On Wednesday, Jan. 24, organizations and volunteers are conducting NJCounts 2018 — an annual point-in-time count of individuals and families experiencing homelessness in all 21 counties.

Monarch Housing Associates in Cranford is coordinating the count. Jay Everett says one goal is to get an accurate picture of who is experiencing homelessness in our communities on a single point in time.

He says the count is not only good for helping plan locally around what the needs are and how to target resources, but the count is also a federal requirement in order for communities to bring in McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance funds, which is federal money for homeless shelter programs.

Last year, 8,532 people in 6,340 households were experiencing homelessness in New Jersey during the 2017 Point-in-Time Count. That's a decrease of 4.6 percent from 2016.

In each community throughout the year, there are outreach teams working with both sheltered and unsheltered homeless people who are seeking food pantries and other social agencies.

"So there is already folks who know how to get in touch and interact with homeless persons and there's also a number of different community partners that provide input on that," says Everett.

The count in most communities is done on a single day. But Everett says some communities will use a seven-day method that counts unique individuals who seek services during the course of a week.

Someone can be considered homeless if they are living in a shelter, their car or on the street.

"I think it's really great to see how communities are empowering people to make a difference around the Point-In-Time Count and it's always a good thing for people to be aware — especially in the cold snap we've experienced this winter — how it's so important to keep a focus on how to serve those of our neighbors who are experiencing homelessness," he said.

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