November 15, 2023

Many Events Are Underway at HomeFront for Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week

By Donald Gilpin

“I’ve been here for nine years, and I’ve never seen anything like this,” said HomeFront Development and Engagement Director Meghan Cubano, reflecting on her organization’s recent work with thousands of local clients who are suffering from hunger and homelessness.

“Want to help? You can help,” was her theme and the headline of a recent HomeFront flier for Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week, which is currently underway at HomeFront and around the country. HomeFront is offering a variety of different events and opportunities at its Lawrenceville and Ewing locations to get informed and to volunteer over the next few days and into the holiday season.

Cubano described the waiting room at HomeFront’s Lawrenceville headquarters, packed with hungry Central New Jersey families waiting for food. “We’re serving about 200 families in four-hour shifts throughout the week,” she said. “In the past year there have been more than 21,000 visits to our choice food pantry, people looking for groceries, produce, meat, dairy, diapers, baby wipes. It’s really about meeting those basic needs.”

She continued, “Economic pressure is so great and the cost of living is so high, especially in this area, and we’re seeing an unprecedented number of families that are really struggling to make ends meet. People are really living on the edge.”

The HomeFront housing hotline for people and families in crisis — whether they’re facing eviction, domestic violence , or being kicked out of their parents’ house — is averaging about 450 calls per month.

Cubano pointed out that fewer than half of Americans have $500 or more saved up in case of an emergency. More than two-thirds are worried they couldn’t cover living expenses for just one month if they lost their primary source of income. “These are people living on the edge,” she said. “They’re working, but they’re at the risk of homelessness if a car breaks down, somebody gets sick, or somebody passes away.”

To afford a two-bedroom apartment in Mercer County, you have to make more than $33 an hour, Cubano pointed out, and the minimum wage is just $14.13 per hour. “A lot of folks don’t have anything left at the end of the month,” she added.

HomeFront, active in the community since 1991, provides shelter every night to more than 450 individuals, mostly children. It provides emergency and permanent housing, homelessness prevention funds, and additional wraparound services to families who are facing food insecurity and homelessness.

A highlight of Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week at HomeFront is the Holiday Shop, fashion show, SewingSpace/ArtSpace reception, and open house on Wednesday, November 15 from 5 to 8 p.m. at the Lawrenceville headquarters, 1880 Princeton Avenue.

For the event, some of the HomeFront SewingSpace program participants are staging a fashion show featuring their original clothing creations. “Our clients have created these fashion clothing items,” said Cubano. “They’re really incredible. That’s part of our therapeutic art program.”

She continued, “We have an eight-week free sewing curriculum, where we teach sewing. All of these women have participated in that curriculum and at the end of the eight weeks they’re given a sewing machine as a gift. They have made their own clothing from head to toe. It’s really empowering for them and their families.”

Cubano described one woman who had been the victim of domestic violence. “She left her husband and was extremely depressed and suicidal. She found SewingSpace through her church in Trenton and was able to join, and that program saved her life.”

Hand sewn items will be available at the Holiday Shop on November 15, including pillows, wine bags, grocery totes, and table runners as well as holiday cards made by clients in the HomeFront ArtSpace program.

Other featured events this week include an educational workshop on Poverty and Homelessness 101 with HomeFront CEO Sarah Steward and COO Bobbin Paskell on Thursday, November 16 from 12 to 2 p.m.; a volunteer opportunity wrapping diapers in the HomeFront Diaper Resource Center from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Friday, November 17; and a volunteer session preparing Thanksgiving food baskets on Saturday, November 18 from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m.

The Diaper Resource Center diaper wrapping and Thursday’s workshop with Steward and Paskell are located at the HomeFront Family Campus, 101 Celia Way in Ewing. All other Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week events this week are taking place at the 1880 Princeton Avenue in Lawrenceville HomeFront location. Last year HomeFront distributed almost two million diapers to families in need.

“We all have a collective responsibility to serve the community and the neighbors who need it most,” said Cubano. “This year has been challenging for so many, with inflationary pressures and the increased cost of living. So it’s more important than ever that we come together to make change.”

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