessness,” Ellis said.

It's important that New Jersey make room for people of more modest means to live in the state as well, according to Ellis.  "We have to speak out as citizens of our communities for more affordable housing for individuals with mental illness or physical disabilities, or other disabilities - as well as affordable housing for families just making modest incomes.”

A statewide point-in-time count of the homeless, known as NJ Counts 2014, found 13,900 homeless men, women and children in the Garden State. That was an increase of 1,898 people, or 15.8 percent, compared to last year’s count.