New Jersey is fighting an uphill battle in regards to homelessness. In the entire state, there are an estimated twenty-four thousand people without a home. The number of chronically homeless people, a term used by HUD to describe those who have been homeless for over a year, has risen by 21.5 percent over the past five years.
For many homeless people, escaping homelessness once becoming homeless is nearly impossible. Food insecurity and lack of a safe place to sleep can make it harder to gain employment or escape poverty. It can make addictions worse in those who are already suffering from one, and even lead people to addiction. The entire situation can lead to feelings of hopelessness and in turn, make the person experiencing homelessness truly believe that there is no way out. Calling New Jersey’s homeless problem an epidemic only begins to scratch the surface on the severity of the issue.
Homelessness can be the start of many other devastating life events. Homeless individuals are at a higher risk for certain diseases. They may be more susceptible to abuse, particularly homeless women and children. Emotionally, the struggles of homelessness can be traumatic. The desperation of the situation can, unfortunately, lead the individual to crimes, in some situations. It doesn’t stop at just the individual. Everybody in New Jersey suffers from the effects of homelessness, due to the additional strains placed on the state’s social and health systems.
What Causes Homelessness?
- Loss of employment – Many people are only a paycheck away from experiencing homelessness themselves. A sudden loss of employment and the inability to quickly find more work can throw someone into homelessness.
- Abuse – Sometimes, individuals will find themselves so desperate to escape an abusive situation that they would choose sleeping on the streets over living in an unsafe environment.
- Traumatic Experiences – Untreated PTSD can lead to severe psychological issues and make it impossible for a person to gain and maintain employment, potentially leading to homelessness.
- Addiction – Addictions can become so severe that they take over an individual’s brain and change their way of thinking entirely. People deep into addiction may throw all their money into addiction, they may prioritize their addiction over their employment, and so on. Eventually, this can lead to homelessness. Once on the streets, homelessness can actually make addiction worse.
- Generational poverty – Sometimes, the only reason a person may be homeless is generational poverty. Their family may have not been able to keep a roof over their head, leading to childhood homelessness. As the individual gets older, it’s harder to escape the grips of homelessness simply due to the fact that it’s most of what they’ve known their whole life. They may have never learned life skills such as managing finances or getting a job.
The homelessness epidemic in New Jersey is alarming, but fortunately, there are organizations available to provide resources to aid those in homelessness out of poverty.