Category Archives: The Spotlight

College Opens Innovative Food Pantry in Ewing Township

Editor’s Note: Last winter, The Streetlight reported that a food pantry was in the works for The College of New Jersey. In the time since, the facility has opened its doors.

By Hannah Keyes and Brie Wells

The SHOP @ TCNJ is not the typical shopping destination for most college students, but for many, it provides resources needed to get through the week.

Located at The College of New Jersey’s (TCNJ) Campus Town in Ewing Township, The SHOP is a food pantry that provides resources to those who may be experiencing food insecurity. The SHOP offers many different resources such as canned goods, hygiene products, some clothing items, microwavable meals, bottled water, feminine care products, fruits, grains, and vegetables. The SHOP also offers vegetarian and gluten free products for those who may have other dietary concerns.

It is open not only to college students, but also to faculty and general community members who may be in need. There are no questions asked.

Alana Adams, the College Enhancement Intern for The SHOP, mentioned that “food insecurity impacts nearly 40% of college students nationwide, so there should be no shame associated with utilizing the resources your campus or community provides.”

However, there is often a negative preconceived notion surrounding the use of a food pantry and seeking help.

“We don’t know what you’re going through, but we are here to support you in the best way that we can. We want to have an experience with you. We want to provide a welcoming, comforting, inclusive, and safe environment where you are seen as a person,” emphasized AmeriCorps member and TCNJ Garden and Food Security program assistant Horacio Hernandez.

TCNJ students in Mercer County are the catalysts that brought light to the situation that many members of the community face everyday. The inception of The SHOP began when concerned students asked for referrals or file requests to provide emergency aid to those struggling to eat constantly or to find adequate housing. This need became especially apparent during extended school breaks.

“TCNJ has a Student Emergency Fund, which students can apply and receive limited funding for temporary housing or food. With the help of other organizations, the Dean of Students Office launched the SHOP in February 2019, which serves as a more long-term solution to students in need, where they can receive food and other supplies on a weekly basis,” Adams added.

The building space that The SHOP occupies was offered by the chief of TCNJ’s Campus Police and allowed for everything to officially get started.

In order to support the surrounding communities, The SHOP works in conjunction with Mercer Street Friends Food Bank, TCNJ Student and Academic Affairs, and TCNJ Campus Police. According to the Program Associate of the Adult Hunger Programs at Mercer Street Friends Food Bank, Pamela Sims Jones, “The Food Bank is here to support The SHOP with non-perishable and perishable commodities as needed so that The SHOP can continue to support the TCNJ community members who may be food insecure.”

With the aid of Mercer Street Friends Food Bank and the rest of their partners, The SHOP hopes to be able to provide resources to those who do not have access to food and to help end the stigma surrounding asking for help. In the future The SHOP not only wants to provide basic necessities but to also give additional support for various aspects of life.

Donations and offered help are always accepted and valued by The SHOP. Recently there was a Greek Life food drive competition to see which Greek organization could donate the most food to The SHOP.

There are many additions that The SHOP hopes to add services as time goes on, such as extra training for staff members, more partnerships with other organizations, the ability to provide hot meals, and the list goes on. The SHOP has a lot in store for the future.

Here to Help: Mercer Street Friends

By Hannah Keyes

The Mercer Street Friends Food Bank for Nutritional Health and Wellness is one of six food banks in the state of New Jersey. Established in 1987, the Food Bank secures and distributes food and provides related nutrition assistance to help ensure that citizens do not go hungry.

According to the Program Associate of Adult Hunger, Pamela Sims Jones, The Food Bank distributes USDA, state-purchased, and donated commodities to 48 member agencies within Mercer County. The 21 mobile pantry sites receive donated perishable and non- perishable items, and the 13 senior citizen housing sites receive designated USDA non-perishable commodities for the 520 Commodity Supplemental Food Program participants. Mercer Street Friends member agencies include a network of pantries, shelters, youth programs and the Trenton Area Soup Kitchen (TASK) and their sites.

“Mercer Street Friends is 61 years old and the Food Bank is 31 years old. With a staff of 9 and over 2,400 volunteers a year, the Food Bank distributes more than 4 million pounds of food a year,” stated Sims Jones.

Within this food distribution, the Food Bank has multiple programs seeking to help reduce hunger, such as “Send Hunger Packing,” a program that partners with local public schools and provides healthy kid-friendly food on Fridays for children who are at-risk for suffering from hunger so they can have meals to eat over the weekend. The Food Bank also provides breakfast and lunch for children facing meal gaps during the summer when they cannot get food from school. Additionally, there is a mobile pantry that delivers monthly meal boxes to around 200 low-income seniors.

Anchor House Receives Approval for Brunswick Avenue Facility

By Jared Kofsky

A non-profit serving youth and young adults experiencing homelessness could soon be expanding its presence in Trenton’s North Ward.

Anchor House, Inc. received approval on July 17 from the Trenton Zoning Board of Adjustment (ZBA) in connection with its proposal for the premises at 868 Brunswick Avenue. The organization sought a use variance in order to turn the house at the site into “office space on the first floor and residential use on the upper floors for up to four individuals,” according to a legal notice.

The facility would include four bedrooms, a common kitchen, and a living area, the notice stated. All of the residents of the house are expected to be between 18 and 21.

Anchor House already operates a shelter for youth and the Anchorage Transitional Living Program for young adults. The non-profit also facilitates the Anchor Link and Anchor Line spaces at the corner of South Broad and Beatty Streets in Chambersburg.

The ZBA’s decision was memorialized in September, according to the notice. for the proposed adaptive reuse of the building is not yet clear. No updates from Anchor House, Inc. regarding the project were available by publication time.

Trenton Area Soup Kitchen Finishes Expansion

By Zion Lee

The Trenton Area Soup Kitchen has taken upon itself, to serve and assist the people of Trenton who are affected by homelessness and/or poverty. The staff at the Trenton Area Soup Kitchen (TASK) work to help better the lives of many and help smoothly run the operation. With hundreds of patrons coming in every day, TASK is clearly a hub of resources and a valued community for individuals affected by homelessness.

This past summer, renovations were made to the TASK facility on Escher Street. Not only is this change beneficial for the staff, as they now have more offices for administrative work, but there is also a great benefit to the patrons of TASK. A new lounge has been installed with vibrant colored furnishings and natural light pouring through the huge windows that provide a beautiful view of the outside. This allows patrons to get away from all the buzz of the main area and opt for a more serene setting whether it be to rest or study.

Furthermore, there is now a more secluded computer room for any patron who longs to study and take advantage of the technology at hand in peace and quiet. One volunteer had even commented that the expansion has allowed TASK to offer even more help than it had been able to in the past. In addition to the computer room, there are also two classrooms open for tutoring sessions and group events that are filled with works of art from the community and individual patrons. Residents are encouraged to come and see the expansion of the TASK’s facility and pursue the available opportunities that TASK provides to all who desire to both learn new things and conquer the challenge of homelessness.

Preventing Poverty in Princeton

By Joyce Vilson, Alyssa Sedacca, and Joshua Trifari

Housing Initiatives of Princeton (HIP) is a non-profit organization that was founded in 2004 to target homelessness and offer low-income housing in the Princeton area. The group, run entirely by volunteers, provides low-income families a second chance to establish a permanent home in the community.

According to Carol Golden, chair of the Board of Trustees of HIP, Princeton is a very expensive town to live in, making homelessness deceptively easy to fall into.

“People fall on hard times, and often, there is no one to turn to to prevent them from falling into homelessness,” Golden told The Streetlight.

HIP’s transitional housing helps families who are struggling financially and those who are experiencing homelessness by receiving temporary shelter. This supportive service is available for up to 24 months, coupled with other job search programs. The organization also offers rental assistance through the form of a security deposit or first month’s rent.

HIP works with local institutions such as Princeton University and Princeton Medical Center in order to assist clients. There is a plan in the works for HIP to collaborate with the center in order to establish a healthy living program for the families served by the non-profit.

Aside from rental assistance and transitional housing, families may also seek assistance from HIP in regards to permanent housing solutions as well as other supportive services.

To contact HIP, call (609) 497-4535 or email them at info@housinginitiativesofprinceton.org.

PIT Count: Homelessness Rises in New Jersey

By Jared Kofsky and Joshua Trifari

Homelessness appears to be on the rise again in the Garden State. The federally mandated Point-in-Time Count, held on January 23 and 24, 2018, found that the number of people experiencing homelessness in New Jersey has increased by nine percent since 2017, according to the NJCounts report released by Monarch Housing Associates.

The Streetlight participated in the 2018 Mercer County Point-in-Time Count. Volunteers from organizations like Oaks Integrated Care and the Rescue Mission of Trenton traveled throughout the capital city and surrounding suburbs in order to count the number of people believed to be experiencing homelessness and find out how they ended up without permanent housing. Places visited ranged from the Delaware and Raritan Canal to employment agencies to public libraries.

The 2018 Point-in-Time Count shows that there are at least 479 people experiencing homelessness in Mercer County. One of the top causes of homelessness locally was found to be the transition from incarceration to reintegration into society.

The City of Trenton, where the volunteers were based, was found to be home to 75 percent of the county’s population experiencing homelessness, with 21 percent living in Ewing Township. 63 people were unsheltered at the time while 46 percent of those surveyed were classified as “chronically homeless.” 54 people surveyed who were experiencing homelessness were domestic violence victims, and an additional 18 people surveyed were veterans. Slightly more than one tenth of the people surveyed had been experiencing homelessness for more than three years.

2018 Trenton-Mercer Point-in-Time Count volunteers. Photo by Jared Kofsky/The Streetlight.
Ben Thornton of Anchor House speaks to volunteers. Photo by Jared Kofsky/The Streetlight.
Individuals experiencing homelessness used to live in this abandoned Trenton bus. Photo by Jared Kofsky/The Streetlight.
Councilman Duncan Harrison, Jr. speaks to a resident during the 2018 Point-in-Time Count in Trenton. Photo by Jared Kofsky/The Streetlight.
Abandoned buildings on Perry Street in Trenton. Photo by Jared Kofsky/The Streetlight.
Copies of The Wall, the predecessor to The Streetlight, were distributed during the count. Photo by Jared Kofsky/The Streetlight.
Volunteers look for individuals experiencing homelessness along the Delaware and Raritan Canal in Trenton’s West Ward. Photo by Jared Kofsky/The Streetlight.

Contando la Población sin Hogar

Traducido por Annette Espinoza

La falta de hogar se parece esta aumentando nuevamente en New Jersey. Según el informe de NJCounts publicado por Monarch Housing Associates realizado el 23 de enero y el 24 de enero de 2018, el número de personas que viven sin hogar en New Jersey ha aumentado a un nueve por ciento desde 2017.

The Streetlight participó en el 2018 Mercer County Point-in-Time Count. Voluntarios de organizaciones como Oaks Integrated Care y Rescue Mission of Trenton viajaron por toda la capital y los suburbios para contar el número de personas que se creer viven sin hogar y descubrir cómo terminaron sin vivienda permanente. Los lugares visitados van desde Delaware y Raritan Canal hasta agencias de empleo y bibliotecas públicas.

El PIT Count de 2018 muestra que hay al menos 479 personas sin hogar en el condado de Mercer. Una de las principales causas de la falta de vivienda al nivel local fue la transición del encarcelamiento a la reintegración en la sociedad.

Se descubrió que la ciudad de Trenton, donde se basaban los voluntarios, era el hogar de 75 por ciento de la población del condado sin hogar, con un 21 por ciento viviendo en el municipio de Ewing. En ese momento, 63 personas no estaban cubiertas, mientras que el 46 por ciento de los encuestados se clasificaron como “personas sin hogar crónicas”. 54 personas encuestadas que se encontraban sin hogar eran víctimas de violencia doméstica, y otras 18 personas encuestadas eran veteranos. Un poco más de una décima parte de las personas encuestadas habían estado sin hogar durante más de tres años.

Men’s Mission House Opens in Ewing Township

By Jessica Middleton

Pastor Erik Lydick, sitting near the entrance to the Trenton Transit Center, immediately stands outin his black hoodie with the words “God’s Got This.” Lydick works at Restoring Hearts Ministries and is a very active part of the Trenton and Ewing communities.

He explained that at the Ministries, “the guys are sitting down, they are being taught the Bible,and everybody gets a breakfast sandwich”. Lydick and his fellow workers are able to talk to roughly 100-125 patrons each week in these Bible study groups. They also spend some time providing food for unsheltered individuals xperiencing homelessness roughly five times a week wherever the need is.

Lydick has a series of goals for his program aimed at making sure that those experiencing homelessness are receiving the care, guidance, and resources that they may not find through state-run organizations and initiatives.

First and foremost, his main goal is to make sure that these individuals know that someone cares about them.

“You guys have probably had some kind of interaction with homeless folks, people struggling in homelessness, so you understand that for the most part they really feel like they’re not valued. That nobody really loves them. That’s kind of one of our main goals. Our motto really is: work hard to establish trust, so that we can establish a relationship,” Lydick emphasized.

One of the newest projects that Restoring Hearts has taken on is a housing project on Ewing’s Iowana Avenue, which aims to offer safe housing to those who need it. Its functions surpass those of a typical recovery house.

More specifically, Lydick wants it to feel like home. While there is no limit to how long residents can live in the house, they must follow program guidelines during their stay. And while the house can technically house 14 individuals, it is being limited to only five.

This is in an effort to bring about that feeling of having a home, as opposed to simply some place to rest your head. Lydick proudly proclaimed the effect that this has had on those who have stayed in the house:

“In three short weeks, you start to see a change. They go from folded into themselves to initiating conversations with each other and joking around. Their personalities start to resurface.”

Lydick discussed his long term goals for Restoring Hearts over the next decade. He hopes to continue being able to maintain this feeling of family among his residents even as they create their own families and move into their own houses. He also hopes that more people come to recognize the group’s efforts and join them. He also wants create a location for Restoring Hearts within Tren- ton’s city limits, making it easier for those he serves to go here as opposed to needing transportation for the home in Ewing.


Inside the Men’s Mission House. Photo by Jared Kofsky/The Streetlight.

Signs inside the Men’s Mission House. Photo by Jared Kofsky/The Streetlight.

Exterior of the Men’s Mission House. Photo by Jared Kofsky/The Streetlight.

Resource Awaits Across the River

By Paul Mulholland

Many Trenton residents receive food assistance across the Calhoun Street Bridge in Morrisville, P.A. One such food program is run by the Morrisville Presbyterian Church (MPC) at 771 North Pennsylvania Avenue.

The program is open from 9:00am to 12:00pm every Wednesday, and from 7:00pm to 8:00pm on the first Tuesday of the month for working families. Clients may only come once every calendar month.

The center serves well over one hundred families every week on a first come first serve basis. Potential clients are interviewed and are expected to have photo identification, proof of residency, proof that their children live with them, and income verification. Mercer County IDs, passports and bills are accepted as proof of address for adults, while school records can be used for children. Residency documents are not necessary for individuals experiencing homelessness.

MPC is able to give donated bags of fruits, vegetables, pasta, and high quality proteins to its clients. They are often stocked with chicken, beef, tuna, peanut butter and other protein items as well. The center will give one, two or three bags of protein depending on the size of the family.

Clients should have a plan to transport these bags to their home. A parking lot is available to clients with a car. The center also has volunteers that help carry food out as most receive far too much to transport alone.

Morrisville Presbyterian also carries basic household and hygiene items such as toothpaste, pet food, and garbage bags that are available upon request.