Annual count of homeless people in NJ highlights vast racial disparities

In the first glimpse of how the COVID-19 pandemic affected homelessness in New Jersey, racial disparities remain stark — about half of the 8,000 people surveyors counted who faced housing instability in late January were Black, even though Black people make up about 13% of the Garden State population, according to an annual survey released Tuesday.

In comparison, about 24% of those experiencing homelessness identified as non-Hispanic white, while that group makes up 55% of the state population.

“This has been a consistent trend across the state for years, and points to the fact that poverty alone is not the only driver of homelessness,” said Taiisa Kelly, CEO of Monarch Housing Associates, the nonprofit that compiles the survey and aims to create more affordable and supportive housing.

“We often think: You don’t have enough resources, it’s easy to lose your job and become homeless,” Kelly said. “But these high racial disparities in the numbers show it’s a combination of race, housing segregation, economics, education. The impact of structural racism drives these numbers we’re seeing, not poverty alone.”

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