By Sarah Small and Debra Lancaster
With so much economic precarity brought on by the pandemic, many women in New Jersey have been confronted with issues of homelessness and inaccessible healthcare.
According to the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Point-In-Time Count data, the number of individuals experiencing homelessness in New Jersey actually declined from January 2020 to January 2021, suggesting that COVID-related housing protections were largely successful. However, there was an increase in the number of individuals who were experiencing homelessness because they were fleeing domestic violence. In New Jersey, between January 2020 and January 2021 there was a 3.4% increase in the number of New Jersey households experiencing homelessness due to domestic violence. Nationwide studies have found a sharp increase in reports of domestic and intimate partner violence during the COVID-19 pandemic, and many hypothesize that this was brought on by increased stress, economic uncertainty, and being confined to the home during quarantines.
The Center for Women and Work suggests the state improve resources for those at risk of domestic violence and recommends further housing protections as the pandemic lingers on. As of December 2021, 11% of New Jersey’s renter households were not current on rent and 10% of the state’s homeowners were not current on their mortgage. This means that many households are at risk of eviction, foreclosure, and ultimately homelessness. New Jersey residents of color and households with young children are more likely to be behind on rent and mortgage payments than White residents and households without children, respectively. With increasing rates of inflation, it will be especially challenging for residents to catch up on housing payments. Without further housing protections, the state may face a growing number of individuals and families experiencing homelessness.
Data from the attached factsheet also indicate gaps in healthcare access. From May to October 2020, 3% of New Jersey respondents indicated they did not get necessary healthcare, and many parents indicated that their children missed preventative check-ups in 2021 because of COVID concerns, shut-downs, or lost insurance coverage. Further, 6% of men and 11% of women in the state indicated they did not get professional mental health support when they needed it. These rates were higher among Black women (13%), Hispanic women (13%), and women with children under age 5 (14%). Ultimately, with increased risks of homelessness, domestic violence, and mental health struggles during the pandemic, adequate access to healthcare is pivotal. In order to improve not only women’s wellbeing but their ability to participate in New Jersey’s workforce, the state ought to prioritize improved access to healthcare and safety support systems.
In partnership with the New Jersey State Policy Lab, the Center for Women and Work will continue to monitor the state of women, their work, and their ability to participate fully in the state’s economy.
 Piquero, A. R., Jennings, W. G., Jemison, E., Kaukinen, C., & Knaul, F. M. (2021). Domestic violence during the COVID-19 pandemic-Evidence from a systematic review and meta-analysis. Journal of Criminal Justice, 74, 101806.