“There used to be homeless prevention programs where emergency money was provided to families who lost their jobs or didn’t have jobs to keep them in their homes. This administration hasn’t refunded them, renewed them or refreshed them.”
– NJ Citizen Action Executive Director Phyllis Salowe-Kaye
Our state has traditionally done a good job in coping with child homelessness. Such is reflected in our composite ranking of #5 among other states from the November Report Card on Child Homelessness issued by the National Center on Family Homelessness. Data from federal and other sources, however, tend to lag so the most recent information in the report covers 2012-2013 when we had 16,982 homeless children, substantially up from 10,986 in 2010-2011. Christie administration budget cuts reflected in the comment above provide reason to suspect that matters may not have improved.
The problem in our state became serious after the Great Recession as the number of foreclosures started to increase, and it grew more severe following Sandy. While nationally the worst of the foreclosure crisis has passed, NJ leads the nation in the rate of foreclosures started during the third quarter. As a result “Thousands of children are being shuffled from one school to another because they don’t have a permanent place in which to live.” Then the devastation of Hurricane Sandy in 2012, as reported by First Focus Campaign for Children, contributed to a record number of homeless children in New Jersey that academic year, with nearly 8,700 students temporarily living in shelters, motels, or doubling up with family and friends.
The Report Card on Child Homelessness (Page 53) notes NJ’s problem areas:
*15% of children are in poverty.
* 5.1% are without health insurance.
* High cost of housing: $24.84/hr is needed for a 2-bedroom apartment and 32% of households are paying more than 50% of income for rent.
* No State planning effort that includes children and families.
Governor Christie has acted like Scrooge did toward children with his state budget and has fought against the key recommendation of the national center: to provide more safe and affordable housing. For additional recommendations, go here, starting on page 84.