PATERSON, N.J. – In counties throughout New Jersey this week, volunteers and non-profit workers took to the streets and shelters to count the number of homeless people and talk to them about their needs.
The point-in-time count -- which took place in Passaic County on the night of Jan. 24 -- is an annual effort required by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. It helps determine funding for projects to reduce homelessness.
“The data we collect yearly isn’t just a head count. We survey individuals to see how long they have been homeless, if they have any disabilities, health problems and their veteran status,” said Passaic County Freeholder Director Sandi Lazzara.
“This helps us identify the specific needs of these people and allows us to address the direct causes of homeless people in Passaic County,” she said.
This year, Passaic County contracted with a pair of Paterson-based non-profits to help count the homeless and provide them with food, clothes and hygiene products.
Both Eva’s Village and Grandparents & Relatives Care Resource Center held outreach events to give out necessities and link the homeless with resources to find permanent housing.
The county also trained volunteers to canvass the streets to speak with homeless people not accessing traditional services.
Last year, the effort determined that there were 432 homeless people in Passaic County, a decrease of nearly 6 percent from 2015, according to the county.
"Despite the fact that we have seen a reduction in our homeless population, we are still working to eliminate homelessness in Passaic County,” said Freeholder Assad Akhter, who serves as chairman of the county’s Human Services Committee.