Home COVID-19 Chronic Homelessness in Hudson County Rose by 39% This Year, According to Report

Chronic Homelessness in Hudson County Rose by 39% This Year, According to Report

by Matthew Cunningham
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As most of Hudson County has kept bunkered down in their homes over the last few months, a crisis has emerged among the almost 1,000 adults and children who are living on couches or in the streets. According to a January report released by the Monarch Project, a non-profit research group dedicated to New Jersey homelessness, homelessness in Hudson County rose by 6% in the past year. Community leaders said that the Covid-19 pandemic has only deepened the social issue.

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Most locals know that homelessness has been a growing concern in Hudson County. Within the past year, according to the Monarch project, there were 39% more people in Hudson County experiencing chronic homelessness. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development defines a chronic homeless person as someone “with a long-term disabling condition, who have been continually homeless for a year or more, or at least four times in the past three years where the length of time in those episodes add up to a year or more.”

Forty-six percent of those who are homeless in Hudson county are Black, according to the Monarch project report, while the Black community makes up only 15 percent of the overall population. In a report released in January 2020, the National Alliance to End Homelessness explains that racial inequality and structural racism have contributed to more Black and American American people experiencing homelessness. “From slavery to segregation, African Americans have been systematically denied equal rights and opportunities,” the report reads. “The effects of long-standing discrimination linger and perpetuate disparities in poverty, housing, criminal justice, and health care, among other areas.” 

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Mark, whose name has been changed because he fears retaliation, is one of the many people in Hoboken whose housing has become so insecure during the coronavirus pandemic that most nights are spent on the street. Mark moved to the United States from Barbados over three decades ago after graduating college and worked at IBM as a mechanical engineer under a temporary U.S. program called the Caribbean Basin Initiative. 

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When the Caribbean work-visa program got shaky, he lost his job and struggled to find consistent employment. Without family or economic support, Mark struggled to make enough money to cover medical and housing costs, and so he started sleeping on couches. “Couch surfing” is a form of temporary housing insecurity and is often underreported, according to scholars on housing insecurity.

“Unfortunately, some of our homeless — I used to think these people were bums,” Mark said to Hoboken Girl. “But then I learned that some people were born in poverty. Some people were raised in poverty. Some people were taught in poverty. It becomes a lifelong issue.”

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Mark has been saving money for a place of his own but continues to receive help from local community support programs.

Samuel, whose name has been changed because he fears retaliation, has been trying to straighten out his life for years, but with little social and economic support, he’s been making only enough money to survive on the streets.

“When you move to America, you’re on your own,” Samuel said to Hoboken Girl. “[The United States] said the only advantage they give you when you get here is a green card. So, I got a job working for the post office. But then I was told that because I worked for the post office, I could not get government assistance. They said I made too much money, so I didn’t qualify for assistance. But I needed more money for a place to stay.”

Born in the Republic of Congo and living in the United States since 2014, Samuel has been visiting homeless shelters in Hoboken for the past year. He’s been living in the United States through the Diversity Visa program—a selective lottery that awards a green card to 55,000 people from countries that have historically low rates of immigration to the United States. Most people selected by the program come by themselves, leave behind families, and stay in the United States for the long-haul: after five years, the United States promises a chance for visa-holders to request citizenship, although it’s not guaranteed.

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When Samuel was selected for a diversity visa in 2014, he thought it was his chance at American citizenship and a better life. Whether his life ended up being better in the United States, Samuel said, is tough to say. “I’m saving up money for a place of my own,” Samuel said. “But because that is too expensive to do here, I’m trying to save enough money to move to another state where it would be cheap enough to get an apartment.”

Local programs and shelters can help provide support to people experiencing homelessness. The Hoboken Shelter has programs for daily food and shelter, homelessness prevention, permanent supportive housing, and independent living. The Hoboken Shelter accepts donations and encourages people to volunteer to help provide services to those experiencing homelessness in the local community. The Hoboken Food Pantry at the Hoboken Community Center provides essential food to anyone experiencing food insecurity, and the food pantry accepts food and monetary donations.

{Are you experiencing homelessness? Check out these local resources to prevent and end homelessness — a list compiled by the Hoboken Shelter}

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