Family homelessness is an enduring problem in New Jersey (and beyond). At least 13,929 kids experienced homelessness in New Jersey during the 2018-19 school year— the last year data was reported to the U.S. Department of Education. That number is likely higher, though, as family homelessness isn’t necessarily visible—families experiencing homelessness often sleep in cars, share living spaces with other families, couch surf, and more.
While governments certainly should take the lion’s share of ending family homelessness, nonprofits often end up taking on the burden of meeting these families’ needs. Family Promise, based in NJ, provides innovative solutions to homelessness, including prevention, shelter and stabilization services.
And every year, they run Night Without a Bed—which they conducted on Oct. 22, with 27 Family Promise affiliates—in which people sleep on floors, in cars or tents, anywhere without a bed, to raise awareness for family homelessness and to turn that awareness into action.
This year’s Night Without a Bed raised over $120,000 to help families across the country, and raised awareness for the ongoing crisis of family homelessness through social media tags. The organization sought to collaborate with influencers who align with the work Family Promise does, including an esthetician who provides hygiene services to people experiencing homelessness on Skid Row and a mother who has fostered kids that have experienced homelessness.
“We are grateful to all participants that came together on Oct. 22 to support Family Promise,” said Mitchell Petit-Frere, director of brand and marketing at Family Promise. “Shedding light on the invisible crisis of family homelessness through social media is an important goal of our organization. It was incredible to see the impact social media can have through Night Without a Bed.”
The need to solve family homelessness is dire. Children experiencing homelessness are up to nine times more likely to repeat a grade, seven times more likely to attempt suicide, and 42% more likely to drop out of school at some point. And these effects compound, perpetuating cycles of homelessness, particularly in communities of color, which have historically been illegally blocked from accessing housing services and funding. People of color comprise almost half of NJ’s homeless population, despite making up only about 12% of the state’s population.
The causes are several—extreme weather events like Ida have displaced families, the pandemic caused more people to experience financial distress, and maybe most importantly, costs have been rising for housing. More than one in seven households pay more than half their income in housing, and home prices soared over 20% nationally during the pandemic, with a similar increase in rent prices. The National Low Income and Housing Association found that there is a shortage of 7 million low-income homes in the country, and that for every 100 low-income families, there are only 31 affordable homes in New Jersey.
And though a moratorium on evictions during the pandemic helped many stay in their homes over the last two years, it ended this year, and since, eviction cases have, predictably, gone up—there are currently 3,800 eviction cases in Union County alone.
Read more about Family Homelessness in our story earlier this year here.