Providing Stability: The Crisis Ministry of Mercer County

By Shai Bejerano

“Partnering with our community to achieve stability for our neighbors in need.” — Crisis Ministry, Mission Statement

The Crisis Ministry of Mercer County, located on Hanover Street and Clinton Avenue in Trenton, NJ, as well as Nassau Street in Princeton, NJ, offers a support system for those who need it. It has a variety of services designed to help individuals who are struggling with poverty, or simply making ends meet and improving their quality of life.

“Most of the people that come have a one-time financial crisis, because of unemployment or poor health,” said Sarah Unger, Communications and Development Director. “They are generally steady and stable in their home.”

The services are split into four parts: housing stability and homelessness prevention, hunger prevention and nutrition education, workforce development, and license to succeed.

Housing Stability and Homelessness Prevention

Meant for families and individuals facing foreclosure or eviction, this program is designed to keep people in their homes. Crisis Ministry offers emergency financial aid for things like utilities and security deposits. In order to be eligible, individuals need to bring three things with them to the Crisis Ministry: a photo ID, an eviction notice, and proof of income for one month.

The housing stability management program also works one-on-one with clients. It allows clients to stay in touch with a case manager, and fosters a mentor-mentee relationship that teaches them the basics of budgeting and finance. In addition, it can connect clients to different services that they may not yet be connected with. The goal is to strive for long-term housing stability, and Crisis Ministry will help every client the best they can to ensure that this happens.

“Of the people we serve 85 percent are still stably housed, six months to a year after we’ve given them assistance,” said Cynthia Mendez, the Director of the Housing Stability Programs.

Tweeting by Mary Shannon
Tweeting by Mary Shannon

Hunger Prevention and Nutrition Education

Much like the housing stability program, this service seeks to offer food stability to families and individuals that may not have much money to spend on food. However, instead of offering monetary assistance, the Ministry has Client Choice pantries in its three locations stocked with food to give to those who visit. They promote nutrition among low-income families by providing a wide variety of healthy produce and groceries.

In addition to offering health screenings and educational programs on nutrition for the patrons, Crisis Ministry offers personal hygiene necessities such as shampoo, toothpaste and soap.

Workforce Development

The Trenton locations of Crisis Ministry offer a training and education program known as Harvesting Hope. The program aims to qualify individuals for jobs in retail and other areas by providing them with job experience through working for the Ministry. It also offers them the opportunity to take online courses and career workshops to help them become more marketable to employers. Many of the graduates of Harvesting Hope have gone on to become employees at other establishments, or to obtain higher education.

License to Succeed

Working hand-in-hand with the Workforce Development, this service helps restore drivers’ licenses to people whose licenses may have been revoked due to an inability to pay fines for tickets or license renewals. It gives partial financial aid to offset the cost of the fees, and works with clients to come up with a manageable payment plan. With the help of License to Succeed, those individuals regained the freedom of driving, which improves job prospects and other qualities of life.

The services offered by the Crisis Ministry offers are excellent and vastly improve the lives of those using them. However, benefits of the Crisis Ministry do not stop at people in need. The Crisis Ministry also offers opportunities for people eager to get involved and make a difference.

One way to get involved with this organization is to volunteer.

“We consider our volunteers to be so essential to what we do. The fact that many of them come week to week to work, that kind of dedication I think, comes from the fact that they feel so welcome here. The welcome that we offer to our clients is the welcome that we offer to everyone,” said Unger.

Volunteering can be done onsite at the Crisis Ministry locations around Mercer County through assisting clients who visit or the administrative staff. Volunteering can also be done off-site by giving donations, conducting food drives, doing fundraising events, or helping out with inventory sorting, among other things.

The help of donations and volunteers is what has kept the Crisis Ministry successful in its mission for the past several years. Through its existence, a tremendous number of lives and neighborhoods in Mercer County have been changed for the better

Crisis Ministry of Mercer County

Phone: (609) 396-9355

Locations and Hours

123 East Hanover St. Trenton, NJ 08608

Food Pantry: M – F: 9:30 a.m. – 12 p.m.

Homelessness Prevention: M: 9 a.m. – noon; W: 1 – 3 p.m.; Th: 9 a.m. – noon

716 S. Clinton Ave. Trenton, NJ 08611

Food Pantry: M – F: 9:30 a.m. – 12 p.m.

61 Nassau Street Princeton, NJ 08542

Food Pantry: M, W & Th: 1:30 p.m. – 4 p.m.; T: 1:30 p.m. – 7 p.m.

Homelessness Prevention: M, W, Th 1:30 p.m. – 3:30 p.m.; T: 4 p.m. – 6 p.m