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Homelessness in Sussex County Q&A
Release Date: December 20, 2007

HOMELESSNESS IN SUSSEX COUNTY

 

HOMELESSNESS IN SUSSEX COUNTY

Q & A SHEET

 

 

Q:  Are there really homeless people in Sussex County? 

 

A: According to the most recent Point-in-Time Homeless Survey, conducted on January 25, 2007, 284 adults and 111 children were homeless in Sussex County. And this number includes only those who meet the HUD definition of homelessness!

 

Q: What is the HUD definition of homelessness?

 

A: HUD defines a homeless person as anyone who is living on the streets or in places not  meant for human habitation, living in emergency shelters or transitional housing and those living in motels being paid for by an agency. 

 

Q: Are there other homeless people in Sussex County?

 

    According to the 1/25/07 survey, an additional 84 households were "sharing", doubled up, or without their own housing and moving from one couch to another.  There may be more that we don't even know about.

 

Q: Where are these homeless people? 

 

A. Sussex County has 3 shelters for families: Samaritan Inn, Interfaith Hospitality Network (IHN), and the DASI shelter for domestic violence victims.  Although IHN does shelter single women, there is no shelter in our community for single men; they are housed in rooming houses and motels.  Some live in the woods, in abandoned buildings, or under bridges.  Some families and individuals live in housing that is temporarily paid for by Social Services.   

 

Many homeless people live with mental illness.  In 2003 Sussex County made its first application for federal McKinney homeless funding to provide permanent supportive housing for 4 mentally ill homeless clients, bringing Advance Housing into our community.  Since then Advance Housing has expanded to provide permanent supportive housing for 19 formerly homeless residents of our county.

 

Q. Are these homeless people on "welfare"?

 

A. Some are and some are not.  A large number of homeless people are working.  Since welfare reform legislation, the number of families on welfare has dropped sharply, in Sussex County from over 400 to 150.  Most people receive "welfare" for just a short time between jobs.  But due to low wages and lack of affordable housing, households moving from welfare to work are faring poorly.  In Sussex County, the necessity of  car ownership for successful employment adds another barrier.

 

Q. Isn't rental assistance available?

 

A. Rental assistance "slots" are limited.  Sussex County currently has about 700 slots.  For 2 years our county has been closed to applications, meaning that no one could even apply.  Recently the state allowed Sussex County to take applications from September 14 through October 1, 2007, creating a new waiting list of 1000 eligible households.  About 150 of these new cases will be open to reach our county's maximum level of 824.  This means that rental assistance is available to only a small percentage of those who need it.

 

Q. What about low income housing?

 

A. There is limited low income housing units in our county.  The average renter household income in Sussex County is $9.40 per hour. Current Fair Market Rent for a 2 bedroom apartment in Sussex County is $1103.* In order to afford this level of rent and utilities, the average renter would spend their entire take home pay for a month of rent.  This means that even with 2 full time incomes, housing is not affordable.  With less income available for food and other necessities, these families are only an accident, illness or paycheck away from homelessness.

 

Q. What about the "high rise" apartments in Newton?

 

A. Brookside Apartments in Newton offers a limited number of subsidized units.  The others rent at market rate (currently $1151 for a 2- bedroom) or, if income eligible at the basic rate (currently $1099 for a 2-bedroom).  Without some form of subsidy these are unaffordable for many low wage workers.

 

Q. What is being done about this problem?

 

A. Sussex County has developed a Ten Year Plan to End Homelessness which has been adopted by our Board of Freeholders.  Many local agencies are working together to help end homelessness in our community.

 

Q. How can you help?

 

A. Each year Sussex County participates in the annual Point-in-Time Homeless Survey.  This year's survey will be conducted on January 29, 2008.  On that same day, we will join many other communities across the United States by sponsoring Project Homeless Connect, a one-day one-stop event to deliver services to people experiencing homelessness.  For more information or to volunteer for this day, contact Nick Kapetanakis, Sussex County Division of Social Services, 973-383-3600 ext 5165.

    

*www.nlihc.org

11/07






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