Category Archives: Homelessness

Coming Soon to South Clinton Avenue: Permanent Housing for Women

By Jared Kofsky

Above: The Rescue Mission of Trenton will soon be expanding beyond the emergency shelter on Ewing and Carroll Streets. Photo by Jared Kofsky.

For the last several years, the historic house at 300 South Clinton Avenue at the edge of Trenton’s Chambersburg neighborhood has been an eyesore in the community.

The three-story property has stood on the corner of Tyler Street in the North Ward for well over a century, according to NJ Parcels data; but those who walk by the building today will often see the first floor windows boarded up and covered with weeds and garbage scattered across the front sidewalk. Even the front door is no longer visible.

This house was once occupied by Dr. Arthur M. Barrows, according to an early 20th century medical directory, a 1920 Trenton City Directory, as well as local students and professors. It was later home to the Lifeline Emergency Center, but the home has continued to sit vacant over the years. However, The Wall has learned that the days of 300 South Clinton Avenue remaining in its current state are numbered.

In September 2016, with assistance from Mercer County, the City of Trenton sold this property for $1 to the 112-year-old Rescue Mission of Trenton in an effort to increase housing for individuals experiencing homelessness in the capital region. Now, the Rescue Mission’s plans for this five-bedroom 4.5 bathroom house have been revealed.

According to Barrett Young, the Rescue Mission’s Chief Operating Officer, the house is slated to be rehabilitated and converted into a shared living space once again with one bedroom for each of the five residents. The one-bedroom units will be reserved for women who are currently experiencing homelessness in Mercer County.

“There is a great need for permanent supportive housing in the Mercer area,” Young stated, adding that he thinks that this project “will provide a sense of hope and permanency for the women who will be living there.”

Bids for general contractors for the project were accepted in September, according to a legal notice, and Young told The Wall that construction was expected to begin in November or December. The rehabilitation process is expected to last between eight and nine months.

The house is located in a very walkable community, and is situated within a few blocks of Arm in Arm’s new location on Hudson Street, the Trenton Transit Center, the Roebling Market Food Bazaar, and New Jersey Transit buses. Although the property is several blocks away from the Rescue Mission’s main emergency shelter on Carroll Street, residents will still have access to services and resources like mental health or substance abuse treatment from the organization or its community partners, which will be provided on a case-by-case basis.

Young said that “this is a pilot project,” explaining that “the Rescue Mission has done some permanent supportive housing for single adult men before, but this is our first in the arena of permanent supportive housing for women.”

Although he acknowledged that due to the small size of this building, there are not a lot of units inside, Young pointed out how this rehabilitation project will have a significant impact on the lives of the selected five Trentonians who no longer are forced to sleep on the streets of the city or in the shelter.

He hopes that this will lead to larger projects of this type in Trenton. “It shows that the Rescue Mission is committed to servicing the homeless residents in the Mercer area,” said Young,

According to the Rescue Mission’s Director of Administration Regan Mumolie, funding is being provided by Mercer County Department of Human Services Homelesness Trust Fund, the City of Trenton, and the Rescue Mission.

Women experiencing homelessness must fill out an application if they are interested in residing at 300 South Clinton Avenue once the rehabilitation project is completed.

Even though there is still significant work that must be completed before the first residents can move in, those who are interested in learning more about the application process can reach out to the Rescue Mission’s Manager of Permanent Housing and Supportive Services, Sheila Scott in person or over the phone.

Should an applicant be accepted, “they can stay forever,” according to Young.

Scott: Visits to Princeton Inspire HomeFront Artists

By Essence Scott

Children experiencing homelessness do not always feel safe within themselves. When I was homeless, I experienced this uncomfortable reality. When I moved to Connecticut Avenue, I still felt like I was homeless; I had to readjust.

There was one place where I felt my absolute safest: the Arts Council of Princeton on Witherspoon Street. I went there with HomeFront on Thursday nights for art class.

A lot of the time, I was the oldest one there, but that did not matter to me. On Thursday nights, we worked with a number of different artistic mediums—painting, clay, and the performing arts, among others.

I have many fond memories of being swept into the world of A Christmas Carol at McCarter Theatre in Princeton. I loved the times when McCarter performers came to teach us a little something; it gave me hope that we very well could be actors and actresses. It also helped me learn a great deal about the world and perceive it as one big stage—full of opportunity, rehearsals, reruns, and final performances.

Attending these art classes also helped me escape for a little bit. In school, I was exceptional, but introverted and I did not make friends easily. While I felt purposeful at school, I did not exactly fit in. When I was with HomeFront, I was still on edge because I was usually one of the oldest in the group—people of my age tended to be volunteers—but the opportunities that these art classes afforded me made it all worth it. I was learning to be present with myself and practicing new and constructive ways to express my feelings and thoughts.

The Thursday night art classes quickly become a staple—something that I could look forward to every week. I did not always like being at home, a small motel room with too much stuff and not enough room; the art space soon became my respite from all this.

One night, I remember visiting a mural near the Arts Council with my class. I felt something stir in me when I looked at the mural; it inspired me to write one of my first poems. Much like the images on the mural, I felt safe, insulated by this world that someone else made. I knew that I could express this with my writing—something that I had found comfort and solace in for years—and so I began to write and I have not stopped since then.

The class at the Arts Council helped me to find myself. One time after a nighttime excursion with a person that I thought I trusted went horribly wrong, I felt lost and isolated. I could barely write anything, and I was so afraid of everything around me. At class that week, we were doing fairytale retellings. I wrote a Sleeping Beauty retelling that involved Cinderella as her sister. I put a grim spin on the text and spilled my negative feelings and thoughts onto the page.

The experience of doing so was euphoric and I felt much better afterwards. I needed to confront the hurt and anger that I was feeling and had it not been for the particular focus of class that night, I may have succumbed to my mental torment. In this instance and many others, the art class provided me with a safe and productive outlet to challenge and cope with the hurdles in my life.

Right now, there is much that I want to pursue in life. I want to write, play sports, and be an actress. The art classes that I attended as a teen and a young adult gave me a safe haven to work through some of my most difficult experiences growing up; they taught me to take control of my thoughts and emotions in ways that make my dreams realistic and attainable today.

Mercer County 2016 Point-In-Time Count Summary

By Engy Shaaban

Every year, New Jersey conducts a Point-in-Time (PIT) Count of its homeless population. This provides us with statewide estimates of the number of homeless households in our communities and information about where these individuals find shelter, the different factors that contribute to their homelessness, and their current needs. All NJ counties also conduct a similar count within each municipality. The following is a comprehensive summary of the 2016 Mercer County PIT Count, conducted on the night of January 26th, 2016.

Homeless Families and Individuals
On the night of January 26th, a total of 380 households, including 465 individuals, were experiencing homelessness in Mercer County. This is a decrease of 113 households (22.9 percent) and 135 individuals (22.5 percent) from 2015. On the night of the count, families composed of 131 individuals were living in emergency shelters, 37 families were in transitional housing, and ten were in transitional housing programs. There were no unsheltered families identified on the night of the count. These numbers illustrate a 17.5 percent decrease in homelessness among families compared to 2015.

There were 38 (8.2 percent) homeless adults between the ages of 18 and 24, 344 (74 percent) adults were over the age of 24, and 17.8 percent of those found to be experiencing homelessness were under the age of 18.

Individuals With Disabilities, Victims of Domestic Violence and Veterans
Of the total number of homeless individuals, 48 percent reported having some type of disability. 56.5 percent of adults reported some type of disability compared to 7.2 percent of children. Among disabled adults, 53.2 percent reported a substance abuse disorder, making this the most prevalent disability (30.1 percent of all homeless adults). Half of disabled homeless children reported a developmental disability. On the night of the count, 34 homeless households identified as victims of domestic violence. The report concludes that a total of 47 homeless individuals, who were members of these households, were impacted. A total of 15 homeless veterans were counted on the night of the count, 51.6 percent less than in 2015. This dramatic decrease reflects the efforts of a state and countywide initiative to decrease homelessness among veterans.

Income and Benefits
Of all the homeless households reported on the night of the count, 53.9 percent had no source of income. The majority of respondents reported receiving non-cash benefits on the night of the count, food stamps being the most widely received benefit (received by 30.8 percent of households). In regards to health care coverage, 48.9 percent of households were receiving Medicaid, and 7.1 percent were receiving Medicare.

Length of Homelessness
When asked about the period of time that they have been homeless, 145 of respondents reported that their most recent, continuous episode of homelessness had lasted from one day to one week, 107 reported homelessness between eight days and one month, and 33 had been homeless between 31 days and three months. In total, this means that 285 households reported they had been homeless for less than 3 months. 35 households reported they had been homeless for more than one year. This is a 47.8 percent decrease from 2015.

Cause of Homelessness
When asked about what may have contributed to, or caused, their homelessness, the most common factor that households attributed it to was being asked to leave a shared residence (25.5 percent), followed by eviction (14.5 percent).

Chronic Homelessness
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) defines a “chronically homeless individual” as “someone with a long-term disabling condition, who has been continually homeless for a year or more, or at least four times in the past three years” and/or a family with one adult that meets this definition. According to the count, 20 households, made up of 20 individuals, were chronically homeless in Mercer County. This is a 73.3 percent decrease from 2015. Over the past five years, while the numbers have fluctuated, the total number of chronically homeless individuals has decreased overall by 67.7 percent. Between 2015 and 2016, the number of unsheltered chronically homeless individuals decreased from 64 to 18; the sheltered chronically homeless population decreased from 11 to two.

Unsheltered Homelessness

HUD defines an “unsheltered homeless individual” as any individual or family “with a primary nighttime residence that is a public or private place not designed for or ordinarily used as a regular sleeping accommodation for human beings, including a car, park, abandoned building, bus or train station, or camping ground.”

According to the count, 44 individuals were living unsheltered in Mercer County. These numbers represent a decrease 61 households and individuals from the 2015 statistics.

In regards to the length of homelessness, more unsheltered individuals reported that their households’ most recent continuous episode of homelessness had lasted for over a year than any other length of time (52.3 percent). In total, 70.5 percent of unsheltered households had been homeless for more than six months.

It is important to note that the report focuses primarily on individuals who meet HUD’s definition of ‘homelessness’. It does not however include information about those who may be at risk of homelessness or considered homeless under other federal statutes. It is also important to consider the count’s design. The statistics above only represent the gravity of the issue on a single night. Under counting has been and continues to be a concern of the HUD which recognizes that during cold weather, like that of late January, additional services and sheltering are provided, making numbers like those for “unsheltered homelessness” significantly lower.

The issue of homelessness is far more complex than the statistics that we have included. We share these numbers as a snapshot and we hope that the information included in this summary acts as an incentive to approach the problem with continued persistence in community like Trenton and others across the state and the nation.

The official Mercer County PIT count report can be found at

Mercer Is First NJ County To End Veteran Homelessness

By Jared Wolf

As of December 2015, Mercer County accomplished its mission to provide shelter for every homeless veteran seeking assistance. This makes it the latest community to respond to the nationwide challenge to end veteran homelessness that had been issued in 2010 by First Lady Michelle Obama. The city of Trenton, in conjunction with Mercer County, first addressed the issue in early 2015, with a joint effort from other veteran and non-profit organizations, which included Mercer Alliance to End Homelessness. The collaborators worked closely together to seek out each of the veterans in need. Many of these patrons came through the Rescue Mission of Trenton, as well as other organizations across Mercer County. The county and city has achieved what is being called “functional zero.” This is defined as having the processes and resources in place to immediately house a veteran. When the movement first began last year, there were 79 homeless veterans in the area. Through a systematic screening process and partnerships with Soldier On, Community Hope and other veteran programs and housing providers, the veterans were promptly afforded the services they required most. According to Mercer Alliance to End Homelessnese, of the 79 veterans who were offered assistance, only two remain without permanent housing. Housing is available to them, but they have declined for undisclosed reasons.

Mercer Is First NJ County To End Veteran Homelessness By Jared Wolf Kevin Bryson, a sophomore at The College of New Jersey and a yearly recipient of the ROTC scholarship, reflected on the recent feat, stating “I think that as a nation, our veterans can often be overlooked and underappreciated, and to see our county act so proactively for these people is truly something to be proud of.” Mercer County has long utilized a “housing first” strategy, which prioritizes putting those people in need into permanent housing, subsequently providing them with the resources to combat substance abuse, and offering them mental health counseling. Ultimately, the goal for these veterans is to be able to use their new housing as a tool for a better future. While Mercer County should be proud of this accomplishment, it is important to understand the plight of homeless veterans remains problematic nationwide. Someone who is not homeless today might be homeless tomorrow — homelessness is a fluid issue and must be treated as such. “We as a community owe it to these struggling veterans to provide the necessary care and aid so that they can transition back into society as smoothly as possible,” Bryson said. This is a great first step for Mercer County and for the state of New Jersey as a whole. Veterans should remain high-priority, as it is the only way to ensure that we, as a community, do not walk away from the goal that the First Lady set out for us to achieve.

Creating an Outlet of Expression through Poetry

Patron. Volunteer. Student. Artist. Pervis Upshur closes his eyes, bunching his eyebrows in concentration, letting the words flow through him. Spoken word poetry comes effortlessly to him as he speaks his mind in rhyming stanzas for ten minutes.

Upshur, 39, has been coming to the Trenton Area Soup Kitchen for the past year, producing poetry and artwork. “I put stuff in my own writing that way that I understand it. And that’s my way of speaking to people.”

Alongside his poetry, Upshur finds comfort by expressing himself through rap, explaining that he wants for his rap to someday inspire and help people through their own trials in life.

“Rapping helps me to get my words rhyming together, and that helps me with my poetry,” said Upshur.

A lot of his inspiration is drawn from scenery and landscapes. His paintings are mostly comprised of wildlife: birds, kangaroos, butterflies. He described two of his favorite paintings he did a few weeks ago, one a composite painting of a girl morphed with a lady bug and another of multicolored fish swimming in a river.

“The people here tell me that art can be anything,” said Upshur. “Art doesn’t always have to be a drawing.”

Currently, Upshur is working on an abstract painting of colors. When he is done painting it he said that the people at TASK are going to help him frame it so that he can give it to his mother.

“A lot of other artists here inspire me too,” said Upshur. “My friend Derrick, he is an artist. He inspired me to draw too.” Upshur explained that he has known Derrick Branch for years. Branch, who is an artist with the A-TEAM and involved with the SHARE Performing Arts group at TASK, had first introduced Upshur to the art programs that TASK has to offer.

While Upshur greatly enjoys formulating his creative works, the great joy for him is when he gets the chance to share it with people, and for it to possibly help people with their own troubles.

“I get stuff off my mind that I would be thinking about when I draw or do poetry,” said Upshur. “And I think that if you are upset about something than be creative with it and share it with other people.”

Aside from poetry and artwork, Upshur said that his goal is to continue his education and eventually become a counselor. Currently, Upshur is a student in the TASK Adult Education Program.

“I just want to be a counselor to help all types of people — all types of people that need it…that have their hand out,” said Upshur. “That is why I go here because I want to go to college to become a counselor.”

Having graduated from the Daylight/Twilight Alternative High School (a four-year alternative public high school that serves students, grades nine through 12, in Mercer County), Upshur expressed that he felt like he still needed to work on his schooling before pursuing his dream of becoming a counselor. He said that he primarily needs to work on his reading and basic math skills, and that TASK has provided him with great tutors that are dedicated to pushing him and helping him.

“I see a lot of progress in myself because I am trying, I am pushing it, and I am putting in a lot of work in here,” said Upshur. “Other people encourage me too. Just by looking at them, by people talking to me and telling me to go ahead and go for it, try it. Never, never be afraid to try something out just because you think you can’t do it.”

If there is any advice to offer, Upshur encourages people to express what is on their minds, and for people to get out in the world and put to paper what they envision for themselves or what they are feeling at a particular moment in their life.

“I gained a lot of experience and that experience makes me want to keep on going,” said Upshur. “I am glad to be here at the soup kitchen.”





Trenton Area Soup Kitchen

Phone: 609-695-5456 72

Escher Street, Trenton, N.J. 08609


Article written by Shayna Innocenti for the Fall 2014 edition of The Wall