Tag Archives: Jared Kofsky

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.”

The Highlight: Trenton Mayor W. Reed Gusciora

For the last several months, New Jersey’s capital has been under new leadership. W. Reed Gusciora, a former state assemblyman and adjunct professor at The College of New Jersey, was sworn into office as Trenton’s 56th mayor in July. With the 2018 Point-in-Time Count finding that overall homelessness has increased in New Jersey, The Streetlight wanted to know how Gusciora is planning to address the issue on the local level. Here is a preview of Managing Editor Jared Kofsky’s Q+A with the mayor, which was conducted in late November.

The Streetlight: Why do you think Trenton has such a significant population of people experiencing homelessness? What do you think the cause [of homelessness] might be on the local level?

Gusciora: On the local level, a lot of it is mental health and addiction services are needed. The other thing is that we’re such a transient town. We have four train lines, people can walk across the bridge from Morrisville, and because it’s the capital, they feel that they can get the most assistance here. We have a lot of churches that offer food assistance [and] we have the Trenton Area Soup Kitchen, so there are a lot of outlets that the homeless population can take advantage of.

The Streetlight: The Rescue Mission is the only general population emergency shelter in Mercer County. With Newark adding seven shelters, are there plans to open a city-run shelter in Trenton?

Gusciora: We can look at that but we’re focusing on transitioning to more permanent housing. I don’t think just offering more temporary shelters is necessarily the answer.

The Streetlight: What projects are you envisioning as part of an increase in transitional housing?

Gusciora: The Rescue Mission has a good model where they have rooms for temporary shelter but then they have a long-term temporary shelter where [people experiencing homelessness] have actual rooms assigned to them and they actually have apartments that they can stabilize long term until [clients experiencing homelessness] are able to get off on their feet. The Rescue Mission is not strictly temporary overnight housing and that’s something that we have to look for rather than just offering temporary shelters. The other thing is that we are the state capital so we need the state and the county to be very much a partner because if you look at the other communities that surround us, they offer very few homelessness services and they really need to step up to the plate so that everyone doesn’t just get funneled into the capital city.

The Streetlight: If you could have it your way as mayor, what would that look like to have other communities step up to the plate?

Gusciora: I think that they should have an obligation to offer some kind of temporary housing and bring the services to them directly, whether it be mental health or addiction services, rather than just give somebody bus fare to the capital city. I don’t think that really is responsive.

The Streetlight: Is there any plan specifically for increasing services addressing youth homelessness such as or in addition to Anchor House?

Gusciora: Well there’s other organizations such as LifeTies. A big consequence of homelessness are LGBT youth that seem to be tossed out of their family’s structure and as society gets more tolerant, that will be less of a problem but nonetheless, it’s critical to offer those services as well but there are other organizations that are willing to step up to the plate such as LifeTies.

The Streetlight: Do you think then that homelessness should be addressed by non-profits or should the city government play more of a role?

Gusciora: Well the problem is that the City doesn’t have the resources to handle the problem itself so it does have to rely on faith-based initiatives as well as general non-profits. If the State of New Jersey paid dollar-for-dollar in their property taxes because of all the tax-exempt properties that they occupy, they would give the City $45 million, but yet last year, we got $9 million in transitional aid, so we can’t keep going back to our own tax base to pay for such programs so we really need for the state and the county and even the feds to step up to the plate.

Selected questions and answers have been slightly condensed for spacing purposes.

Newark’s Government Joins Fight Against Homelessness in Their City

By Jared Kofsky

Newark Mayor Ras Baraka speaks to the media at the opening of the H.E.L.P. Shelter. Photo by Jared Kofsky/The Streetlight.

When it comes to homelessness in the United States, it has long been debated whether the crisis should be addressed by government agencies or societal groups.

In the Trenton area, both categories have long played a crucial role in homelessness prevention, though non-profit organizations and religious institutions continue to operate nearly every food pantry, soup kitchen, and shelter. Although assistance is provided to these groups through county, state, and federal dollars, often for specific contracted services, a look at our Mercer County Resource Guide will reveal that many of the region’s vital resources for individuals and families experiencing homelessness are not run by government agencies themselves.

For instance, while the City of Trenton does operate the CEAS Center in order to assist people experiencing homelessness, the capital region’s only emergency shelter for single adults is operated by the non-profit Rescue Mission of Trenton with the assistance of government funding for services such as shelter stays and case management. Across town, several facilities for young adults experiencing homelessness are all operated by the non-profit Anchor House, Inc. Other major Mercer County organizations like Rise and HomeFront are non-profit groups as well.

Societal organizations playing such a key role in homelessness prevention is common throughout the state and the country. This makes the recent moves by the municipal government in the Garden State’s largest city quite unique and raises questions about whether other New Jersey cities could follow suit. Last December, officials cut the ribbon on the Homeless Emergency Living Partnership (HELP) Center in Newark, a temporary government-run shelter.

“As long as they’re in our community, we’re going to service them,” Newark Mayor Ras Baraka told The Streetlight, referring to people experiencing homelessness.

The facility, which was operated with the assistance of Emergency Housing Services, Inc., took over a former halfway house. While the building was not in pristine condition when it opened, it allowed people to have a place to sleep during the coldest months of the year. However, the shelter closed its doors in September, forcing its 194 residents to end up back on the streets, according to NJ Advance Media. Then, in November, Newark officials announced that seven year- round shelters for people experiencing homelessness throughout the city would open, receiving funding from both City Hall and local organizations.

Now, Newark is looking to address the homelessness crisis within city limits by creating a homelessness commission. The board will be made up of between 15 and 30 members, at least one of which must have experienced homelessness. City records obtained by The Streetlight show that all members will be tasked with providing “a framework and strategy” for bringing an end to homelessness in Newark. Specifically, the group will not only lead the Point-in-Time Count for the city, but they will recommend services, evaluate funding opportunities, coordinate resources, and conduct advocacy efforts.

Locally, the Trenton/Mercer Continuum of Care Program operates the Point-in-Time Count and connects government, non-profit, and religious partners, though the capital region does not have a homelessness commission run directly by a municipality.

Cities in particular continue to battle the homelessness crisis more than other regions. Essex County, one of New Jersey’s densest, is believed to be home of 24 percent of New Jersey’s population experiencing homelessness, according to the 2018 Point-in-Time Count results. In New Jersey, non-profit resources and major public spaces such as train terminals tend to be concentrated in cities.

“You’re not going to get help standing on a corner in Millburn,” Newark Mayor Ras Baraka told The Streetlight, referring to one of his city’s wealthiest suburban enclaves. “You might go to jail.”

It remains to be seen what Newark’s new commission will recommend and if other New Jersey municipalities like Trenton will open up shelters of their own. Former Governor Chris Christie told The Streetlight that he would have supported such a move on the municipal level during his administration, though NJ Spotlight has reported that current Governor Phil Murphy’s new economic plan calls for having the state government partner with hospitals to construct housing for individuals experiencing homelessness. The future of government’s role in homelessness in the Garden State still remains unclear.

Trenton Area Soup Kitchen Expands

By Joshua Trifari

The new wing of the Trenton Area Soup Kitchen. Photo by Jared Kofsky/The Streetlight.

An air of excitement looms over the Trenton Area Soup Kitchen (TASK). The many noises that accompany construction provide a backdrop to the daily business of the soup kitchen and oftentimes interrupts tutoring and meal service. The 3,400 square foot expansion was expected to be completed by the beginning of the winter.

There are some disappointments, as some eager staff harp lightly about their parking spaces being displaced. Overall, however, patrons and employees alike are excited for these new changes, just in time for the festivity of the holiday season.

“I am very excited,” said Phyllis Blassingame, a longtime patron of the soup kitchen. She participates in the adult GED program and also volunteers, helping with meal service. “I am looking forward to having a classroom where we can learn.”

Dennis, another patron who is friends with Blassingame, expressed a similar sentiment. “I am just looking forward to having more space,” he told The Streetlight.

However, the path to expansion wasn’t necessarily easy.

“We thought we were going to renovate before we expanded,” said Melissa Rivera, TASK’s Manager of Internal Operations.

Now, renovations will take place after expansion. According to Rivera, most of the operations will be transferred into the new building while renovations will be taking place in the original building.

The expansion will help improve many of the programs that the soup kitchen already offers. Classrooms will be added, along with a computer lab and a testing center, all of which are expected to greatly improve the adult education program, though no new programs are currently slated to be added, according to Rivera.

Reed Gusciora, Trenton’s new mayor, toured the construction site in November.

“They’ll have the capacity to serve more of the homeless population in the near future,” Gusciora told The Streetlight.

The expansion comes at a time when the latest Point-In-Time Count of people experiencing homelessness in New Jersey concluded that homelessness increased between 2017 and 2018.

TASK has been at its Escher Street location since 1991. Since then, it has served over a million meals, whilst simultaneously offering programs that are designed to improve the quality of life of its patrons.

“I’m optimistic that the expansion will increase our capacity to serve the community,” Rivera said.

A grand opening celebration has been scheduled for May 3, 2019.

Campuses Across New Jersey Begin Addressing Food Insecurity

The College of New Jersey’s campus in Ewing Township. Photo by Jared Kofsky/The Streetlight.

By Mariana Acevedo, Jared Kofsky, and Joshua Trifari

A recent report in NPR stated that 36 percent of college students nationwide say they are food insecure while nine percent identify as homeless. The report cited a survey published by Temple University and Wisconsin HOPE Labs that found that in addition, 36 percent of students face housing insecurity. In the fall of 2016, Rutgers University-New Brunswick took the initiative to lighten the burden for students struggling to put food on their dorm room tables.

For a university like Rutgers in nearby Middlesex County, the largest college in New Jersey, it is not surprising that there is a need for the school to provide aid for a population of students facing these crises.

The Rutgers Student Food Pantry (RSFP) is a new operation that is centrally located for students, who are not required to make an appointment to take advantage of the facility’s services. The food pantry offers filling options, such as pasta and rice, with important supplements like protein included. Rutgers students only need to bring their campus ID upon arrival and fill out a brief identification form before being able to take advantage of the food pantry’s services.

“People have an image of what they think a college student is,” Kelli Wilson, Rutgers’ Director of Off-Campus Living and Community Partnerships, told Rutgers Today. “Many college students are working multiple jobs to pay their way while taking classes. A dining plan is probably the easiest thing for them to cut out or cut short on if they are paying their tuition.”

Rising tuition combined with declining financial aid and lingering effects of the recession all increase students’ vulnerability to food insecurity, Wilson said to Rutgers Today.

The Daily Targum reported in September 2018 that $2 million would be donated to extend the services that Rutgers already provides for its students in need, such as food pantries.

In order to increase the accessibility of the pantry, improvements have been suggested to the program, including an extension of hours, particularly on the weekends, for student who spend most of their week in class or at work.

Rutgers University is not the only Garden State institution that has a food pantry. Locally, in Mercer County, Rider University also has a similar resource. According to Rider’s website, the food pantry opened in February of last year.

“The pantry responds to the unmet needs of Rider students, with special consideration for homeless and low-income students and those with food insecurity,” said Ida Tyson, the associate Director of Rider’s Educational Opportunity Program and co-chair for the pantry’s steering committee.

In addition to providing food essentials to students, the pantry also provides toiletries and winter coats.

The other three colleges in the greater Trenton area, The College of New Jersey (TCNJ), Princeton University, and Mercer County Community College, do not yet have a food pantry for students. However, at TCNJ’s Ewing campus, Associate Dean of Students Elizabeth Gallus told The Streetlight that a food pantry is expected to open in the spring of 2019.

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.

Morgan and Morgan: Together Once Again

By Jared Kofsky

In our last issue, we brought you the story of Morgan Wilson, a lifelong Mercer County resident who reunited with his long-lost son outside of the Rescue Mission of Trenton. In the time since the story was written, much has changed. Here is Part II of The Streetlight’s exclusive series, Morgan and Morgan.

“The bond that we have is incredible. I just wish he wasn’t so far away.”

That was how Trenton Area Soup Kitchen patron and lifelong Mercer County resident Morgan Wilson described his relation- ship with his son Morgan West Jackson in an interview with The Streetlight last spring.

After being seperated for 24 years, Wilson and West Jackson reunited after running into each other outside of the Rescue Mission of Trenton. When both men realized that they shared the same first name, they engaged each other in conversation.

“I listened to his story that day and I realized that this was my son,” Wilson explained.

Sure enough, through the assistance of Rose Bernard, his case manager at Oaks Integrated Care, Wilson confirmed that West Jackson was his long lost son, the man he had long hoped to see again following a period of incarceration.

Wilson, West Jackson, and Bernard were not the only people excited about the reunion. Word soon spread throughout Oaks Integrated Care’s Trenton-area offices and eventually to West Jackson’s adoptive brother, Darby, Pennsylvania firefighter Eric West Jackson. His brother told The Streetlight that he was very pleased that West Jackson reunited with his father after so many years apart.

Although the father and son saw each other for the first time in over two decades in New Jersey’s capital city, West Jackson was raised in suburban Philadelphia and later lived in New York and Scranton, Pennsylvania.

Despite being seperated by over 140 miles, Wilson and West Jackson continued to communicate frequently over the phone and over the internet. West Jackson signed his father up for Facebook, and the two strived to stay in contact for the next two years, hoping to regularly see each other in person as frequently as possible.

Now, the two Morgans no longer have to wonder when they will be near each other once again.

In late 2017, West Jackson returned to the city of his birth to live near his father for the first time in 26 years. In addition to residing near each other, both Wilson and West Jackson’s living conditions continue to improve.

Wilson recently passed his driver’s test and received his license. He also moved out of transitional housing and is now renting his own apartment in the suburbs, where he lives with his girlfriend and four-year-old son. Meanwhile, West Jackson is now employed locally and sees his father on a regular basis.

Both Wilson and West Jackson have been through quite a journey since West Jackson was born in the early 1990s, with both men experiencing different kinds of successes and failures.

From Wilson’s experiences in transitional housing to West Jackson’s frequent relocations for employment across the Northeast to their surprise reunion encounter outside of a local shelter, their experiences have each been quite memorable, resulting in plenty of stories for them to share with each other.

Clearly, after a quarter century apart, Morgan and Morgan are grateful to be together in Trenton once again.

Morgan Wilson (left) and Rose Bernard (right) outside of the New Jersey State House. Photo by Jared Kofsky/The Streetlight.

City Brings Groups Together to Address Homelessness

By Jared Kofsky

Janet Kleckley-Porter (left) of the City of Trenton’s CEAS Center and Detective Walter Rivera (right) of the Trenton Police Department. Photos by Jared Kofsky/The Streetlight.

Despite its small size, Trenton is home to a large number of agencies and organizations aiming to address poverty in the capital region.  Yet despite the efforts of these organizations, homelessness continues to impact hundreds of Trentonians.

From senior citizens spending the night inside the Rescue Mission of Trenton to young adults sleeping under bridges, it is clear that there is still a long way to go before every individual experiencing homelessness in the city is housed.

For many years, despite there being a variety of stakeholders in the fight against homelessness in Trenton, representatives from each non-profit, government, and religious organization lacked a place to inform their colleagues of the progress and challenges that they were facing.

However, in the time since the City of Trenton opened its Coordinated Entry and Assessment Services (CEAS) Center at the corner of Perry and Ewing Streets, that is all beginning to change. Every month, CEAS Center Director Janet Kleckley-Porter now hosts a meeting of the CEAS Coordinated Mobile Outreach Team to discuss matters related to unsheltered individuals experiencing homelessness.

Each gathering attracts approximately a dozen officials, representing organizations like SoldierOn, Catholic Charities, and Oaks Integrated Care. During each meeting, every attendee shares how many families the group that they represent were able to find housing for that month, and information is released about upcoming outreach events and housing opportunities in Trenton.

Attendees regularly discuss not only their efforts within city limits, but also how they intend to or are already addressing homelessness in the suburbs. For instance, the Men’s Mission House in Ewing and the regional Point-in-Time Count effort were addressed when The Streetlight attended one of the group’s meetings in December.

Other topics of discussion change based on each gathering. In December, one major subject of concern was a sudden increase of Puerto Rican families experiencing homelessness in the city who came to the mainland United States after being displaced dur- ing Hurricane Maria. Although most of these families were not believed to be unsheltered, representatives discussed how many of them could not afford their own place to stay and were going between the beds and couches of relatives and acquaintances in Trenton. Attendees discussed a need to work with these displaced families in order to provide them with housing of their own to avoid the risk of possibly not having a place to stay at all at some point.

Although homelessness is still a crisis in Trenton and cities all across the country, officials hope that by having this gathering of organizations, their efforts can be maximized and a greater number of individuals can be supported in their journey to finding and securing permanent housing.


City of Trenton CEAS Center
511 Perry Street, Trenton, NJ
(609) 989-3722

“Aging Out Into Homelessness”: A Garden State Crisis (Part 1)

By Jared Kofsky

To some youth, the day that they turn 18 or graduate from high school are moments that they await for years, since it allows for increased independence. However, for many of the thousands of teenagers in the Garden State’s foster care system, their 18th birthday or high school graduation date signals an end to a way of life that they have known for nearly two decades, resulting in uncertainty about where they will sleep, eat, and work.

From aging out of the foster care system to surviving domestic violence to not being allowed to purchase or rent a home, a variety of factors are continuing to cause homelessness to remain a crisis impacting youth between the ages of 18 and 24 in the Trenton area and across the state.

State records show that 10,994 children in NJ public schools are known to be experiencing homelessness, but the number of young adults in Mercer County without housing is unclear. Volunteers found that 78 people under the age of 25 were experiencing homelessness in Mercer County during the Point-in-Time Count (PITC) in January 2017, but the actual number is likely far higher.

Some young adults who do not have their own home routinely alternate between the homes of acquaintances or relatives, but three percent of Mercer County participants in the PITC told
surveyors that this resulted in them turning to shelters or the streets upon running out of places to stay.

Subsequently, many turn to emergency shelters. The lack of an emergency shelter specifically for young adults experiencing homelessness in Mercer County can result in unsheltered youth, according to Anchor House Director of Outreach Services Ben Thornton. These individuals often end up sleeping in parks, transit hubs, and baseball stadiums when they cannot find anywhere else to go.

Aging out of the foster care system is one of the primary causes of homelessness for adults under the age of 25 in the Garden State. In fact, according to Covenant House New Jersey, 30 percent of their clients use their services after having nowhere to go when they turned 18 since they are often unable to afford or denied the opportunity to rent or purchase a home.

The New Jersey Child Placement Advisory Council reports that “without the benefit of family and community support systems, their [youths] risks for homelessness and human trafficking are at a much higher rate than the general population.”

Locally, some steps are being taken to address homelessness among youth by non-profit organizations such as Anchor House, LifeTies, Isles, and the Mercer Alliance to End Homelessness, but they often lack the resources to meet the demand for services. Anchor House serves some youth who have aged out of the foster care system through its Anchor age Transitional Living Program on Centre Street in South Trenton and hosted a Youth Connect outreach event in January for youth experiencing homelessness following the 2018 Point-in-Time Count. In addition, this 40-year-old organization operates a Street Outreach Team and the Anchor Link drop-in center at the corner of South Broad and Beatty Streets.

However, unlike nearby cities, the capital region has yet to see a comprehensive investigation and proposed solution to the crisis by any government agency. Philadelphia has its own Office of Homeless Services which operates a Youth Homelessness Initiative while the New York City Department of Youth and Community Development has a team that researches and funds housing, shelters, and outreach services for young adults experiencing homelessness.

Meanwhile, although the City of Trenton does operate the CEAS Center for people of all ages who lack housing and the New Jersey Department of Children and Families started a Connecting YOUth Project a few years ago, there are very few active municipal, county, or state-operated facilities that specifically tackle the issue of homelessness among youth.

Our hope is that this investigative series will prompt a change in our approach to this growing problem. If you are a young adult experiencing homelessness who would like to tell your story in the next part of “’Aging Out’ into Homelessness,” please contact The Streetlight at thestreetlightnewspaper@gmail.com.

Jessica Middleton contributed research for this report.