Now Law- Swain, Pintor-Marin Bill Establishes Office of Homelessness Prevention in DCA

(TRENTON) – A total of 552,830 people were experiencing homelessness on a single night in 2018, according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Annual Point-in-Time Count released last December.

Most of them, at least 67 percent, were individuals and the remaining 33 percent were families with children. Seven (7) percent were youth under the age of 25 and living on their own without parents or children, roughly 36,000. And, finally, homeless veterans in the U.S. made up nearly 38,000 of the nation’s homeless population.

Assemblywomen Lisa Swain and Eliana Pintor-Marin are sponsors of legislation signed into law today that creates a more coordinated, statewide effort to end homelessness in New Jersey.

“The only way to effectively address homelessness is to engage in an intensive collaborative effort involving all stakeholders: state policymakers, providers of services to people who are homeless, and advocacy organizations,” said Swain (D-Bergen, Passaic). “Coordinating and funding programs to meet the needs of persons within New Jersey who are homeless or at risk for homelessness should always be a priority. If we are to tackle this issue in our communities throughout the state, this is where we begin.”

In New Jersey, there were 9,303 people living on the streets or in shelters on any given night last year. This is an overall increase of over 700 persons since 2017 but a drastic reduction from 2007 where nearly 16,000 people were homeless in the state. In 2018, there were 1,288 persons, in 1,211 households, that were identified as chronically homeless, an increase of 196 persons or 17.9% compared to 2017. 1,623 persons were unsheltered; an increase of 15% from 2017.

“Although New Jersey has seen a dramatic decline in homelessness over the last decade, national statistics show a 9 percent rise in homelessness in the state since 2017,” said Pintor Marin (D-Essex). “Now it is time to strengthen the various efforts happening around the state to prevent homelessness by pulling these organizations and advocacy groups together. We can do more to protect our residents, especially families and veterans, from having their only option be to live on the street or in shelters. This will help us do just that.”

The new law (formerly bill A-5204) establishes the Office of Homelessness Prevention in the Department of Community Affairs. It is charged with bringing together State and local agencies and private organizations that provide services to persons who are homeless or those at risk for homelessness, and to implement a statewide strategy to address homelessness. The Office of Homelessness Prevention will compile data on State programs and local coalitions that provide assistance homeless persons.

The law also establishes the “New Jersey Homelessness Prevention Task Force” to serve as an advisory body to the Office of Homelessness Prevention, and develop recommendations, promote, and support the office’s efforts.

To help the state meet these goals, the new law includes an appropriation of $3 million from the General Fund to the Department of Community Affairs to fund the Office of Homelessness Prevention. The mandate takes effect immediately.

The measure was approved by the full Assembly in March, 55-22-3.