Aliya and her daughters are preparing for the holidays in their new home in Trenton, thanks to HomeFront’s homelessness prevention funds. Three to four hundred local families call HomeFront’s Eviction Hotline each month because they are losing their homes.
“The requests for help have increased in recent years as wages have stagnated but rental and home costs have soared,” said Connie Mercer, HomeFront’s Founder and CEO.” The agency responds with a variety of possible solutions – connecting families with a temporary place to stay, permanent housing options, or homelessness prevention funds, such as back rent or security deposits. HomeFront’s homelessness prevention work may be a surprise to community members who know the nonprofit for its Family Campus, where thirty-eight families experiencing homelessness can stay temporarily or its 120 permanent, affordable apartments throughout the county. But the first step for HomeFront is to determine whether a family can remain in their current apartment or move directly into a new one, because that costs less than shelter stays, helps maintain a family’s school and work schedules, and keeps emotional and physical trauma to a minimum.
“This is a massive, ongoing operation on a daily basis,” explains HomeFront CEO Connie Mercer, “and the calls really ramp up this time of year because parents in crisis situations are terrified to think of their children huddled on a freezing street. We have to be ready to do something fast and, even though the season is just beginning, the numbers this year are staggering. A client at a recent eviction proceeding heard the judge say that he had 150 more eviction cases to hear that day!”
There are many reasons why a family can end up with their back against this kind of wall. Some are stories of extremely bad luck, some of unexpected tragedy and some of deep courage. The HomeFront caseworkers responding to these calls every day share just a few examples:
“A woman with four children lost her job while on medical leave, and even though she found a new job her time out of work left her behind on her rent. Her family was to be locked out but HomeFront intervened with back rent so the family could stay.”
“A family’s home burned down and the Red Cross gave them a hotel voucher for 3 days. They couldn’t find a place that quickly where they could afford the rent and security deposit. HomeFront found them an affordable apartment, paid the security deposit, gave them a car so the dad can get to work from the new location, furniture, clothes and food to get started again.”
“A woman was in an abusive situation for a long time. Her husband had started using drugs again and she was afraid for her two kids. She said ‘We need to run, now. I have three part-time jobs but I don’t have enough for the security deposit as well as rent.’ HomeFront helped and she also joined our HireExpectations program and earned her high school equivalency.”
“The helpline phones are ringing at HomeFront while you are reading this,” says Mercer. “Each time our case managers answer, they assess all the ways we can help.” Twenty-five thousand times last year families came to HomeFront for – and were given – shelter, food and life-changing assistance. During the holiday season it’s just the help many families need.
HomeFront provides emergency shelter with intensive case management and affordable housing for families; tutoring and enrichment programs for children; and life skills and self-advocacy training for adults. Since 1991, the organization has helped homeless families to build lives of self-respect, stability and independence by using a comprehensive and holistic approach to ending homelessness in Central New Jersey. HomeFront has become a sophisticated social service agency able to address material needs for shelter, food, and clothing. It has established effective programs to help parents develop educational, vocational and life skills while also opening the world and all its wonderful possibilities to their children.
For more information about how you can help, visit www.homefrontnj,org or call (609)-989-9417×103