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HomeFront Rallies, Despite Demands Due to the Effects of Hurricane Sandy

“Our commitment is to make sure no one is hungry, and no one is homeless in Mercer County,” observed HomeFront Founder and Executive Director Connie Mercer. “The storm just made it harder.”

While many families had to to throw away the contents of a single freezer after days-long power outages, HomeFront lost the content of several industrial-sized freezers in their headquarters at 1880 Princeton Avenue in Lawrenceville.

And, although many people missed one or more days of work because of the storm, most paychecks will remain the same. At HomeFront, where many of the women are hourly employees, the loss of time means the loss of income. “These are the working poor,” said Ms. Mercer. “They live from paycheck to paycheck.” Ms. Mercer reported that she has a list of “a lot of big employers” like the State government, that are not paying hourly employees for time missed because of the storm.

HomeFront has experienced a 20 percent increase in homeless families needing help, and a 40 percent increase in requests for food as a result of the storm. In the meantime, the 20-year old organization’s programs to intervene and prevent homelessness; to offer children’s programing — including academic help; and its job readiness training, keep going. The organization’s commitment to literacy — the waiting room is stocked with books for clients to take home — is also going strong.

At the Mercer Street facility, HomeFront accepts donations of food, personal hygiene items, appliances, furniture, household goods, books, and more, to support its clients as they transition from need to self-sufficiency. On Monday afternoon, workers were unloading a truck full of Thanksgiving baskets donated by Bloomberg. At holiday time and throughout the year, HomeFront food packages focus on proteins, fresh produce, cereal, and other healthy foods. Donated goods are sorted by volunteers, a mainstay of the organization’s existence. More than one person, however, mentioned the facility’s overriding need for diapers.

Seasoned staff members like Brenda Whitaker, who runs Huchet House, HomeFront’s residence for homeless women pregnant with their first child, are always one step ahead of her clients. The contract that young women sign upon entering Huchet House is an exacting one that ensures they will keep doctor appointments, make good nutritional choices, and refrain from using drugs and alcohol during their pregnancies. Once their babies are born, baby sitters are in place so the young women can go back to work or to a new job obtained because of HomeFront preparation. “You must be self-sufficient before you get pregnant again,” Ms. Whitaker tells these young women in any number of “heart-to-heart” discussions.

One initiative that brought HomeFront up a little short is their “Kinship” program, which assists grandparents to assume responsibility for their grandchildren when the need arises. These returning caretakers lose senior housing apartments in the process, and require more medical care than participants in other HomeFront programs.

HomeFront’s Women’s Initiative will be hosting its third annual “Share, Shop, Give” event on Thursday, November 29, from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. at Greenacres Country Club in Lawrenceville. The event “will be an opportunity for women to network, holiday shop, and enjoy an evening out,” said Initiative member Denise Taylor. “Approximately 15 to 20 vendors representing great ideas for holiday gifts will be set up and open for business.”

“Our goal is to support HomeFront and the wonderful work they do in our community,” said event organizer Faith DeJean. “We also want to encourage anyone who may not know about HomeFront to come and learn more. It is a great organization which has a proven track record of providing a comprehensive network of services for the poor and homeless in Mercer County.”

To learn more about “Share, Shop, Give,” contact Denise Taylor at gl4denise@yahoo.com, or Ms. Dejean at faithdejean@hotmail.com.

For more information about HomeFront, visit homefrontnj.org, or call (609) 989-9417.


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