Tag Archives: Tori Duym

Accessibility of Mental Health Support Increased for Individuals Experiencing Homelessness

By Tori Duym

In recent times, mental health concerns have grown to be a central focus of society. According to Mental Health America, about 19.86% of people are experiencing some form of mental health battle. Many individuals struggle in silence simply because they do not have access to the proper resources for treatment. Whether it be for financial reasons or lack of information, this can be avoided.

In May 2023,  Gov. Phil Murphy implemented a bill supporting unhoused individuals receiving free and accessible mental health care. Several government officials, such as the Lieutenant Governor Sheila Oliver and Human Services Commissioner Sarah Adelman have commented positively on this legislation as they believe mental health should be prioritized for all. 

The New Jersey state government partnered with the NJ Coalition for Ending Homelessness in the process of creating this legislation.

This legislation is an important step in the right direction to provide the wraparound services people experiencing homelessness throughout our state so desperately need,” CEO Connie Mercer said in an article from the Department of Human Services.

Additionally, Mercer County has a mental health division that is committed to serving the community and offering help. This division is another element that works hand-in-hand with the implementation of Murphy’s bill. They can help unhoused individuals easily navigate these new resources and also address the concern of being able to afford the services.

The Division of Mental Health is a county-funded resource, and it plays a role in assisting to enforce the new bill as well, making sure that everyone in need is receiving access to essential mental health resources.

The Division of Mental Health’s mailing address can be found at 640 S. Broad Street in Trenton, NJ, P.O. Box 8068. Michele Madiou, director of mental health for the division, can be reached at mmadiou@mercercounty.org. The DMH can be reached at 609-989-6574. 

Several emergency shelters in the area including Rescue Mission and others in Mercer County now offer free mental health support for individuals experiencing homelessness. If you or someone you know is in need of support, please do not hesitate to reach out to any of these resources as New Jersey is now required to provide access to mental health support, thanks to the A-4755 bill.

Hamilton Elks Lodge Strives to Provide for Veterans Experiencing Homelessness

By Tori Duym

On Feb. 7, the Hamilton Elks Lodge hosted an event to raise money and supplies for veterans experiencing homelessness as they help place them in apartments and homes, for the second year in a row. This event was held in conjunction with Business Networking International (BNI) as they work closely with the cause of housing veterans and providing them with the essentials needed to live comfortably. The event used a clever title, “3 hours 2 support 1 homeless veteran at a time,” getting their message across and explaining the event all in one. 

Rose Romaine, the head coordinator of this event through the Elks Lodge, who also has a connection to BNI, poured her heart and soul into organizing such a wonderful night to provide for a worthy cause. Joe Glover, president of the Elks Lodge, expressed his gratitude for all of the hard work Romaine put into the planning and execution of this event. 

“All of the credit goes to Rose, I’m just here to support and help provide veterans with the support they need,” Glover said.

Glover also expressed his gratitude for all of the volunteers and their hard work from everyone it took to make this event possible. He is very passionate about helping the homeless veteran community.

When speaking with Romaine, she provided information as to what goes into the Welcome Home packages that are provided to the veterans. She explained that each package comes with items like furniture, plates, bowls, silverware, bedding and some appliances. Their goal for the night was to raise a minimum of “$7,501, because we did $7,500 last year. . . but I would love to see us raise $10,000 this year.” All funds go directly towards buying “welcome home” packages for veterans experiencing homelessness. 

Business Networking International Area Director for Mercer County, Shawn Donelson, talked passionately about their co-sponsorship of the event, along with BNI’s annual golf tournament, to raise money for the same goal. He explained that this event raised the most money out of all of their events for the cause. 

Donelson emphasizes the importance of providing these welcome home kits to veterans, as he says “When a homeless veteran gets placed into a home, there are a lot of necessities that they need, including things like a bed, furniture, and more.” Welcome home kits include a wide variety of items,with the goal of raising enough money and donations to provide at least two full kits, with their future events continuing to provide more. 

During a conversation with Navy veteran Hank Elmer, he explained the impact of the event from his perspective. He currently serves as the committee chair of veterans, stating that after his tough return home from service, the Elks Lodge “works very hard to make sure veterans now won’t be treated the same way.”

Elmer also explained that the Elks Lodge works closely with the Veterans Association in order to place veterans in small homes or apartments. This process is possible for veterans who have served two years of active duty service and received an honorable discharge. There has been a significant increase in the number of veterans receiving assistance to find a home from last year to this year. According to Elmer, the amount has gone from approximately 12 veterans a month to over 30 now. 

The Elks Lodge has branches all over New Jersey, holding several annual events for veterans and to raise money for those who currently are experiencing homelessness. One of the most popular events, the Jim Hall Memorial Picnic, is held annually in June at the Brick Township Elks Lodge, which Elmer said has a large turnout each year. 

There are many opportunities to get involved or to receive assistance from the Elks Lodge in collaboration with companies such as BNI and other organizations like the Veterans Association. 

Fran’s Pantry Distributes Resources at HomeFront

By Tori Duym

Local Mercer County shelter and resource center HomeFront continues providing necessities to individuals experiencing homelessness. Fran’s Pantry offers ample opportunities to get supplies such as food and hygiene products for no cost. 

The pantry is located in Lawrenceville and is open on Monday and Thursday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and Tuesday from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. 

Fran’s Pantry was opened as a result of the pandemic and is named after a major contributor and volunteer at HomeFront. It has proven to be a huge success, as it is beloved by many community members. The pantry provides countless opportunities for individuals who may lack access to food or hygiene products otherwise. 

According to Dylan O’Neill, HomeFront’s resource network director, the organization is on the lower end of the spectrum as far as requirements in order to receive access to the products and services. No documentation is needed; simply any type of photo ID is acceptable as a new client. Filling out a few forms to help better understand each individual’s unique needs is also requested upon first access to Fran’s Pantry. Clients are able to receive goods from the pantry starting that same day after filling out the forms. 

Fran’s Pantry reaches about 150 to 200 individuals per day, according to O’Neill, based on the data gathered by staff and volunteers. “Our pantry processes a client every five to eight minutes,” O’Neill continues. Ultimately, the pantry provides food for 5,000 to 7,000 individuals monthly.

Food is not the only resource available to those who may need to utilize Fran’s Pantry. Diapers, feminine hygiene products, backpacks, bedding, kitchen supplies and even furniture are often distributed to families or individuals as well. 

With the holidays approaching, HomeFront is kicking their efforts into high gear. Their annual Thanksgiving drive provides a turkey dinner to 300-400 families, as well as their Christmas drive to provide gifts for as many families as possible. HomeFront works with parents and provides two gifts up to $75 dollar value for each child in the family for Christmas.

While the language barrier has become a growing concern, Fran’s Pantry is equipped with several bilingual volunteers. According to O’Neill, only about 10% of clients speak English, making these staff members’ skills extremely useful. 

The pantry has received over 2.6 million dollars in donations over the past year and was able to distribute them throughout the community to those in need. HomeFront’s mission is to “pull families out of the cycle of poverty,” O’Neill said, as Fran’s Pantry has made strides toward accomplishing this goal. 

Dylan O’Neill touched upon the subject of decreasing resources as time passes and COVID-19 fades into the past. The governmental benefits are ceasing to continue, so HomeFront is working around the clock to provide all of the resources needed for individuals in the Mercer County community. Poverty has become a serious issue according to O’Neill, but they are working very hard to turn this around and support all community members.

Fran’s Pantry has grown into an extremely useful resource for the community. Contact HomeFront at homefront@homefrontnj.org or (609) 989-9417 with any questions or if you or anyone you know may benefit from their resources.