Gordon has been homeless since April and is facing his first winter on the streets.
He slumps back on the bench, the hood of his sweatshirt covering his head and most of his face.
"Hopefully I won't be out here too long," he says.
Gordon and the dozen or so others in the station's waiting room on this frigid Friday morning are far from the only homeless in Hudson County.
According to Jaclyn Cherubini, Executive Director of the Hoboken Homeless Shelter, there were over 5,000 homeless in the county in 2005.
So where will most of them sleep tonight?
170 beds combined
The Hoboken Homeless Shelter, as well as St. Lucy's in Jersey City and Palisades Emergency Rescue Corporation (PERC) in Union City, are the few places that Hudson County's homeless can find a warm bed and a warm meal.
But the space is limited. The three shelters combined can only offer 170 beds, Cherubini said. And they are filled to capacity every night.
James Vaccaro is one of the lucky ones. He has a warm place to sleep tonight.
The Falls Church, Va. native has lived in Hudson County for 13 years, and had spent the last 2.5 in Union City before he lost his home.
"Sure I'm comfortable," he said from the main hall in the Hoboken shelter on Third Street. "I'm already here. But there are lots of people who are still out there."
Vaccaro wishes the Hoboken Shelter had more than just 50 beds.
"You see the look on people's faces when they're turned away, knowing that they're looking at 20-degree temperatures with the wind chill going way down, and you know that help is needed," he said.
So what happens to the other 4,800 homeless on nights like tonight, when the temperature is supposed to drop well below freezing?
"We do serve overflow populations during those times," says Brenda Pulaski, Director of Housing Services for Catholic Charities of Jersey City and Newark. "We have cots we can pull out. We also work collaboratively with the other shelters and the United Way to transport overflow clients to a warm place."
Pulaski's organization runs St. Lucy's shelter in Jersey City (for up to 80 single adult men and women) and Hope House (19 rooms for up to 60 women and children).
PERC in Union City tries to serve the overflow as well. "When it gets really cold, we will expand and set up cots in the dining hall if we need to," said Executive Director Matt Kamin. "Our goal is to not have anybody freeze."
Henrietta Johnson, Director of Jersey City Medical Center's Medical and Social Services for the Homeless (MASSH), said that even in times of extreme weather, some people are reluctant to go to the shelters.
"Some of them will ride the trains all night rather than go into a shelter," she says. "Some want their own personal space. Some are embarrassed and don't want anyone to know they're homeless."
Her organization is the only one in Hudson County that searches out homeless people on the street to give them resources beyond a night's shelter.
"Instead of building so many condos, they should make more affordable housing," said MASSH worker Lilian Robles.
'I've been trying to keep warm'
Back in the waiting room at the Hoboken Train Station, two members of the MASSH staff talk to Bob, a Hudson County native who has been on the streets for the past 25 years.
"I've been trying to keep warm," Bob tells the staff members. "It ain't easy."
He complains that the cops hassle the homeless people when they stay in the station too long.
"They say you can't stay here, that you've gotta go," he said.
But where does he go?
"The library, anywhere. You go anywhere you can to get warm."
He explains why he doesn't like to go to shelters: "Shelters are overcrowded. People are sneezing, coughing on you. You can't lay down in a peaceful environment."
Sometimes, he gives up on life.
"[Without train stations] we've only got the parks," he said. "You sleep on a bench, wrap yourself up in a blanket, and pray that you don't wake up no more."
Contact information for the shelters
There are homeless shelters providing a bed and food in Hoboken, Jersey City, and Union City.
The Hoboken Homeless Shelter at 300 Bloomfield St. serves more than 27,000 meals a year and has 30 beds, which are full most nights. The shelter accepts contributions of money, clothes, toiletries, and food left over from parties and entertainment functions. For more information on how to help call (201) 656-5069.
Another nearby shelter is St. Lucy's Shelter, at 619 Grove St. in Jersey City. St. Lucy's is a supervised 24-hour, seven-day-a-week emergency shelter for single women and men, offering emergency housing and food for those in need. Individuals are offered a 45-day stay. For more information on how to volunteer call (201) 656-7201.
A third shelter is the Palisades Emergency Residence Corporation (PERC) at 108 36th St. in Union City. The co-ed facility has 40 beds. For information, call (201) 348-8150. - TJ