Bergen County takes part in statewide homeless count while providing care to the population

Bergen County took part in a statewide count of its homeless population by urging those citizens to come out to a shelter.

Street teams were working since 5 p.m. Wednesday to look for the county's homeless for the annual Point in Time survey. The homeless were also encouraged to come to shelters so they could be provided food, access to flu shots and also get pampered.

Among the volunteers was Paul Nickels, who says he was once homeless himself.

"We go to known spots where people hang out. We go under bridges," he says. "I used to sleep behind an abandoned building, so I kind of have an idea."

A "one- stop shop" was set up at the shelter in Hackensack for flu shots, housing and legal assistance and even a makeshift salon. Barbara Irizarry took advantage of the nail polish station. She says she and her husband used to live at the shelter but now have their own apartment.

"These people will help you if you ask for it so come on in and get some help," she says.

Bergen County found just under 300 people experiencing homelessness in 2016. The population was just under 9,000 statewide during that time.

Bergen County was the first county in the state to end veteran homelessness. It was a project of former first lady Michelle Obama, and officials are looking for the same support with the Trump administration.

"I'm hoping there's no decrease in federal dollars," says Bergen County Executive James Tedesco. "Let me put it that way. I'm hopeful that this administration will see the plight of those that need help."

Tedesco says that the county has also been successful in ending chronic homelessness, which is when people have been on the streets for more than a year.

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