HomeFront’s Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week to Open in Palmer Square, Offer Many Events
HOMELESSNESS AWARENESS: HomeFront has planned a variety of events — including “Art for the Holidays,” information and donation visits in Palmer Square, a virtual panel, and virtual tours of HomeFront’s headquarters — starting this weekend in recognition of National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week. (Photo courtesy of HomeFront)
By Donald Gilpin
Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week runs from November 15-22, with area nonprofit HomeFront offering the community several ways to learn about the changing face of homelessness during the pandemic and how to get involved.
On any given night, HomeFront, according to its website, provides shelter to more than 450 individuals, the vast majority of whom are children.
HomeFront fed more than 18,500 people last year through free bags of groceries distributed to hungry families.
Last year, 68 long-term unemployed HomeFront clients were successfully placed in jobs or received their high school diplomas.
Also last year, 357 children participated in HomeFront’s Joy, Hopes, and Dreams after-school program, and 94 children received high quality, trauma-informed day care in HomeFront’s Atkinson Child Development Center.
During Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week, visitors are invited to stop by HomeFront’s Pop-Up Information and Donation Drop-Off Center in Palmer Square to learn more about the local situation and to make donations of non-perishable food, coats, diapers, wipes, and formula on Friday, November 20 from 4 to 7 p.m. and from noon to 5 p.m. on Sunday, November 15, Saturday, November 21, and Sunday, November 22.
On Friday, November 20 at 3 p.m. and Saturday, November 21 at 11 a.m., HomeFront is inviting all those interested to join a virtual tour of its headquarters at www.homefrontnj.org, with the opportunity to learn more about the local situation, how HomeFront helps, and how to get involved.
On Thursday, November 19 at 6 p.m., the Princeton Public Library will join with HomeFront to host a virtual panel discussion on Homelessness and Hunger in the Time of COVID-19. Panelists will include HomeFront founder and CEO Connie Mercer; Mercer Street Friends CEO Bernie Flynn; Emily Lemmerman, a research assistant with Princeton University’s Eviction Lab; New Jersey Community Schools Coalition Director Gregory Stankiewicz; and a former HomeFront client.
In addition, HomeFront ArtSpace’s “Art for the Holidays” event, from November 14 to December 15 at artjamnj.org, will feature art from local and HomeFront artists for sale online or by appointment to benefit homeless families.
“There are hundreds of local families who, because of job loss, are for the first time needing help feeding their families, paying rent, or buying critical life essentials like diapers,” said Mercer. “Since the pandemic began, we have seen an unprecedented increase in need. We have distributed 342,315 meals, given out 384,600 diapers and wipes, opened up a third food pantry, and begun delivering meals to families who are homeless and living in motels.”
A recent analysis cited in a HomeFront press release reports that there will be more than 300,000 evictions in New Jersey in the four months after the rental eviction moratorium is ended. HomeFront notes that thousands of families are impacted by the nine percent local unemployment rate brought on by the pandemic.
HomeFront told the story of Isabel and her children, “not what you would think of when you picture a family that is homeless.” Isabel’s job was furloughed during the pandemic and domestic violence in her home escalated.
“I just had a baby and I knew we had to leave, but I didn’t have enough savings to find us a new place,” she said. Isabel decided to take her two children and leave anyway, even though she had no place to go.
HomeFront provided a security deposit and the first month’s rent, and her job brought Isabel back after a couple of months. HomeFront noted that there are hundreds of local families in situations similar to Isabel’s.
HomeFront is a nonprofit based in Lawrenceville and Ewing whose mission for the last 30 years has been to break the cycle of poverty in Mercer County. The agency provides temporary shelter for 38 families at a time at their Family Campus, manages 115 affordable apartments in the area, provides homelessness prevention funds, and helps families find homes they can afford. HomeFront helps families receive the tools they need to live self-sufficiently, including education, job training and placement, children’s programs, and more.
“We are so lucky to live in a community that has embraced us with caring from the outset of the pandemic,” Mercer said. “National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week gives us a chance to connect, discuss the current situation, and join together to help local families who are struggling.”