NJCounts, the annual point-in-time count of individuals and families experiencing homelessness in the Garden State, takes place on Wednesday,.

Monarch Housing Associates has coordinated NJCounts since 2014 as commissioned by the New Jersey Housing and Mortgage Finance Agency. As required by the U.S Department of Housing and Urban Development, the count takes place during the last 10 days of January.

Homelessness does not just mean people living on the streets of New Jersey, Team associate Kasey Congero said. NJCounts also identifies those people living in emergency shelters, transitional housing programs, safe havens and places not fit for dwelling.

Advocates and volunteers from every community in every county in New Jersey will go out and collect data.

"It's one of the most reliable counts of people experiencing homelessness in our state, from which progress can be measured and efforts can be redoubled," Congero said.

On Jan. 22 of last year, 8,864 men, women and children in 6,748 households in New Jersey were identified as experiencing homelessness. That was a 5 percent decrease from 2018.

Congero said New Jersey continues to make efforts to count the unsheltered in their communities every year. She said most communities have a Project Homeless Connect Site that they've been advertising for months to their homeless populations wherever they are being seen, whether that's in soup kitchens, code blue shelters or food pantries. Communities distribute flyers at these sites, hoping to connect people with services including mental and physical health screenings or financial resources, as well as food and clothing.

Congero said NJCounts has been looking at racial disparity in the communities in New Jersey over the past couple of years. In 2020, it will review whether and to what extent individuals who identify as black are over-represented in the population experiencing homelessness.

She said as communities look to expand their understanding of the root causes of homelessness, it's important to recognize the structural forces, including racism, that are impacting trajectories into and out of homelessness.

The final report should be released around June or July, Congero said.

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