Tag Archives: Joshua Trifari

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.

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.