MIDDLESEX COUNTY — On Wednesday, Jan. 30, Middlesex County will conduct its Point-in-Time Count 2013 (PITC) survey throughout the county’s 25 municipalities. This annual survey assists in developing a snapshot of the number of homeless persons living unsheltered outside, in emergency shelters or transitional housing programs.
“This event is essential to our role as caring, humane communities and people,” said Middlesex County Freeholder Blanquita B. Valenti, Chairperson for the Community Services Committee. “We have a moral duty to identify the men, women and children in our cities and towns whose quality of life can be jeopardized because they lack a place to live, safe from the elements and other conditions that might threaten their well-being.”
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) requires localities across the United States to conduct the Point-in-Time survey as a prerequisite to apply for supportive housing funds for the homeless.
The annual census will occur on the same date in each of New Jersey’s 21 counties. This year, as in the past, volunteers will complete surveys from homeless persons who visit any of four sites in Middlesex County: Elijah’s Promise Soup Kitchen at 18 Neilson St. in New Brunswick; the Salvation Army at 433 State St. in Perth Amboy; the Woodbridge Housing Authority, 20 Bunns Lane, Woodbridge, or Changing Lives Ministry, 199 Whitehead Ave. in South River (this site will offer food and clothing only).
All four sites will remain open from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Other volunteers will conduct “street outreach” visits to indoor and outdoor locations where homeless persons tend to congregate or reside.
During the 2012 survey, 1,413 homeless men, women and children were counted in Middlesex County. The statistical count usually reflects only a portion of those individuals who are homeless or at risk of homelessness in the county and the state. County officials estimate that 3,500 adults and children were homeless in Middlesex County during the year 2012.
In last year’s count, hundreds of individuals were surveyed at the New Brunswick and Perth Amboy sites, and additional surveys were completed during the outreach effort. An estimated 100 volunteers participated in the day’s activities.
“We have pledged to end homelessness in Middlesex County,” said Eileen O’Donnell, Chairperson of Coming Home of Middlesex County, Inc. “We can and we will accomplish our mission.”
Coming Home is a non-profit corporation founded following the establishment of the county’s 10-Year Plan to End Homelessness. Its leadership works closely with the Middlesex County Board of Chosen Freeholders, following a strategic plan to end homelessness and create affordable, accessible, supportive and permanent housing for persons and families in need.
Middlesex County Freeholder Director Christopher D. Rafano said, “We expect this event to be a great success as a community-wide effort to help some of our most vulnerable Middlesex County residents and to assist us in obtaining the funding and knowledge we need to continue our efforts.”
To increase the survey’s accuracy and offer direct help to the homeless, Middlesex County will incorporate Project Homeless Connect (PHC) into this year’s process. This initiative supplements the survey, setting up sites around the County for the homeless to visit and be connected with case management services, donations and information on resources, such as social services, mental health services, housing, substance abuse resources, disability funding and health care.
This year a special appeal is being made to the general public to donate unwanted yet useable coats. Also needed are new gloves, scarves, blankets, socks, underwear, thermal wear and toiletries that can be distributed to the area’s homeless and needy.
Corporations in Middlesex County, state professional associations and state government agencies are donating valuable health care services to homeless persons visiting the sites this year. The New Jersey Dental Association contributed dental hygiene supplies. The New Jersey Department of Human Services Commission for the Blind and Visually Impaired will perform eye screenings to detect vision problems at the Elijah’s Promise Soup Kitchen, Woodbridge Housing Authority and the Salvation Army sites. Persons who fail the eye screenings will receive follow-up services. Free flu and pneumonia shots will be given by the County’s Office of Health Services. Showers and hair cuts will also be available at 3 of the 4 sites.
Homeless persons can also participate in the Point-in-Time survey by calling the State’s 2-1-1 24 hr. information hotline.
Details about the 2013 Point-in-Time events are available at www.cominghomemiddlesex.org. Volunteers also can download English and Spanish files of the survey from the web site.
Law enforcement agencies in Middlesex County have been notified of the survey schedule and have been asked to assist volunteers in locating sites where unsheltered homeless persons may congregate.