Tag Archives: Trenton

Soup Kitchen Expansion: TASK’s Latest Task

By McKenna Samson & Engy Shaaban

The Trenton Area Soup Kitchen on Escher Street. Photos by Jared Kofsky/The Streetlight.

The Trenton Area Soup Kitchen (TASK) has provided services to thousands of those in need for the past 35 years and has become one of the area’s leading nonprofit organizations in the process. In addition to meal services, the kitchen houses an Adult Education Program, an Arts Program, and Case Management Services. In the past five years, TASK has provided over 1.1 million meals and its program services have increased by 30 percent.

TASK relies on the help of volunteers to keep many of these programs running, and only receives three percent of its funding from the federal, county and state resources. The kitchen benefits from donations and the meals are served entirely by volunteers, so it remains largely a community-run effort.

To maximize their efforts, TASK has recently announced that it will be expanding its building and beginning renovations to update already-existing portions to better accommodate its patrons and staff. Executive Director Joyce Campbell spoke of the project’s timeline and explained that although there have been a few “starts
and stops”, the expansion is expected to be done in August and the renovations in September. She noted that TASK will continue to serve meals and provide services during all phases of the project.

The expansion is set to include additional rooms for partner organizations to offer on-site services. In addition to increasing capacity in the dining room, this will also provide a more private
setting for confidential conversations, more space for eye exams and blood pressure readings. A multipurpose room will be built to house TASK’s Adult Education and will also serve the arts programs, allowing them to operate year-round. Four additional computer stations will be added in a private testing and intake area for students. A walk-in refrigerator will be brought in to increase storage for perishable foods. On-site storage for TASK records will be established which will eliminate the cost of off-site storage and allow for these funds to be dedicated elsewhere. And finally, a space for administrative staff to work will be built which will free out office space for direct service staff working with patrons.

Building renovations will allow for an office for the Kitchen Manager to coordinate kitchen operations more effectively and efficiently. It will also move the Patron Services office and enlarge it to address privacy concerns; provide volunteers with space to store their personal items and to change for meal service; and double the space for the storage of personal hygiene and other basic needs supplies. This enlarged space is particularly important as it will accommodate the large number of holiday donations that TASK receives. The renovation will also include a reorganization of the patron computer lab; new, sturdy work surfaces; and proper storage for extra equipment.

The majority of the space will receive a new coating of paint and flooring. Campbell explained the importance of the latter and the impact that these changes will have on TASK employees: “Staff morale begets positive patron service and patron success.”

The expansion will provide 3,679 square feet of additional space dedicated to advancing TASK’s mission of feeding body, mind, and spirit. Campbell told The Streetlight that “the expansion will certainly impact the community very positively.”

“It will allow us to bring in more services. We will have designated spaces for these services and service providers so it will allow for more privacy and efficiency. It will also allow us to provide services during the evening and on weekends; and it will allow outside providers to run programs when the soup kitchen is closed and we are not there. This will all build on our community-centered approach to the work that we do,” Campbell explained.


Trenton Area Soup Kitchen
72 1/2 Escher Street Trenton, NJ
(609) 695-5456

“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.