In 2015, the emergency shelter at the Mission served 1,256 separate individuals. The total cost for operating emergency services 365 days a year is around $1.2 million. This past year, in spite of support by the state, county and local government; area corporations; foundations and the community-at-large, the Mission had to utilize over $400,000 from its resources to operate the shelter and pledges to continue to do so until at least July 1, 2017. If the Mission continues to raid its operating surplus it will seriously jeopardize our ability to continue to provide the broad continuum of behavioral health and housing services we offer to help people rebuild their lives.
Emergency shelter requires more than providing a roof, a bed and a meal. It requires around the clock staffing, food/meals, custodial services, building maintenance, pest control, as well as electricity and water to clean hundreds of blankets and sheets each night. Yet, that too is not enough. As the needs of those we serve change, we need to rise to the challenge to meet those needs, which increasingly means the provision of more professional services.
To continue to rebuild lives and make miracles happen, we need your support – now more than ever before.
TRENTON (WTXF) - How important are these shelters to people? Did you ever use one?
“I hardly used one. I hardly used one. I did my own thing. My shopping cart, abandoned houses. Whatever I had to do... went to jail.”
Took a trip down under the Southard Street Bridge in Trenton today and ran into Thomas Kidd. He says he's not homeless, but he was for years. He says he didn't like using the shelters much.
“Very seldom I did.”
Well, are they important?
“No because of the hell that they go through. One's be in hell, one's be on drugs; all that kind of stuff. Aggravating you. I don't like to be aggravated. When you don't have nothing you don't want to be aggravated. You try to figure out what you're into.”
Mr. Kidd says he bootstrapped his way out of his bad situation on his own, but plenty of people need help. That's where Rescue Mission of Trenton comes in.
“It's been a rough road, but it's ok here it really is.
“I came through these doors 19 months ago -- so broken -- and they're the only place that opened up for me.”
For a hundred plus years, Rescue Mission's had a bed for people who need one, a meal, some clean clothes.
More than a hundred thousand meals in the emergency shelter last year and more than fifty thousand bed-nights. But CEO Mary Gay Abbott-Young says sheer economics are changing things for the worse.
“The one that really tipped things was that the state of New Jersey has really changed the way that they interpret what's called emergency assistance, which has ripped a hole in the safety net, and we have to find a way to repair that hole so that no one is left homeless.”
And she adds that the Mission's thrift shop isn't drawing what it used to, donations are down, and expenses are up.
I went by a camp hidden down by some deserted tracks along Route 1 in Trenton before I went to the Mission, nobody home. It's been getting colder and Mary Gay says she gets a rush when the temperatures drop.
“It means our census will more than double on a daily basis. You talk about people in the camps and stuff; there are some places where people can make it on the outside. You get a person who's by himself out on the outside? It's very difficult.”
Thomas Kidd says he did it. He was bustling with positive vibes as he headed to his home on Stuyvesant Avenue.
But the shelters, the food pantries, all are reporting a greater need and fewer donations. Where do they come from? Government budgets are busted -- maybe you can pitch in.
Day in and day out, people who often have nowhere else to turn take refuge at the Rescue Mission of Trenton for a warm meal, a hot shower, a chance to do laundry and a place to lay their heads.
But now, the 101-year-old nonprofit is grappling with its own crisis and is turning to the community for help.
CEO Mary Gay Abbott-Young said the mission's emergency shelter and services program -- only a portion of its total budget -- costs around $1.2 million a year to operate, but is running a deficit of $400,000.
She says the mission can provide half of the money needed to close the shortfall, but needs the help of residents, businesses, foundations and other community groups to raise an additional $200,000 by June 30.
"When we have a financial crisis in the shelter, it kind of rocks us to our core," she said.
Abbott-Young says there are several factors that contribute to the shelter's financial troubles.
There are a greater number of people coming into the shelter who struggle with mental health and substance abuse issues, its store on Carroll Street brings in far less income than in years past and there are more expenses that come with the county's shift toward providing wraparound services and permanent housing.
"No one can argue that when we have a homeless person, the first thing we want to do is figure out how to get them into housing," Abbott-Young said. "It's the right thing to do, but it's an also an expense to our shelter."
Last year, the shelter accommodated 1,256 individuals over 45,000 shelter stays.
Abbott-Young says the need is never going to go away, but the operating costs continue to add up with around-the-clock staff, food, custodial services, building maintenance, pest control, electricity and water for showers and laundry -- not only for shelter users to clean their clothes, but for the staff to wash hundreds of blankets, sheets and pillowcases each day.
Barrett Young, the chief operating officer, said there are also large hidden costs associated with helping the chronically homeless move permanently off the streets.
He said the transition to life outside the shelter can be especially difficult for those who suffer from severe mental illness or substance abuse and they require daily case management and counseling.
"It's important to us to use all of the resources that the mission has ... to make sure that our programming is constantly moving slightly ahead of the needs of those we serve," Abbott-Young said. "The cost today is not only to run a very good shelter, but to add in the cost of the support services that are necessary to then help that person end their homelessness."
For years, profits from the used furniture and clothing the mission salvages and resells at its store went to the shelter's budget. But as the poor has become poorer, most of the store's customers are now people who can't afford to shop elsewhere.
"What at one time was a thriving business, a money-maker for the Rescue Mission is now part of our social services operation," Abbott-Young said.
She said the shelter has also seen a cut in state funding after the state began interpreting the rules governing emergency assistance differently. Now fewer people are eligible for payments and the shelter receives less reimbursement.
"I'd like the state to look at what that does to the safety net of this community and if the safety net is being ripped apart, would you look at other ways to shore up that safety net?" she said.
Abbott-Young says she's confident in the community's willingness and ability to help the Rescue Mission in its time of need.
"I believe that we're going to find a way to bridge that deficit to a significant level that will allow the shelter to continue," she said. "We're going to work very hard between now and June 30 so the only thing that happens on June 30 is that July 1 comes. ... We have an obligation to the people that we serve."
She said moving forward, having a solid financial plan and continuing to forge partnerships with other area nonprofits and groups will help get the mission on stable footing.
In addition to providing emergency services, the mission provides residential and outpatient addiction treatment programs, job training and "permanent supportive housing," meaning tenants sign a lease and stay as long as they like, paying a monthly rent.
For more than a century, the Rescue Mission of Trenton has been a beacon of hope for people who have nowhere else to turn.
Now the venerable nonprofit needs rescuing of its own.
"When we have a financial crisis in the shelter, it kind of rocks us to our core," says CEO Mary Gay Abbott-Young, referring to a $400,000 deficit facing the mission's shelter and services program.
While the mission can come up with half the money needed to close the gap, Abbott-Young and others are looking to the greater community - residents, foundations, businesses and other organizations - to help raise the remaining $200,000 by the end of next June.
The shelter faces a perfect storm of factors as it struggles to make ends meet.
Increasingly, the number of clients seeking help are grappling with mental-health problems and substance abuse. Meanwhile, the mission's store on Carroll Street is bringing in less money than before and state funds have been cut - all at a time when expenses are growing.
It's not cheap paying for 24/7 staffing, food, custodial services, building maintenance and the like, not to mention the tab for electricity, water and laundry.
The shelter provided a safety net for 1,256 individuals last year, with more than 45,000 shelter stays.
At the mission's 100th anniversary celebration in April 2015, one of those clients spoke passionately about how the mission took him in as he was on the verge of despair: homeless and depending on panhandling to feed his drug addiction.
"I slept at the train station at night, the shelter or anywhere where I can lay down," remembered James Morris.
Morris credited the mission and its staff with turning his life around - as they've done for thousands of others over the past decades.
Times have been rough before for the little charity that could. The stock market crash of 1929 saw an alarming rise in the number of clients, for example, as did the downturn of 2008, which hit New Jersey particularly hard.
More recently, when the state changed the way it interprets rules governing emergency assistance, fewer people qualified for payments and the shelter began receiving less reimbursement.
"I'd like the state to look at what that does to the safety net of this community," Abbott-Young urges. "If the safety net is being ripped apart, would you look at other ways to shore up that safety net?"
She's hopeful that with a little help from friends, combined with solid financial planning and partnerships with other nonprofits, the mission can continue its important work. We hope so, too.
It's downright frightening to think a homeless shelter could close in an area where such vital services are already in short supply.
Your front-page focus on the increased outreach -- and costs -- of the Rescue Mission of Trenton was a reminder of the important work this charity performs. Not only does it help individuals cope in difficult times, but its work impacts everyone by allowing people to resume their place in the wider community.
I was curious to learn how much of the fundraising is spent on the actual programs. It was easy to find an email address for Mary Gay Abbott-Young, chief executive officer. I sent my email Saturday evening and was astonished to have a reply within the hour. She directed me to the Charity Navigator website, which is a nonprofit organization that assesses the effectiveness of charities.
The Rescue Mission of Trenton should be commended for achieving a rating of 96.6% for the level of fundraising that goes to support its program goals -- not for staff salaries, administrative costs, etc.
I hope your readers will keep this in mind when deciding where to give thanks during the upcoming holiday season. Most family and friends would be delighted to have a gift in their name donated to the Rescue Mission of Trenton to help someone else achieve their potential.
Sara Gordon, Lawrence Township
By Nora Muchanic
For more than 100 years, the Rescue Mission of Trenton has come to the aid of the homeless and the down and out.
But now this respected non-profit is forced to ask for help itself. The Mission is facing a $400,000 budget deficit.
Directors think they can cover half that amount, but need help with the rest.
"We know what our service level's going to be, we know what our income's going to be. We did not want to wait until the crisis was upon us," Trenton Rescue Mission CEO Mary Gay Abbott said.
A combination of factors has led to this. The state is denying more applications for emergency assistance, creating a funding crisis for shelters like the mission. The store is making less than it used to and costs for staff, services and maintenance are going up.
"Laundry, utilities, electric, water, insurance just to maintain everything," financial manager Crystal Bacon said.
Winter is the time when the demand for services is most critical so having money problems going in to the cold season is a real cause for worry.
The Mission provides a place for the homeless 24/7, 365 days a year along with mental health, addiction and housing services.
Jason Berkey arrived a year ago hooked on heroin with no place to live. He's been through the program here and now works as an administrative assistant.
"At first when you come in you may not think this is something that you can do. I'm here to show you you can do it. And if you work hard and stick to your game, the Rescue Mission is always there to help you," Berkey said.
"And that's what we're here to do is to try to help them and understand that there's a better opportunity out there for them. They just need to want to go and get it," COO Barrett Young said.
The Mission is trying to cut costs while reaching out to foundations, corporations and individuals to help stop the looming budget crisis so it can continue to help the people who need it most.
By Bill Sheehy MercerSpace.com
Editor’s Note: The recent announcement that Trenton Rescue Mission faced a $400,000 deficit was not good news. And the recent national election with all its uncertainty seemed to add to the bleakness, just as the holidays were approaching and the mood is suppose to be bright.
Yet then there was an email from a local financial planner, Bill Sheehy, who wanted to know if we would be interested in his first person account of running in the recent Trenton Half Marathon and raising money for the Rescue Mission.
You need to ask? What could be more of a seasonal boost than to hear about a Trenton native running in a Trenton event to help a Trenton organization during this season of giving? After all, it is Trenton’s own that make Trenton.
On the Run: Bill Sheehy, right, with Juanita Williams of the Rescue Mission.
The recent Trenton Half Marathon is over, and a team of eight runners raised $32,000 for the Rescue Mission of Trenton to be used for the Emergency Shelter.
I am a 69-year-old financial planner who organized that fundraiser using the 13.1 mile race. I also have a history with Trenton — born here, worked here. And the recent event connected me with the city in new ways and created new memories.
My involvement in the marathon comes from a long standing relationship as a supporter of the Rescue Mission. And this past May its director, Mary Gay Abbott Young, and I were discussing the need for funds to help the emergency shelter, which despite its important work is facing a large deficit. It was then I flippantly suggested I could do a run and raise $25,000 — similar to two years ago when I ran the Philadelphia half marathon and raised $18,400 for autism research.
Instantly I was in training, losing 22 pounds, and logging some 450 miles. While the vast majority of the money for the Rescue Mission came from my existing social and business contacts, I also began recruiting and identifying people running on the Delaware canal by my home in Yardley, Pennsylvania. During my runs to Washington Crossing I would stop others and ask them if they wanted to run. That accounted for several team members. Two others were recruited from the Rescue Mission.
For those who ever considered running the marathon or wondered what exactly is happening on those closed Trenton streets that stops traffic for the day, the following will give you an idea of what it is like — along with some commentary on our capital city.
My day starts at 6:20 a.m. on October 29, when I pull up to Waterfront Stadium and a friendly female Trenton police officer helps me unload our group’s signs, shirts, and an oversized check for photo purposes. Excitement and anticipation is in the air as runners from all directions head to the stadium. A Colonial-era garbed band plays and “patriot” soldiers ham it up for photo shoots. It is festive and fun. I meet friends also connected to Trenton, including Glenn Paul, the former owner of Clancy-Paul Computers and one of those spearheading the Trenton Digital Initiative. He takes photos of me and a crew from the Rescue Mission.
The starting gate has signs indicating stalls for various speed levels, starting at seven minute mile pace. I join the 11 minute per mile group — but I am determined to break it.
Although it’s chilly, some runners have stripped to shorts and light shirts and are stretching, rubbing hands, and jumping to keep warm. I try not to think of the cold I’m fighting off.
The crowd grows restless by 8:15 a.m. I befriend Jim, who looks in his 50s and is a fellow financial planner. He yells, “Come on, guys, let’s get going.”
Then at 8:20 a.m. a Revolutionary War-styled cannon booms, and we’re off.
As I run past new state buildings, I think how much has changed: lots of big buildings but not much business.
We head south on Route 29, into the tunnel, and then onto the steep Lalor Street exit ramp. Runners are slowing to a crawl. It’s like an obstacle course as we swing back into the tunnel and try to get past those running the shorter run/fun walk.
Now under the railroad bridge, Jim and I join a group eight athletic guys wearing “Black Men Run” jerseys. They laugh and rib one another, but they are serious runners and call out the pace every half mile.
We exit onto Calhoun Street and turn right on State Street. The New Jersey State Museum is on the right. The mansions across the street are magnificent. The statehouse looks eloquently stark. As we pass Willow Street, I tell Jim I spent eight years working on Front Street and walking to Trenton Rotary in the mid 1970s. He kids me about my age.
As I run past new state buildings, I think how much has changed: lots of big buildings but not much business. When I worked in town the city rocked during lunchtime and the late Trenton mayor Carmen Armenti’s restaurant was a madhouse.
The hill up Market Street is a challenge. Jim and I are trying to keep pace with “Black Men Run” but fall behind. Fortunately, Mill Hill is flat. The homes are well manicured and lots of people are on their porches cheering us on. It feels good.
Running back and downhill on Market I catch my breath and join my teammates and pals as we approach the “Trenton Makes, the World Takes” bridge — I think about how industry has largely abandoned the city, leaving tremendous pressure on social service organizations such as the Rescue Mission.
The water rushing beneath us is loud, and a runner stops. He calls to his friends, “This is scary looking down at the water. I can’t do this.” His pals stop, comfort him, take his arms, and tell him not to look down as they move forward — a simple act of compassion and friendship.
We are now in Morrisville and winding through a park on Delmorr Avenue. I feel good and high five a friend handing out Gatorade. But then the Crown Street hill becomes a haul and seeing the “split time” marker at 6.55 miles is sobering. I got to do the distance again!
I find a burst of speed as we file onto Calhoun Street Bridge’s wooden walkway and think about my childhood water skiing on the river.
Heading northbound on Route 29 —or the John Fitchway as old timers call it — is just a flat boring slog. Everyone is silent as we maintain a 10:45 pace, as confirmed by my stopwatch.
At mile nine, at Parkside Avenue and the entrance to Cadwalader Park, Jim demonstrates his comparative youthful advantage and lengthens his stride. Lagging and struggling behind, I encourage him.
As I run alone through the park and recall the old “Monkey House” and fond visits with my family during a different time in Trenton, I suddenly realize I just squandered 1.5 minutes of my 2.5 minute advantage and get anxious. “Calm down, calm down, what goes up must come down,” I tell myself.
I start making up the lost time by racing downhill (huge strides) and catch up to friends at mile 10 at the entrance back to the Fitchway. They joke with me, “Where the hell you been?” The banter cheers me up.
Then there’s silence and the realization that the runner’s high is gone. Everyone is breathing heavily, legs ache, lungs burn. Yet we all push ourselves and support one another. I concentrate, push the pain out of my head, and hold my pace.
We turn off the highway and head towards the War Memorial and the old Barracks, site of the Battle of Trenton. Running down Warren Street, I focus away from the fatigue by naming the presidents. My lower body is now numb, and I feel blood from my arms drain to feed oxygen to my legs; my finger tips tingle.
Mile 12 swings back onto the Fitchway and home. Forget the clock, I’m ahead now by 1.5 minutes. The adrenaline kicks in. Damn it! I want to finish at a 10:30 pace if it kills me, and it might.
I spot the group from the Rescue Mission in the stands cheering and holding up the signs. ‘Go Bill, running together to rebuild lives.’
The female cop waves us in and shouts, “Only a quarter mile to go, you can do it!” I pick up speed and am in the middle of “Black Men Run.” The pacemaker says, “Okay, guys, I got you this far, every man for himself.” The athletes who have so patiently stayed together decide to show off their speed and several take off like sprinters.
As each of us enters the stadium a camera shows the image on the big screen for a few moments and an announcer reads each name from our numbers.
I spot the group from the Rescue Mission in the stands cheering and holding up the signs we made for each teammate. “Go Bill, running together to rebuild lives.”
I sprint the last 50 yards, and it’s official: 2:22:37 for a 10:53 pace.
I lean on the fence and try to recover. Family, friends, and team members call my name, and I want to savor the moment: the smiling faces of my wife, Nancy, daughter, Lauren; friends taking photos; my “Black Men Run” pals asking me to pose with them; and the smiling Rescue Mission folks.
As I stand there I think of what I called to Jim when he moved ahead, “Nice meeting you. Thanks for the memories.” I also think about that sign that says “running together to rebuild lives.”