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.

Keeping Up With Chidick: A Teen Who Once Experienced Homelessness Begins His College Experience

By Zion Lee

As college admissions dates began to approach in 2018, all eyes seemed to be glued to one very special teenager from Jersey City. Dylan Chidick, a young man full of determination and aspiration, had caught the media’s attention as he had applied to and received letters of acceptance from 17 colleges.

Not only was this a rare feat by itself, but Chidick also had been affected by homelessness during his time as a high school student. At the age of seven, Chidick’s family had immigrated from Trinidad to Brooklyn, before moving to Jersey City when a rise in prices drove them out. His family later was forced to move into a shelter, where his ability to study was bound by curfews and access to light. Yet, against all odds, Chidick showed the world that nothing would stop him from obtaining a higher level of education. Then, the moment Chidick and everyone else who had been following his story came when Chidick announced that he would be attending his dream school, The College of New Jersey.

Chidick’s experience and college application process has been a success story that news outlets covered and people indulged in. Yet, while the end of the news coverage on Chidick’s story seemed to formulate a happy ending for Chidick, his journey through life and in college had only just begun.

The Streetlight had the privilege of speaking with Chidick and inquired not only about his story, but also about what he must do now to get through this time of transition into college.

In an interview, Chidick spoke with great exuberance about the wonderful staff and friends he has interacted with and met at The College of New Jersey. However, he also revealed that he, admittedly, felt “a bit of imposter syndrome” when he sat in a class with other students. He felt as though he did not belong, because he felt that he was less prepared than the other students in his classes. Yet against odds, Chidick has been doing his best and keeping up with his classmates. In fact, Chidick had even ran for a position on the freshman class council for the student government and won a seat. While The College of New Jersey has been academically challenging for Chidick, it is clear that he has found a way to not only manage his work but also stay active in his community.

In the interview, Chidick gave words of wisdom for anyone facing homelessness who has dreams they want to accomplish. He stated that his experience “will always be a part of your life that you can never forget” however, “don’t let it define you.” Instead, Chidick advises that any students experiencing homelessness who hunger for education like he does to “take that situation” and “open your eyes” by becoming more informed and active in your community.

It is clear that while entering college has been a trying experience for Chidick, he has figured out how to stay on top of his work and excel in extracurriculars. While homelessness may have had a huge impact on his life, Chidick says that he will not let that define him as he continues to smile and spreads not only his excitement to everyone he meets but his hunger to learn and achieve his goals.

Code Blue and You: Staying Sheltered in the Frigid Months

This story is part of The Streetlight’s participation in a statewide climate reporting collaboration by members of the NJ College News Commons, a network of campus media outlets working together to cover the climate crisis in New Jersey.

By Gabrielle Wells

There are over 9,000 people experiencing some form of homelessness on a given day in the state of New Jersey, according to the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness. Back in 2013, the “Trenton/Mercer 10-year Plan to End Homelessness” was formed in order to prevent even more people from experiencing homelessness and to improve the situation of those who are currently on the streets. This plan was originally created to make a system that would assess needs and help connect individuals experiencing homelessness to housing, among other resources. Now, a new law involving Code Blue will continue to allow many of these individuals to seek shelter during the winter.

In Mercer County, individuals who suffer from housing insecurity may find themselves on the street during severe weather conditions, which can be very hazardous to one’s health. Hypothermia occurs when one’s core body temperature falls below approximately 95°F. This drop-in core body temperature can be a direct result of staying out in temperatures around 30°F to 50°F for extended periods of time, especially in wet conditions.

For Trenton’s population experiencing homelessness, this means that suffering from life-threatening conditions such as hypothermia can pose a serious threat. Dr. Rita King, a professor of microbiology at The College of New Jersey in Ewing Township, explained that when a person is in the cold for a sustained period of time, blood vessels become smaller in order to keep the core of the body and vital organs warmer. This can result in fingers and toes becoming susceptible to frostbite, which can cause gangrene, potentially leading to an amputation of extremities.

“If you’re in sustained cold with constricted blood vessels, your blood pressure can raise which can cause heart attacks,” said King.

New Jersey State Senators Troy Singleton and M. Teresa Ruiz recently created legislation that was signed into law in March 2019, requiring all New Jersey counties to set up homelessness trust funds. These funds would be used to support Code Blue emergency shelter services in order to provide resources and suitable shelter from severe weather conditions.

Code Blue initially was established in May 2017 after legislation was signed into law by Governor Chris Christie in efforts to develop a program that would offer emergency shelter to the population experiencing homelessness in times of inclement weather. According to Mercer County’s Office of Homeless Services’ website, in cases of extreme weather where the temperature drops below 25°F without precipitation, or in the case where it is below 32°F with precipitation with a wind chill of zero degrees for a prolonged period of two hours or more, Code Blue alerts are issued.

However, King feels that Code Blue alerts should be issued during times of other temperatures as well. “I don’t know where they came up with 25°F,” said King, calling such an extreme temperature “flat out freezing.”

This new partisan legislation created by Senators Troy Singleton and M. Teresa Ruiz was passed by the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee. A spokesperson from Senator Ruiz office could not be reached for comment in time for publication.

Despite the new legislation, some patrons from the Trenton Area Soup Kitchen such as Reggie Montigue and Crystal Hickmond told The Streetlight that they do not have much trouble finding shelter in the winter. “I have already found my spot,” said Montigue.

Once Code Blue alerts are issued, individuals who suffer from housing insecurity in Mercer County can turn to their designated Code Blue shelter, the Rescue Mission of Trenton, which will be open 24 hours once the Code Blue alert is issued. Additionally, people in need of assistance throughout the state of New Jersey can call 211 for shelter information.

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.

Could Climate Change Worsen Trenton’s Homelessness Crisis?

This story is part of The Streetlight’s participation in a statewide climate reporting collaboration by members of the NJ College News Commons, a network of campus media outlets working together to cover the climate crisis in New Jersey.

By Joshua Trifari

New Jersey is perhaps one of the states most vulnerable to climate disaster in the upcoming century. Several areas of the Garden State are very low-lying, leaving many neighborhoods, both poor and wealthy, likely to experience flooding.

A disaster like Superstorm Sandy in 2012 was predicted to occur only once every 260 years in New Jersey, according to an article published by Stevens Institute of Technology. However, by the end of the century, New Jersey can expect to see a storm with a similar intensity and impact of Sandy once every five years. This brings serious questions as to how New Jersey would be able to sustain such recurring damages from the storms to come.

In an interview with The Streetlight, Jay Everett of Cranford-based Monarch Housing Associates, stated that the effects of sea level rise can decrease property stock and increase property values, therefore making housing less accessible.

The National Low Income Housing Coalition’s 2019 “Out of Reach” report shows that in order to afford to rent a two-bedroom home in New Jersey, a household would need to earn $28.86 an hour. The current minimum wage in New Jersey is $10 an hour, though that is scheduled to increase over the coming years. Everett noted that even families with more middle-class incomes struggle with affording the cost of housing in New Jersey. He suggested that increasing the availability of housing stock that is both affordable and sustainable in places that are not vulnerable to persistent flooding would provide a buffer against the impacts of climate change on homelessness.

In Trenton, some of the potential impacts of climate change have already been studied. In a scenario of one foot of sea level rise, the Delaware River will flood more intensely according to the Climate Central Surging Seas Risk Zone Map, as well as creeks that lead into the Delaware River, such as Assunpink Creek, which runs through downtown Trenton. At two feet of sea level rise, parts of I-195 and I-295 in Hamilton Township, just outside of Trenton leading into the city, will become impassable.

Warmer temperatures are also expected. By 2050, New Jersey is expected to experience 34 “Danger Days” per year according to an analysis by Climate Central, where the heat index will exceed 105°F. Currently, New Jersey only experiences about seven “Danger Days” per year. By 2100, the Summer average temperature in New Jersey is expected to feel like Miami, increasing by 9°F.

Trenton’s population experiencing homelessness has already experienced concerns due to extreme weather. As reported in a previous edition of The Streetlight, the Trenton Free Public Library was forced to close down several times during the summer of 2019 due to the air conditioning not functioning properly.

In an interview, when asked about the city’s concern for the vulnerability of the homeless population, Trenton Mayor Reed Gusciora’s Chief of Staff, Yoshi Manale, told The Streetlight that “the City of Trenton does a good job of keeping housing prices low and foreclosures low,” which he said helps prevent people from entering homelessness. However, Manale noted that he does not have specific expertise as to how climate change can impact homelessness.

In 2010, the Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy at Rutgers University prepared a climate action plan for the City of Trenton. This plan includes recommendations for municipal operations, community- wide energy efficiency programs, water conservation, and community waste reduction. Emphasis was placed on making the housing stock in Trenton more energy efficient, while other parts of the report note how planting native vegetation near Assunpink Creek could prevent flooding and describe plans to work with the East Trenton Collaborative to make the area around the creek more resistant to flooding. However, the report makes no mention of the impact of climate change on people experiencing homelessness in Trenton.

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.

New Jersey Cities Differ in Approach to Panhandling Policies

A sign in Newark informing drivers and panhandlers about the new panhandling ordinance in the city. Photo by Jared Kofsky/The Streetlight.

By Kristine Spike

A 2016 report from the Department of Housing and Urban Development found that an estimated 553,000 people are experiencing homelessness nationwide. Some behaviors of individuals experiencing homelessness are being criminalized is by new policies.

Newark, for example, has passed new municipal ordinance to ban panhandling within city limits. Officials with the Newark Department of Public Safety reported that in May 2019, police handed out more than 250 summonses for panhandling, which can have a maximum fine of $500.

Newark Police are also enforcing a “delaying traffic” ordinance, which prohibits drivers from stopping to give cash to those requesting it. In May, 90 summonses were issued. Tickets given for delaying traffic cost $50, plus a court fine.

Newark officials have stated that these policies have been enacted as a public safety effort. In addition, officials report that they have increased outreach efforts. For instance, Newark’s ‘Hope One’ is a mobile police vehicle that offers Narcan kits, detoxification, rehabilitation recovery support, mental health services, and transportation to treatment facilities. Hope One also works to make identification cards accessible to those experiencing homelessness so that the individuals can obtain services such as assisted housing. Trenton does not currently have a Hope One program, though a list of community partners that perform comparable services can be found in The Streetlight’s Mercer County Resource Guide.

The main concern is whether or not such panhandling policies will extend to Trenton and its surrounding areas. Currently, the short answer is no. The City of Trenton has recently revised its policy on begging and panhandling. City legislation states that “the City Council recognizes a constitutional right to beg or solicit in a peaceful and nonthreatening manner.” The legislation in Trenton goes on to mention that “an increase in aggressive solicitation throughout the City has become extremely disturbing and disruptive to residents and businesses.” These findings led to the passing of a new article to update and clarify the panhandling regulation. The recently passed Trenton ordinance goes on to define “aggressive”, stating that following or approaching individuals at night, or near ATM machines, amongst other behaviors, all are considered to be “aggressive.”

This clause reportedly serves to protect the rights of citizens, while aiming to harbor a safe environment. The City aims to keep intact constitutional rights while also reducing the “disturbance” that panhandling can cause when it takes an aggressive form. In a phone interview, New Jersey State Police Trooper Ryon Barclay stated that as it stands, there is no reason to expect change in the current panhandling laws, adding that the current policy is clearly defined and has a goal of “protection of all citizens.”

Scott: Being a First-Generation High School and College Graduate

By Essence B. Scott

If not for my parents’ honesty about their education, I would not have graduated from high school or college. Their honesty gave me the courage to remain in school, even as mental health issues burst my world open. I knew that I could not quit, knew I had to double down. I had to make an effort to graduate from high school.

The room we were in, Room 24 at the Trails End Motel in Windsor, affectionately called “The Trailey” by my Ma even today, further influenced my need to attain my high school diploma and Associates in Arts in Liberal Arts from Mercer County Community College. I knew I did not want to be homeless, in a motel room year after year, with the prices going up. I knew that I wanted and needed a place of my own. I knew education— attending school— doing my best on my schoolwork—would be my key. I knew I never wanted to live in another motel room for the rest of my life, and definitely not with children in tow.

The transition period from high school to college was not without its struggle. Though smart, I was underprepared for the more intense coursework–the readings from several different courses, the papers to write, the Math homework that will not do itself. I ultimately stopped. I tried taking five and six courses at a time and burned out of all of them. I learned that just because my peers were taking five and six courses a semester doesn’t mean I should.

Asking for help was something that I found embarrassing. I had always been an independent type, and sometimes asking for help made me feel badly. I was supposed to grasp this information. I was supposed to be able to do this on my own, no assistance, no help.

I really do wish I had waited a couple of years after high school before applying to college. I would have been better off for it.

Ultimately, being the first to graduate makes me ecstatic. I did this. I pulled it off—name correctly spelled and (my full first, middle, and last names on my high school diploma, my first name, middle initial, and last name), pronounced correctly.

To other first-generation college students, to the parents who return to school years later, older, wiser, maybe even with children, I say congratulations and I wish you all the best and more. I say to read up on and learn your rights and responsibilities. I would say to find out more about college preparation programs. Lastly, I would say that if we do not feel comfortable about college straight after high school, then it is okay not to go to college. Maybe we’ll learn a little more about ourselves, gain more confidence. Consider going to trade school. The possibilities are endless.

Essence B. Scott is a longtime community contributor to The Streetlight who experienced homelessness in Mercer County as a child. A native of the capital region, Scott now resides in North Carolina.

Trenton Housing Authority Closes Waiting Lists

The line for public housing in New Jersey’s capital city has gotten so long that the Trenton Housing Authority has decided not to allow anyone else to join the waiting list.

City Hall in Trenton. File photo by Jared Kofsky/The Streetlight.

By Jared Kofsky

Trentonians seeking to reside in public housing this summer are out of luck for the time being. The Trenton Housing Authority (THA), which owns and operates the public housing projects throughout New Jersey’s capital city, is no longer accepting applications for most of its affordable apartments and houses.

In a February legal notice, the THA announced that over 6,000 households were on the waiting lists for public housing in Mercer County’s second largest municipality. Federal census records show that Trenton has a total of roughly 27,000 households. Citing the “high volume of applicants,” the authority revealed that it would be closing its “Family” and “Senior/Disabled” waiting lists on March 1.

As planned, the THA stopped permitting new applications to both of these waiting lists at the beginning of March, according to its website. Trentonians interested in residing in public housing in the city who visit the THA’s Apply4Housing web page are now greeted with a message stating in part that “we are sorry, but there are no open list [sic] currently.”

Based in the North Trenton neighborhood, the THA has almost a dozen complexes in Trenton. These facilities range from the 112-unit Samuel Haverstick Homes near the Ewing Township border to the 376-unit Mayor Donnelly Homes on New Willow Street to the Lincoln Homes near Rivera Community Middle School.

Trenton, Princeton, and Hightstown are the only municipalities in Mercer County to operate their own public housing authorities, though the Princeton Housing Authority maintains a total of just 236 apartments while the Hightstown Housing Authority has just 100. When applications for the waiting list are open, the THA’s website states in part that the capital city’s authority requires at least one household member to be an American citizen or “eligible non-citizen” and that applicants must not exceed the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development’s income limits. For a family of four, annual “low income” is defined as a household earning a maximum of $71,900 while “extremely low income” is considered to be less than $29,650.

The Streetlight has learned that Trenton is far from the only city in New Jersey where there is a far higher demand for public housing than a supply of affordable units.

60 miles northeast of Trenton in the state’s second largest city, the Jersey City Housing Authority (JCHA) has closed both the application list for the Section 8 Housing Assistance Payment Program, which “is designed to assist eligible low-income families pay their rent,” along with all but one of its “public housing site based waiting lists,” according to the agency’s website.

During the summer of 2018, the JCHA decided to reopen its public housing waiting list to applicants, but only for a one week period. However, a statement from the agency at the time mentioned that not all people who sought to be added to the waiting list would be included since “a set number of preliminary applications [would] be selected using a computerized random selection process.” The sole remaining waiting list in Jersey City that remains open is solely for two-member households where one family member must be 62 years of age or older, according to municipal records. The draft of the JCHA’s 2019 annual plan shows that as of August 2018, there were still 5,564 applicants on the waiting lists.

Meanwhile, the Newark Housing Authority (NHA) had waiting lists with an estimated 19,494 applicants, roughly the entire population of Hopewell Township, as of December 2018, according to the 2018 NHA Annual Report. The NHA, which is the largest agency of its kind in the Garden State, reported that 800 individuals were moved from the waiting lists to public housing in 2018. However, the NHA website shows that 13,303 families and 3,897 disabled applicants are still waiting and only “near elderly, elderly, and disabled residents” are currently allowed to submit applications.

While the public housing waiting lists might not be open at the THA, the JCHA, and the NHA, there are a variety of resources available in the capital region for readers experiencing homelessness to visit. The Mercer County Resource Guide on pages six and seven provides additional information regarding these services.

 

Editor’s Note: This story was written in March 2019.

Extreme Weather Continues to Plague Trenton Library

By Jared Kofsky

With temperatures in the capital region this summer reaching as high as 96 degrees, Mercer County residents sought shelter indoors during the day from the excruciating heat. In local suburbs, if residents lacked air conditioning on some of the warmest days of the year, local libraries were places to spend the day indoors. In fact, the New Jersey 2-1-1 Partnership recommends that “libraries… and other public air-conditioned spaces are good alternatives in every county if you are looking for a place to cool down.”

However, for residents of Trenton, particularly those experiencing homelessness, such an option did not exist on days when temperatures were at their highest. The Trenton Free Public Library (TFPL) on Academy Street, part of which was built in 1902, was shut down frequently, with closures coinciding with high temperatures.

An analysis by The Streetlight of online announcements by the TFPL found that the library was closed on 12 days during this summer alone due to concerns over heat in the building. On 12 additional days, the TFPL closed early, meaning that for nearly an entire month’s worth of days, the municipal library in New Jersey’s capital was either shut down for all or part of its usual hours of operation.

Patrons who sought the library’s services during the day were often greeted with a sign reading “the library is subject to close at any time during the day due to the temperature within the building.” On Facebook, there were regular posts this summer warning potential visitors that the library will be shut down for the day “due to the excessive heat and humidity in the building.” Although posts on July 25 and 26 and on August 1, 3, 4, 6, and 9 mentioned that “HVAC engineers are on-site working on this issue,” there were closures on excessively hot days throughout the summer, from the end of June until the beginning of September.

Following these shutdowns, it appeared as though an end to the weather-related closures was near, with the TFPL posting online at the end of the summer that a new HVAC system was installed, replacing a previous system that was set up over four decades earlier. The library also thanked the Trenton City Council for assisting with funding the new system.

Yet, just a few months later, extreme weather impacted the TFPL again. On three frigid days before this winter even began, the building was closed to the public due to concerns over the climate control system on the premises.

The Streetlight took the concerns over the closures to Trenton Mayor Reed Gusciora, who stated in an exclusive interview in late November that the problem was being addressed.

“We’ve actually been working on the HVAC system and we are making facility upgrades to the library,” said Gusciora. When asked what was causing the delay, the mayor cited “contractor challenges” and added that secondary fixes are on the way.

“We hope to correct any problems with the library facility in the very near future,” he explained.

The capital is far from the only city in the United States where residents experiencing homelessness rely on libraries for services and shelter during the day. A Washington Post investigation described libraries as the “front line of America’s homelessness crisis,” highlighting San Francisco, Denver, and Philadelphia as examples of municipal libraries that are hiring their own social workers for individuals experiencing homelessness.

In Trenton, while there are a handful of other resources that are open to Trentonians experiencing homelessness, such as the Rescue Mission of Trenton’s Day Center. This facility, which is open daily, serves lunch and offers case management services. However, the TFPL remains a common place for individuals to spend the day safely indoors when it is open.

Unlike other similarly-sized cities in New Jersey, Trenton currently has only one municipal library branch. Although the TFPL used to operate the Briggs, Cadwalader, East Trenton, and Skelton Branches in four of the city’s outer neighborhoods, all four were closed in 2010.

According to Mayor Gusciora, City Hall is figuring out how those libraries can be reopened. When asked for additional details, the mayor stated that the City would require non-profit partners to operate each of the old library branches, such as how Howard’s Healthy Choices is operating in the former Briggs Branch Library.

Facility upgrades are needed, Gusciora explained, mentioning that the City is in discussions with Mercer County officials about possibly having Trenton become involved with the Mercer County Library system.

Still, nearly a decade after the branches were shuttered, when it comes to the TFPL, finances remain a concern.

“The library budget used to be $8 million. It’s down to $2 million so you can readily understand why the branches had to close,” Gusciora told The Streetlight. “The City can’t afford to do it all.”

Shining a light on homelessness in and around Trenton, New Jersey.