As Trenton homeless encampments are cleared, officials push outreach services
By Cristina Rojas | Times of Trenton
TRENTON – Homeless people who had found refuge under highways and near the train station had to move on and seek shelter elsewhere last week as officials began to clean up and fence off two state rights of way that were being used as encampments.
Marygrace Billek, Mercer County director of human services, said the state’s decision to clear out the encampments offered an opportunity to steer homeless people to social service programs, jobs and permanent housing.
Over the course of six weeks, outreach workers from the city, county, Rescue Mission, Greater Trenton Behavioral Health Care, Catholic Charities and Anchor House tried to persuade the homeless to leave the encampments and provide other options, Billek said.
Under a new initiative aimed at meeting individual needs,Trenton, Mercer County and the Board of Social Services will open a service access center next to the Rescue Mission. Homeless people will be able to go to one office, where case managers can connect them with services including housing, health care, identification cards and other benefits, Billek said.
“Not only are we meeting the immediate need to get people off the street … but we’re now able to provide people the opportunity to remove the barriers that have kept them in homelessness or led them into homelessness,” said Mary Gay Abbott-Young, the CEO of the Rescue Mission.
Note: ABS Principal Karla Pollack serves on the Rescue Mission Board.