TOMS RIVER, NJ – The Ocean County Board of Commissioners is in talks with Toms River Township Councilman Terrance Turnbach and it looks like the two sides both agree. Toms River needs a homeless shelter to house all of Ocean County’s homeless.
While the county commissioners currently spend $20 million annually to find housing for the homeless and families struggling to find an affordable place to live, Turnbach wants to build a permanent facility to house the nearly 400 homeless people reportedly living in Ocean County.
According to state records, less than .05% of Ocean County is homeless.
Turnbach identifies homelessness as one of the major problems Ocean County currently faces and he wants the county to invest millions more into building a permanent homeless facility in the town. Although the township purchased the former Red Roof Inn in Downtown Toms River, which could have been used as a homeless facility, Turnbach, several years ago demanded that the structure razed. Why? Because less fortunate people were staying there and causing problems with drugs, prostitution, and other crimes and degrading the quality of life in Downtown Toms River around the corner from where Turnbach works as a criminal defense lawyer.
How many people are homeless in Ocean County?
A report by Monarch Housing says in 2020, there were 101 people homeless in Toms River. Seaside Heights had 91, Lakewood had 53, Brick had 38. The rest of the tows in the county were under 10.
What are the underlying factors of homelessness in Ocean County?
That report also looked into why people were homeless. The vast majority of Ocean County’s homeless population has underlying mental health issues or addictions.
“Persons identifying as White reported the majority of mental health issues, substance abuse disorders, physical disabilities, developmental disabilities, chronic health conditions, and HIV/AIDS,” the Monarch Housing report found. “43% of persons identifying as White, 32% of persons identifying as Black or African American and 42% of persons identifying as Hispanic/Latino had a mental health issue.”
Homelessness in Ocean County is on the decline
The report also showed homelessness in Ocean County is on the decline over the period of 2016 to 2020.
“Over the past five years, Ocean County has seen an overall decrease of 86 counted persons, or 20% from 2016 to 2020,” the report stated. “Over this 5-year period, there was a 10% decrease in persons staying in emergency shelter, a 37% decrease of persons staying in transitional housing, and there was a 54% decrease in identified unsheltered persons between 2016 and 2020.”
Mental health issues are the underlying cause for most homelessness
According to the Monarch Housing report, of the 344 persons identified as homeless, there were a total of 44 Chronically Homeless persons, representing 12.8% of the counted homeless population.
There were 6 homeless veterans representing 2.3% of the adult homeless population counted. 87 Victims of Domestic Violence were identified representing 25.3% of the total counted homeless population. Homeless Youth (individuals and families with heads of households 24 years old or younger) represented 9.6% of the counted homeless population with 33 persons identified.
Homesess population and income
Among all households experiencing homelessness on the night of the count, 24.6% had no source of income, and 6.8% reported having earned income. The most common sources of income among homeless households were General/Public Assistance/Welfare (28.5%), SSI (17.4%) and TANF (12.6%). Figure 8 shows the income sources reported by respondents in relation to their housing situation on the night of the count.
The report shows that just 18.5% of the county’s homeless population are homeless long term.
Monarch Housing reported the total amount of time identified households have reported being homeless.
This includes continuous episodes of homelessness as well as the total time from various episodes of homelessness over the past 3 years.
The study showed 55.1% of identified homeless households reported their total length of homelessness was between 0 and 6 months. Within this group, 32.2% were homeless from 0 – 2 months and 22.9% were homeless between 3 and 6 months.
For those with longer periods of homelessness, 25.6% of homeless households reported that their total length of homelessness was more than 1 year.
In looking at those identified households that had lengths of homelessness exceeding one year, 42 households (18.5%) were homeless between 1 and 3 years while 16 households (7%) reported their total length of homelessness exceeded 3 years