By: Lauren Dilloian, James Clemente, and Abhi Vempati
According to the NJ 2-1-1 program, the number of people experiencing homelessness in New Jersey has dropped by 439 people between 2018 and 2019, leaving the current average at nearly 9,000 individuals (https://www.nj211.org/homeless-new-jersey). Though the statistics regarding homelessness in New Jersey have decreased, they have not disappeared, and are not going unnoticed. Organizations across the state are working to provide free facilities for these individuals to use free of charge. One of those organizations is the Trenton Free Public Library (TFPL) that works tirelessly to offer resources to those in less than ideal circumstances.
In an era so dependent on technology for daily tasks, those experiencing homelessness are at a disadvantage as they do not have access to such assets. The past few weeks especially have perfectly demonstrated the reliance we as a society have on the internet. With the outbreak of the Corona Virus, schools and businesses globally are shutting down as a means to practice social distancing and encourage quarantine. This has been made possible by online applications that allow groups to meet virtually, rather than face to face. The question that then presents itself is: How will those experiencing homelessness suffer from this shift? Lack of access to these free public venues could translate to a lack of ability to work and learn for this community.
Unfortunately, given the circumstances of the mandatory shutdown, we were unable to conduct an interview with a representative of the Trenton Free Public Library. However, we were able to collect copious information from their website alone. Prior to the worldwide pandemic, organizations like the Trenton Free Public Library offered free access to resources such as computers, wifi, books, databases, DVDs and countless others. With a free library card that can be acquired with any proof of identification of living in Trenton, people have access to all of the library’s amenities. To touch on the digital aspect of the library, computer time slots ranging anywhere from fifteen minutes to two hours give individuals the chance to complete online job applications, partake in the library’s e-tutoring programs and much more.
With much uncertainty in the current climate of the world, it is hard to say how those experiencing homelessness will be disadvantaged by the effects of the Corona Virus. We hope to acquire more information on their plan moving forward for reopening and how the community can access resources elsewhere. For more information or any unanswered questions, the Library is located at 120 Academy Street in Trenton, New Jersey 08608 and can be reached by calling (609) 392-7188 or through https://www.trentonlib.org/.
* This article was written by TCNJ’s very own Writing 102 Students.