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Rutgers professor helps understand homelessness issue

<p>Dr. Emmy Tiderington, an assistant professor in the School of Social Work, is an expert in causes of homelessness.</p>

Dr. Emmy Tiderington, an assistant professor in the School of Social Work, is an expert in causes of homelessness.

Monarch Housing Associates Inc. has created New Jersey’s annual Point-In-Time Count of the homeless to track changes in location, demographic and causes. By the latest count, there are 8,864 people in New Jersey who are homeless, according to Monarch Housing Associate’s 2019 report

“Health and homelessness are interrelated. Mental health and substance abuse issues can contribute to a person becoming homeless. They can also be exacerbated by the experience of being homeless — without a safe place to live, it’s a lot harder to stay psychiatrically stable, avoid drug dealers and stay clean,” said Dr. Emmy Tiderington, an assistant professor in the School of Social Work.

Additionally, homelessness has disproportionate effects across ethnicities. Monarch Housing Associates’ report shows that Black people, who represent 13% of the state’s population, make up 49% of New Jersey’s homeless. Hispanic and Latino people have an even 20% to 20% ratio, while white people make up 56% of New Jersey’s population and only 26% of them are homeless.

This falls in line with the United States Census Bureau’s 2019 findings on homeownership. Nationally, white homeownership rates are the highest at 73.4% while Black and Hispanic rates were much lower, at 42.7% and 47.8%, respectively.

“Only approximately 20 to 30% of people who are homeless have a serious mental illness or substance abuse issue. Homelessness in the United States is primarily attributable to the fact that wages have stagnated while housing costs have risen. We won’t end homelessness until we fix that equation,” Tiderington said.

Chronic homelessness is characterized by individuals being homeless for at least a year or having multiple cases of homelessness in the past three years which add up to at least a year, according to the Monarch Housing Associations report. This group has seen a recent multi-year increase to 1,462 this year.

“Homelessness in most of the United States has decreased slightly in recent years but has risen dramatically in large cities like New York and Los Angeles where housing is becoming increasingly unaffordable,” Tiderington said.

In New Jersey, homelessness is strongly tied to economic factors. 40% of the homeless receive no income and eviction or loss of job was the primary cause of homelessness in 25% of the cases, according to the Monarch Housing Associations report.

Additionally, the city was sued by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) to amend ordinances that banned panhandling, which is the act of asking for some kind of assistance on the street, according to the ACLU website

Despite this, New Brunswick has recently opened a 12-unit housing complex for the homeless. The development ran a $3.5 million price tag with the city itself only paying $480,000. Additionally, those units charge a rent of $230 per month, according to an article on the Courier News.

“To end homelessness, we need living wage jobs and affordable housing. And for individuals with additional challenges, such as chronic health conditions, serious mental illness or substance use problems, embedding services within the affordable housing or what is called ‘supportive housing’ is a highly effective way to help those groups stay housed,” Tiderington said.

Tiderington’s solutions are based on her research, she said.

“I have a study now that follows people leaving homeless services through a Moving On Initiative over two years to see how they do after leaving supportive housing. The study ends next month. But our preliminary findings show that one year after leaving services the majority of people were doing well, they were satisfied with their new living situations and with their decision to leave supportive housing,” she said.

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