As National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week approaches on November 15, HomeFront is preparing to address the changing face of homelessness.

When you picture a family that is homeless, you may not immediately envision Isabel and her children. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Isabel’s job was furloughed and the domestic violence in her home escalated. “I had just had a baby and I knew we had to leave, but I didn’t have enough savings to find us a new place.”  Isabel decided to take her two children and leave anyway, even though they had no place to go.

She and her kids are just one of thousands of New Jersey families impacted by the 9% local unemployment rate in our community brought about by the pandemic.  Her job loss, and no safe place to go, made homelessness a real threat. Thankfully, she and her children received a security deposit and first month’s rent from HomeFront, and her job brought her back after a couple of months.  “There are hundreds of local families,” says HomeFront’s CEO Connie Mercer, “who because of a job loss, are for the first time needing help feeding their families, paying rent, or buying critical life essentials like diapers. 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 began delivering meals to families who are homeless and living in motels.” According to a recent analysis, there will be over 300,000 evictions in New Jersey in the four months after the rental eviction moratorium is ended.

The changing face of homelessness during the pandemic, plus how people can help, will be addressed during a week of events HomeFront has planned for the upcoming National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week. HomeFront will co-host a virtual panel discussion on homelessness and hunger in our community with the Princeton Public Library on Thursday, November 19 at 6 p.m. Virtual tours of HomeFront’s “hope-quarters” (headquarters) will be held on Friday Nov. 20 at 3 p.m. and Nov. 21 at 11 a.m. HomeFront staff members will run an information and drop-off donation center at 63 Palmer Square in Princeton throughout the week.

Community members can also stop in to learn more, get involved, and drop off non-perishable food, coats, diapers, wipes, and formula. In addition, HomeFront’s ArtSpace will be holding an art sale online and by appointment to raise money for families struggling during the pandemic.  Information for all of these events is at www.homefrontnj.org.

HomeFront is a local nonprofit whose mission for the last 30 years has been to break the cycle of poverty in our community. The agency provides temporary shelter for 38 families at a time at their Family Campus in Ewing. HomeFront also manages 115 affordable apartments in the local area, provides homelessness prevention funds, and helps families find homes they can afford. The organization ensures families receive all the tools they need to live self-sufficiently.  Their comprehensive service model includes education, job training and placement, children’s programs, and much more.

“We are so lucky to live in a community that has embraced us with caring from the outset of the pandemic,” says Mercer.  National Hunger & Homelessness Week gives us a chance to connect, discuss the current situation, and join together to help local families who are struggling.”