Hundreds Supported at Project Homeless Connect
Published on January 26, 2024
Community Resource Event Assists Homeless and At-Risk Residents
In a time-honored tradition this morning, advocates stood shoulder to shoulder in Morris County with residents experiencing homelessness as Project Homeless Connect resumed for the first time since being halted by the COVID-19 pandemic in 2021.
More than 35 community-based service providers gathered at St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in Morristown offering food, warm clothing, housing and employment information, financial benefits, mental health and substance abuse services, veterans’ information, energy assistance, health care screenings, haircuts, gift cards and more.
View More Photos from the Event
Project Homeless Connect, except for the pandemic break, has been co-organized annually since 2008 by the County of Morris and the Mental Health Association of Morris County annually to provide resources free of charge to people at risk of homelessness or already experiencing homelessness.
“This special event is happening today thanks to the unique partnerships between county government, community-based agencies, churches, corporations and many others who have donated goods and their time to help. Morris County ranks among the wealthiest counties in the state; yet, homelessness continues to rise. It can affect anyone. If you are struggling or know someone struggling with homelessness, or someone at risk, please come and talk to us,” said Morris County Commissioner Thomas Mastrangelo as he welcomed everyone into the event.
Morris County’s Navigating Hope, a mobile social services van operated by the county Department of Human Services, and the Morris County Sheriff's Office’s Hope One van, a mobile substance abuse resource center, were parked in front of St. Peter’s Church on Maple Avenue with staff greeting attendees.
“This is a special day, and I think it speaks to the importance of making connections in our community. I often say it, but I think it’s worth saying: Morris County does it better. It’s because we show up, and because we care. Everyone here today, thank you for being here, and for showing up,” said Sheriff James Gannon.
Each January, the New Jersey Housing and Mortgage Finance Agency conducts the Point-in-Time (PIT) homeless count. During the street and shelter count this year, outreach teams asked individuals where they slept the night of January 23rd. The count provides a snapshot of how many people in Morris County are experiencing homelessness.
According to the 2023 homeless count, 465 people were experiencing homelessness in Morris County on Jan. 24, a year ago this week. Of those, 29 people were unsheltered and the balance, 436, were sheltered in emergency shelters or transitional housing. Of all homeless people in the state in 2023, five percent lived in Morris County.
Between 2022 and 2023, homelessness jumped by 32 percent overall in New Jersey, and Morris County’s rate increased by 34 percent. COVID-19 housing resources and opportunities ending may be factors attributable to the increase. The count also may have represented a more accurate tally than previous pandemic years as outreach teams could engage more with people in their communities as the crisis of the pandemic waned.
Morris County’s 2023 PIT summary is available here. To view the full 2023 Morris County PIT report, click here.
In 2019, Morris County also launched “Everyday Connect” to offer year-round services to those who need support beyond one annual event. On a rotating basis throughout the year, service providers visit Dover and Morristown drop-in centers, Edna's Haven and Our Promise. Homeless residents can access services at these locations without an appointment and have the option to obtain a permanent mailing address. The program is made possible through Grant-In-Aid funding by the county.
The Morris County Continuum of Care is responsible for overall planning around preventing and ending homelessness in the county.
Hope One’s staff offers critical support for people struggling with addiction -- with the goal of preventing drug overdoses and deaths -- by distributing and training in the use of lifesaving Narcan. Since the program’s launch in 2017, more than 43,000 contacts have been made, over 8,500 Narcan kits have been distributed and 146 kits are known to have been used to save a life.
Navigating Hope, which operates in partnership with Family Promise of Morris County, visits local municipalities each week where assistance is needed most. Recent weather events, for example, prompted a response in areas that were hit hardest by flooding. The staff provides on-site benefits, eligibility screenings and application assistance, as well as referrals to other resources. A second vehicle was added last year to increase support services and meet more residents in their communities.
The County’s Human Services Department also has a partnership with the Sheriff’s Office to help provide identification to residents ages 18 to 54 who may not have a driver’s license. These cards are used for identification purposes only and may not be accepted by certain agencies that require a state ID.
Photo 1: (l-r) Commissioner Thomas Mastrangelo and Sheriff James Gannon.
Photo 2: Sheriff Gannon connecting with a service provider at the event.
Photo 3: A Project Homeless Connect volunteer approaching the Hope One tent.