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Homeless Get Counted In Ocean County

Sign at Ocean County Hunger Relief
Sign at Ocean County Hunger Relief (Ilya Hemlin Townsquare Media NJ)

Homeless residents in Ocean County are being counted for a Point in Time survey which hopes to address the various needs of those struggling for shelter throughout the county.

The two page long survey was administered at eight locations throughout the county, all of which operate as a private faith based organization that partner with the county. Carol Latif executive director for Ocean County Hunger Relief which was the survey point in Tom River, however towns like Jackson, Manchester, Lakewood, and Whiting all had their own spot to conduct the questionnaire.

The survey was done throughout the day on Wednesday, which even in January, managed to be a sunny spring -like. That’s a big relief, because for many homeless something as simple as rain could play a big role in getting people counted.

“Thank god the weather has been good to help them come out, and all day long they’ve been coming in and out. “

Additionally Latif says that social workers visited known areas where homeless individuals send the night as well as many motels which have residents who live there on a night by night basis—many of which pay for their own rooms.

The price of these hotel rooms can reach over the 100 dollar per night mark in some cases, Latif notes that for many homeless they have jobs or receive some kind of regular salary, however they don’t have the credit or the ability to save up for a down payment for even a cheap apartment.

She adds that since they might now have contact with other people in the same situation, they don’t even know that they are overpaying or that there are other options and services.

Bags given to homeless with supplies
Bags given to homeless with supplies (Ilya Hemlin Townsquare Media NJ)

Homeless individuals can even call in to take the survey, and if you think it’s strange a “homeless” person would have a phone, Ryan Reilly from the Ocean County Department of Human Services reminds you that the definition of the word is wider than ever.

“Sheltered homeless could be an individual who is put up by an agency in a hotel/motel, it could be individuals who suffered domestic violence and are in shelter, it could be youth who are homeless.”

Mandated by the housing and Urban Development Authority, the questionnaire is more than a census, it is meant to access what the specific needs of each individual is, and then aggregate that information to see what services are in higher need throughout the state.

“The survey asks a variety of questions pertaining what brought them there, what services they gotten what services they need. So when we get that information back we know that there’s not only a population of whatever it is, we also have the ability to turn around and say this is the population, this is the sex, this is the age range, and these are the services they need. “

Joe is a homeless resident who says he’s thankful that something like this exists.  He lost his house several years ago after he says a negligent landlord made the place un livable all the while raising their already high rent.

“The rent was too high, so the rent kept getting jacked up and stuff so me and my family couldn’t afford the rent anymore.”

He’s no stranger to hard work.

“I worked since I was 14 years old, and I didn’t know anything else but hard work. But I had a rough time and I haven’t been able to find work.”

He says before he was able to find landscaping work until he lost that when the weather turned. He says he also pumping gas until the station merged with another company.

Now Joe lives in a tent in Toms River and in the mean time volunteers at other food pantries helping many like himself.

Latif says hard times are hitting people more than ever, and that’s what makes the survey so important.

“To be able to get a true picture of what really is happening out here. We’ve had a bad economy, there’s been a lot of people who have been hit with circumstances, these survey forms will show what the circumstances are.”


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