Habitat for Humanity’s Efforts

Local Dedication

By Shaun Field

As the red ribbon hung from the banister after the ceremonial ribbon cutting, TaShawn Wilkins stepped into her brand new, Energy Star® certified home at East Trenton, NJ. Having com­pleted 300 hours of required sweat equity over the course of the year, Tashawn Wilkins and her two children became the proud owners of the new home with red brick façade. With three bedrooms the family can live comfortably and each child will have their own bedroom for the first time.

For Construction Coordinator, Dan Santa Lucia, the ribbon cut­ting ceremony, held on Thursday, September 20th, was a day of pride. Laughing and recounting stories, Dan’s face showed great appreciation and respect for the hard work of the Wilkins family and the other volunteers on hand.

Touching on the help of universi­ty students from Rider, Princeton and The College of New Jersey as well as regular Saturday volun­teers, Dan give high praises for long time corporate volunteers, Credit Suisse and ETS and the corporate sponsor for the house, Bloomberg Corporation, for their dedication and enthusiasm over the course of the year.

Members of the corporate of­fice based in Skillman, NJ, were in attendance led by Monica Hilliard, head of the Bloomberg philanthropy division.

Chelsea Naylor, Director of Community Outreach for Habitat for Humanity of Trenton noted: “To see the new homeowner, who has put in over 300 hours of work into the home, finally receiving her keys and conse­quently a renewal on life is truly inspiring,” Naylor said.

For Habitat and Naylor the tran­sition from house to home is the ultimate goal. “For the first time, her children are going to have their own rooms. They’re go­ing to have a kitchen table to sit around, and a living room to do their homework in. That’s huge,” Naylor said.

In her new role, Naylor aims to expand the reach of Habitat in the community by forming mutu­ally beneficial partnerships with other non-profit organizations in the area.

This issue originally appeared in the Fall 2012 issue of the newspaper.

College Students Camp Out

By Shaun Field

On the campus of The College of New Jersey, Bonner Scholars, fraternities and clubs have all joined together to push an initia­tive to raise funds and awareness about Habitat of Trenton.

The latest Habitat-related events on campus included: Al­pha Chi Rho (AXP) Fraternity’s campus camp-out and ReStore raffle and TCNJ Club Habitat’s second annual car wash.

The campus “camp-out” was held outside the student center over the course of three days and two nights raised over $1,000 that was donated directly to Habi­tat of Trenton.

TCNJ Club Habitat raised an­other $300 for Habitat of Trenton as well, holding a car wash on the corner of Lower Ferry Rd and Pennington Rd in Ewing. Each car wash cost $5.

Jess Malone, the president of Club Habitat, said, “Living so close to the Trenton community, all of our chapter members are able to see the impact our volun­teer work has on the low-income residents of Trenton.”

Malone also said that Club Habitat has multiple fundraisers and events planned for the up­coming semesters.

The College of New Jersey’s connection with Habitat for Humanity is growing by the year and looks to be a vital resource for the years to come. If you have any questions about Habitat for Humanity or are interested in finding out more about opportu­nities to volunteer, donate or to participate in any of the programs offered contact habitatta@gmail.com or call (609)-503-4257.

This issue originally appeared in the Fall 2012 issue of the newspaper.

Womanspace: Safe Alternatives to Domestic Violence

by Jackie O’Malley

If it weren’t for Womanspace, I’d be dead,” said Emily, a victim of domestic violence.

Emily came to Womanspace with her two small children in search of somewhere to escape her abusive boyfriend.

“Domestic violence is like having a disease,” Emily said, “I have this disease of a boyfriend.”

Domestic violence is a disease; victims are robbed of their once healthy lives, and feel trapped, scared and helpless.

Susan Adams is the Coordinator of Volunteers & Community Outreach at Womanspace Inc., a nonprofit organization, which provides services for victims of domestic violence in the Mercer County area. She has witnessed the devastating effects of domestic violence on its victims. “You lose all control. You’re being controlled,” said Adams.

Womanspace statistics indicate that nearly half of homeless women and children are victims of domestic violence. An abuser controls every aspect of a victim’s life, sometimes including finances, making it difficult for a victim to afford a safe haven for her and her children.

Victims struggle to find shelters because resources are limited, says Adams, many shelters are at full capacity, forcing them to turn women and children away. Through no fault of their own, these victims are left in the streets with nowhere to turn. But Adams wants to ensure all victims that homelessness is not the only alternative to abuse. “There is help. It’s out there,” she said.

To prevent victims from succumbing to their fear of homelessness, Womanspace Inc. offers temporary, affordable housing for victims.

According to Womanspace, the Transitional Housing Program accommodated 15 women and 21 children in 2010.

The Transitional Housing Programs “provide individual and group counseling, childcare subsidies, affordable rent, and career assessment and direction,” according to Womanspace.

There are two types of housing programs; Barbara’s House, is “structured for clients who need housing for a limited time,” according to Womanspace.

The Next-Step Program “provides clients with housing for up to twenty-four months,” Womanspace says, “it allows 5 families per year to develop the skills and financial means to secure and maintain safe permanent housing.”

Emily and her two small children were one of these families. She was provided with the resources and support she needed to pursue a healthier, independent lifestyle.

According to Adams, “domestic violence can happen to anyone not just poor, inner city people, as people like to label victims.” Like a disease, domestic violence does not discriminate against age, class, gender or race. When this disease consumes a life, it triggers physical, emotional and psychological pain.

“But we don’t have doctors, we can’t just fi x it with medicine,” said Adams. Help and support from others are the closest we have to medicine.

Womanspace Inc. has guided Emily and her children, along with over 279,000 other victims over the past 30 years, toward healthier lifestyles. If you or a loved one is looking for help, Womanspace Inc. can be contacted at their confidential Domestic Violence hotline, 1-800-572-SAFE, or their Sexual Assault Hotline, 609-394-000.

*The name is not disclosed for the privacy of the victim.

This article originally appeared in the Spring 2011 issue of the newspaper.

Voting Rights: The Homeless Have the Right to Vote

by Kelsey Wojdyla

Did you know homeless can vote? Not only does a voter registration card allow people to exercise their right to vote, it also serves as the initial piece of the identification puzzle.

Registering to vote is free and easy, but there are some stipulations. First, all applicants must be at least 18 years or older by the next election. Second, they must be a citizen of the United States and a resident of the state and county they are registering in for 30 days before the next election. Finally, if they are currently serving a sentence, or are on parole or probation for a felony, they are not eligible to vote.

Voter registration applications can be obtained from the Municipal Clerk, Commissioner of Registration Office, Division of Elections, or Division of Motor Vehicles. The registration deadline is 21 days before the next election. Therefore, in order to vote in the primary election on June 7, one must register by May 17. In order to vote in the general election on November 8, one must register by October 18. Lastly, there is a school budget and school board member’s election in April.

“You don’t have to have a home in order to register,” says Jane Berry, supervisor of the Division of Elections, “but you have to have someplace to receive your mail.”

In such cases, one can use the transitional building they live in, the library, the Trenton Area Soup Kitchen, or even the Municipal Clerk as their home address. Simply fill out the rest of the form by printing clearly in ink, signing the bottom, and dropping it in the mailbox. The address for the Commissioner of Registration Office will be provided on the application based on county.

A sample ballot will be sent to the home address listed on the form about one week before each election. This ballot will contain the address of the polling place, which is open from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Election Day.

“People don’t realize how important a voter registration card is in terms of getting other forms of identification,” says Scott Fairman, outreach specialist at the Mercer Alliance To End Homelessness.

The card acts as proof of address, or first-class mail, which helps in acquiring a birth certificate from the New Jersey Bureau of Vital Statistics. This certificate serves as proof of citizenship, and is considered a primary identification document. Next, a county photo ID can be obtained at the County Clerk’s Office using these two forms of identification. This government issued ID can then be used to receive a state photo ID. With this, one can obtain their social security card, which serves as a secondary identification document. “Without an ID in this day and age, it’s impossible to get legitimate employment and housing,” says Fairman.

In the past, Fairman has helped run voter registration campaigns during Project Homeless Connect, a bi-annual event that provides much needed services for the homeless. Nearly 100% of those who participated in the campaign received their voter registration cards from the Board of Elections in Mercer County by supplying their first and last name and the last 4 digits of their social security number. The general consensus: “that was easy!”

This article originally appeared in the Spring 2011 issue of the newspaper.