Category Archives: Homelessness

Mercer County’s 2014 Point-In-Time Count Summary

As 2014 comes to an end, it is important that we revisit the year’s most demanding issues in the political, economic and social arenas. More importantly, we must evaluate the resolutions that were put forth to address many of these problems and recognize those which continue to beg for resolutions.

Unfortunately, homelessness remains a significant problem of the latter status. In looking forward, we must first understand the extent of the issue, its implications and the context in which we are working.

Mercer County’s annual Point-In-Time (PIT) Count of the Homeless, coordinated annually by Mercer Alliance, can help us in doing this.

The count, which was carried out on the night of Tuesday, January 28, 2014, provides countywide estimates of the number of homeless households in our communities and information about where these individuals find shelter and the different factors that contribute to their homelessness.

While Mercer County shows the shortest length of homelessness in the state, it continues to struggle through the afflictions of homelessness.


Comprehensive Summary of the Mercer County 2014 PIT

On the night of the count, 500 households, (a total of 632 persons) were experiencing homelessness in Mercer County. This is a decrease of 36 persons (5.4%) but an increase of 55 households (12.4%) from 2013.

Of the 632 homeless individuals counted, 393 of them stayed in emergency shelters, 201 stayed in transitional housing and 38 were living unsheltered.

The totals for transitional housing and unsheltered both show a decrease from 2013.


Family Makeup in Homeless Households

Of the 500 homeless households counted in Mercer County in 2014, 71 (14.2%) were families with at least one child under the age of 18 and one adult; 429 (85.8%) of these households were households without children under 18.

These households were composed of 431 adult individuals.


Age Demographics

On the night of the count, there were 68 (10.8%) homeless adults between 18 and 24 years old, 444 (70.2%) homeless adults over age 24, and 120 (19%) children under 18 years old. The majority of these children were between zero and five years of age (69 children; 57.5%). Of the total homeless individuals counted, 145 (22.9%) were between the ages of 45 and 54.


Unsheltered Living

Of these 429 adult-only households, 228 (53.1%) of them were staying in emergency shelters, 168 (39.2%) were in transitional housing and 33 (7.7%) were unsheltered. While the number of adult-only households in Mercer County has decreased by 48 over the past five years, the county has experienced a 16.9% increase (62 people) since 2013.


Disabled Individuals, Veterans and Victims of Domestic Violence

Of the total number of homeless individuals in Mercer County on the night of the count, 52% of them reported having some type of disability. Among disabled adults, 51.5% reported mental health issues.

It is also important to note that more disabled homeless children reported a chronic health condition (58.5%) than any other disability.

On the night of the count, 57 homeless households (14.1% of all households) reported having been a victim of domestic violence.

A total of 38 homeless veterans were counted, which is one more than 2013. The largest majority of veterans, 73.7%, were found to be staying in an emergency shelter; four veterans were unsheltered (10.5%) and six were in transitional housing (15.8%).


Chronic Homelessness

The count identified a total of 64 persons in 63 households as chronically homeless. This is an increase of six persons (10.3%) from 2013. The rate of chronic homelessness as a percentage of overall homelessness increased from 8.4% to 10.1%.


Causes of Homelessness

On the night of the count, more homeless households attributed their homelessness to being asked to leave a shared residence (131 households, 26.2%) than any other cause. Of the 369 households who did not attribute this to their homelessness, 19.8% of them attributed the reduction of job income or benefits; 11.8% of them cited eviction as a cause and 11.4% of them cited release from prison or jail as a cause.


Length of Homelessness

Of the homeless households counted, 149 (29.8%) of them reported that their most recent, continuous episode of homelessness had lasted from eight days to one month; 351 of these households (70.2%) said they had been homeless for less than three months; 6.4% of them reported having been homeless for more than one year.


While this summary only looked at the count conducted in Mercer County, other counties throughout the state of New Jersey participated, and the results were compiled into a New Jersey Point-In-Time Count.

From this count, 13,900 homeless men, women and children were surveyed across the state. This number shows an increase of 1,898 persons (15.8%) compared to the 2013 count.

According to the statewide PIT Count, of the 13,900 homeless individuals in New Jersey, 931 persons were living unsheltered. This number is has gone down 33.4% from the 1,399 persons counted in 2013. These 931 persons made up 6.7% of New Jersey’s total 2014 population of homeless individuals.

Our hope is that these statistics, among the many others available in the reports, provide community members and leaders with a perspective of New Jersey’s growing problem with homelessness and the gravity of the situation.

More importantly, we hope that this information serves as a reminder and an incentive to approach the problem with more vitality in Trenton and other cities across the state.


Mercer County & New Jersey Point-In-Time Counts for 2014

The official reports can be found online at the Monarch Housing Associates website:


Article written by Engy Shaaban for the Fall 2014 edition of The Wall









From Sharing Stories to Saving Lives. Welcome to the A-TEAM.

“Art: something that is created with imagination and skill and that is beautiful or that expresses important ideas or feelings.” — Online Merriam-Webster Dictionary


“Before letters and numbers, [art] was the original language,” said Roger Senski, a patron of the Trenton Area Soup Kitchen. “And today, it is more than that — it is like a priceless currency.”

Art defines one of the most diverse fields of study and expression. This field has been synonymous with the course of history and transformation of culture. And, more and more frequently, art is becoming a vehicle for change in urban areas such as Trenton, N.J.

Nowhere is that more evident than the walls of the Trenton Area Soup Kitchen (TASK) that are adorned with the work of the A-TEAM.

Sprouting from an art class offered by TASK in the late 1990’s, the A-TEAM became an independent entity in order to share and sell its work in the community. While the A-TEAM is still hosted and sup- ported by the soup kitchen, as a collective, the artists have continued to make their own unique impact within Trenton.

“Drawing kept me off the street and out of trouble and now I teach others how to do it too,” said one of the founders of the A-TEAM, Herman “Shorty” Rose.

Along with working with the A-TEAM at TASK, Rose also attends the monthly classes that the group facilitates at the ARC Mercer, an organization that helps people in need achieve their fullest potential through various instilled programs.

“It is not a contest. Everyone helps each other and everyone works together,” said Rose. “When young guys come in, I tell them, ‘Everyone can draw, just give it a shot and see what happens.’”

Senski, one of the team’s newer members, emphasized the significance artistry carries.

"Family" By Samantha Rivera
By Samantha Rivera

“It is important for the city,” Senski said. “Some people had college, I had art. Anyone who can paint, gives them a chance to be ahead of the economy.”

With over 11,000 households in the city earning less than $25,000 annually, reported by the U.S. Census’ 2008 American Community Survey, being ahead of the economy is a luxury that many in Trenton could benefit from.

With over 50 members participating in 20 events a year, the A- TEAM continues to make its mark in Trenton and it has garnered the praise from the highest powers in the country.

After a striking portrait of President Barack Obama was completed by the A-TEAM’s Walter Roberts Jr., the group decided to get the Commander-in-Chief’s thoughts on the piece and sent it to the White House. Roberts Jr. received a letter of commendation from the president for his impressive work. A letter that has been immortalized in one of Rose’s signature frames for visitors to admire.

“Whenever we get out, people ask, ‘Is the A-TEAM coming?’” said Rose. “They are happy. They bring their friends, and I say, ‘If you love what you do, keep doing it.’”





Trenton Area Soup Kitchen

Phone: 609-695-5456 72

Escher Street, Trenton, N.J. 08609


Article written by Raj Manimaran for the Fall 2014 edition of The Wall


The Return Home: “I Am Still Alive”

Article by Melissa Katz


War has plagued this country since its founding, most recently from the Korean War and the Vietnam War, to the more recent wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Each war has a different focus, origin and outcome. One thing that does not change from war to war, no matter the circumstances, is the effect it has on returning veterans. It is a simple fact – no one returns home the same as when they left. What they return home with – the traumas and the images – lasts a lifetime.

Kenneth Bridgewater, a United States Marine Corps Veteran of the Vietnam War, is now residing at the Salvation Army Perth Amboy Corps in Perth Amboy, New Jersey.

Bridgewater has had a life full of struggles and difficult times, from the time he was drafted at the age of 19 in 1968. He began abusing drugs as soon as he entered the service and did not stop until 2012.

"Moving Emotions" by Shanell Hutchinson
“Moving Emotions” by Shanell Hutchinson

“I’ve been clean now for 18 months. I’m still alive. I’m 65 and I’m still alive. We’re still human beings. We still have a mind and we still think.”

Bridgewater grew up in Trenton, New Jersey with a mother, three sisters and two brothers. After being drafted, he began work as a warehouseman in the U.S. Marine Corps. He described his first days in the Marine Corps as: “Scary. It was my first time away from home.”

He was assigned to stations in Hawaii and Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. During his time serving, Bridgewater got involved in the pervasive drug use among Army and Marine Corps troops, which continued for 44 years after returning home.

Over these 44 years, Bridgewater was in and out of jail, constantly involving himself in different drug activities.

Upon returning home, Bridgewater got married, but he did not feel any respect from the public. In 2010, he was put in jail on multiple drug charges.

“I should’ve gone in for 50 plus years. I was lucky. I got probation and a fine,” said Bridgewater.

In 2011, he was taken back to jail for probation violation and spent 5 months in the county jail.

At this point, Bridgewater had had enough. After getting out of jail, he went to the East Orange VA Hospital and spent 44 days in a drug rehabilitation program. He continued in his recovery by spending the next 6 months in the Lyons Veteran’s Hospital in Basking Ridge, New Jersey, before coming to the Salvation Army Perth Amboy Corps.

As of 2012, it is reported that as many as “62,619 veterans are homeless on any given night. Over the course of a year, approximately twice that many experience homelessness,” according to the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans and the Annual Homeless Assessment Report (AHAR), prepared by the Housing and Urban Development Department for Congress. “Only 7 percent of the population can claim veteran status, but nearly 13 percent of the homeless adult population are veterans.”

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs reports that “each year, Veterans Affairs (VA) provides health care to almost 150,000 homeless veterans and other services to over 112,000 veterans through its specialized homeless programs.”

Multiple factors contribute to the homelessness of veterans, such as lack of resources, poverty, support networks, employment. Difficult living conditions in substandard or overcrowded housing may be their only option. These factors are also putting about 1.4 million other veterans at the risk of finding themselves homeless, according to the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans.

Many of the displaced or at- risk veterans suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), in addition to substance abuse and an absence of any family or communal support. “Additionally, military occupations and training are not always transferable to the civilian workforce, placing some veterans at a disadvantage when competing for employment,” said the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans.

“The problem is people don’t know,” said Nathan, an employee of the Salvation Army Perth Amboy Corps. “Most people are unaware of the issues when veterans return. The public needs information. It’s important for people to know how much we want to legitimately do good for the people of Perth Amboy and specifically our returning veterans.”

The Salvation Army is devoted to helping communities everywhere, keen on providing whatever is necessary to help people.

“This place is helping me get on my feet,” said Bridgewater as he smiled and let out a deep breath. “I’m still alive.”

The Salvation Army New Jersey Divisional Headquarters

P.O. Box 3170 Union, NJ  07083

Phone: 908-851-9300 Fax: 908-688-4460



The Salvation Army Homeless Drop-In Center

575 East State Street Trenton, 08609

Phone: 609-599-9373


More resources for veterans experiencing homelessness can be found in the resource guide.

This article originally appeared in the Fall 2013 Issue of The Wall Newspaper


Providing Shelter and Support to the Homeless Youth

Article by Natalie Kouba


When hardship hits home, it can be difficult to ride out the storm. Some young adults and children decide their best option is to abandon ship and leave their families altogether, while for others, it is the only alternative. Either way, many youth nationwide are faced with homelessness each year, and look for the anchor to keep them grounded — that is what Anchor House aims to do.

Since 1978, the Anchor House in Trenton has provided a safe haven for not only the youth in Mercer County, but across the country, ensuring “a safe place to rest; wait through the storm while in crisis and a way to move on when the crisis is calmed,” according to the Anchor House website.

In Mercer County last year, 303 people under the age of 18 were reported homeless, according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.  Of that group, 117 children who were homeless were between the ages of 7 and 17, and 186 were six-years-old or younger.

The Anchor House aims to provide opportunities for the futures of young adults through temporary housing and long-term support.

Through five different programs, youth can find the resources and support they need, respective to their appropriate ages. From newborns to 21-year-olds, the Anchor House opens its doors to anyone who walks by.

"The Bond of Love" by Gennie Darisme
“The Bond of Love” by Gennie Darisme

“They can just walk in,” said June Albanowski, director of Children & Youth Services. “So they can just ring the bell, and, you know, they can come that way. Or they can call us.”

The Anchor House is available 24/7 to ensure that help is provided whenever needed. Anchor Link, the Anchor House’s street outreach program, is a drop-in program for youth 14 to 21-years-old where they can find day-to-day relief, such as eating and showering, but is also designed to assist in strengthening life and career skills.

While the Anchor Link program does not provide housing, most of the other programs that they offer are 30-day shelters.

For the especially young children, Angel’s Wings takes in those who have faced many potential issues, ranging from neglect to abuse to behavioral problems. Newborns to 12-year-olds are welcomed into foster homes until a permanent home can be arranged.

At the Anchor House Shelter youth from 10 to 17 are housed. While it only is a 12-bed program, the staff will never turn a child away, but instead, find an alternative housing situation.

Youth gain a sense of support and purpose, at the Shelter, where it may have been lacking elsewhere. Over the course of the 30-day transitional program, these children become much more than guests.

“It is a home for them, so, you know, it’s not institutionalized,” Albanowski said.

The youth at the shelter are given a temporary release from the stresses they face, and actually have fun during their stay. Staff members assure they get to school, and even try to keep them in their own school districts, but take them on recreational and educational trips in their free time. Volunteers also work closely with the youth to tutor them and teach them about their own hobbies.

The staff and youth form friendships as well and regularly go to the local park for a game of basketball, on roller-skating outings, to the movies and even the Great Adventure theme park.

Community service is also a valued part of the program. Staff members take youth to the soup kitchen or nursing homes to lend a hand to the community which has helped them.

“We believe it is important for them to give back to the community as well and not just be recipients of service and that they are able to do things for others,” Albanowski said.

The Anchor House programs are intended to serve as temporary shelters and try to reunite youth with their families as soon as possible, when possible.

Individual, family and group counseling sessions are held weekly at the Shelter to try and knead through any communication rifts and mend gaps.

From runaways to youth who have faced abuse, neglect or homelessness, some have not only been able to get themselves out of troubling situations, but have excelled beyond what they thought was possible.

The Anchorage program, which currently only has six young adults, helps them work toward independence. Here, the young adults learn about becoming self-sufficient in their careers and finances. They gain valuable skills in communication, personal health and wellness, time management and budgeting.

From graduating high school to moving into a college dorm, the Anchor House prides itself in the success of their youth.

“One went to Rutgers … some of them even live on campus, so they transition out from our program and might go to college full- time,” Albanowski said. “That, I think, is a real success story. Some of them even say that if it weren’t for our program, they wouldn’t be in that situation.”

Anchor House Shelter, School Outreach Program (609) 396-8329

Anchorage Transitional Living Program (609) 989-1625

Anchor Link Street Outreach Program (609) 218-5630

Anchor Line (609) 218-5630


This article originally appeared in the Fall 2013 Issue of The Wall Newspaper


Combating LGBTQ Homelessness with Safe Spaces and Representation

Article written by  David Sanchez

Every year in the United States, thousands of homeless LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer) youth live in the shadows, burdened with discrimination and hatred from family and strangers.

A recent study conducted by the Williams Institute found that over 40 percent of homeless, American youth identify within the LGBTQ community.

This astonishing number lends itself to numerous issues faced in the perceptions of LGBTQ youth. The study cited the leading cause of LGBTQ youth homelessness was rejection by family due to gender identity or sexual orientation. Gender identity refers to whether an individual identifies themselves as either male, female, transgender, or somewhere not restricted by the gender binary of male or female; while sexual orientation refers to sexual or romantic preferences of an individual.

Being forced out of home is not the only reality faced by many LGBTQ youth. The study states almost 35 percent will fall victim to sexual, physical or emotional abuse. This leads to a greater dilemma, for the choices are either to stay in a violent or abusive home or to run away and take the chances of survival on the streets.

In Trenton alone the resources needed to combat homelessness are scarce, and even more scarce are safe places where LGBTQ individuals can survive without the threat of violence or rejection.

"Midnight Tree" by Malory C.
“Midnight Tree” by Malory C.

So what fuels anti-LGBTQ sentiment? It does not take long to find hateful and inaccurate representations of the queer community in media. For clarification, queer is an umbrella term used for the LGBTQ community — it was a slur once used against the community to incite hatred, but in recent years has been reclaimed as a term of empowerment.

By turning on the television, it is quick to see episodes of “Jerry Springer” or “Maury” titled, “Tranny Lover,” “Wild Trannies,” or even “My Gay Brother Stole My Boyfriend.” Television shows often depict transsexual and transgender women as prostitutes looking to trick men in an effort to emasculate them. At the same time, gay men are stereotyped as hyper feminine and weak, and often do not have roles other than sassy friends with quick one-liners.

New television shows have given queer individuals a safe space to exist in broadcasting. Shows such as “RuPaul’s Drag Race” and “Orange is the New Black” introduce viewers to powerful transgender women.

Laverne Cox, who stars in “Orange is the New Black,” is making national headlines as a powerful actress who is transgender. Because of her new found fame, she has been able to speak to the nation through magazines and other publications on the ability for transgender people to surpass the low expectations held on them by society.

Representation of queer individuals is vital because it is dehumanizing for many when they cannot see themselves on the television screen — that is past the role of either a prostitute or accessory.

Despite the newfound representation of queer individuals in media, violence is still a very real threat against them.

Several studies, as well as one conducted by the Human Rights Campaign, found that one in every 12 transgender individuals will be killed in the United States. In a classroom of 25 kids, that would mean that two of them would be killed because their gender identity does not match the sex they were born into.

There are agencies looking out to curb the violence and tragedy in the queer community in Trenton.

The Triad House is a nonprofit home dedicated to providing a safe place for queer youth. Although the home is funded by the state, it also accepts private donations in order to provide for its occupants. One of these donors is The College of New Jersey’s PRISM group.

PRISM hosts an annual drag show to raise money that will directly benefit the Triad House. Because of the services that the Triad House provides, it is not uncommon to see drag performers or other members of the queer community put on charity events to keep funds flowing into the home.

This past year, PRISM’s event raised several hundred dollars for the Triad House.

As the perceptions surrounding queer youth become more accepting, it is hopeful that the rate of homelessness for this population will decline.

The key method to combat these negative perceptions is to face them head on. Children need to be educated that being gay or transgender does not define who they are as an individual. Just as well, learning that one’s son or daughter is a homosexual does not constitute violence or for them to

be forced out of their home.

When I came out to my father, I was terribly afraid that he would reject me and that made me keep part of my identity hidden from him for years.When I finally came out he said, “You are the son I raised and I will love you no matter who you love.”

When hate is removed from the picture, when love is the motivator behind our actions, we do not have a need for suffering.


Triad House (LifeTies)

1301 W. State Street Trenton, NJ, 08618

(609) 394-6747


Article was originally published in The Wall Fall 2013 edition.