In spring 2018, after Jonathan Clark’s girlfriend asked him and his son to leave her home, he didn’t know where to turn. “I was having a hard time,” says Clark, 34.
Then they found HomeFront, an organization that assists homeless families in Mercer County. Founded in 1991 by area resident Connie Mercer, HomeFront began as a meal-delivery service for families being housed by social services in roadside motels. It has grown into a multifaceted organization providing emergency shelter, food, clothing, affordable housing and homelessness-prevention programs.
Shortly after he became homeless, welfare referred Clark to HomeFront, which housed the family in its Family Preservation Center in Ewing. In addition to food and shelter, Clark was given free access to childcare, job training and counseling. “Whatever you need help with,” says Clark, “they do everything they can.”
Opened four years ago in a renovated, decommissioned Navy training station near the Trenton-Mercer Airport, the center offers 38 dorm-style residential suites. HomeFront works to fortify clients during their stay (three months, on average) with classes in cooking, financial literacy and other subjects. There’s a diaper pantry on site, as well as a health-and-wellness clinic. After-school care and tutoring are offered, enabling parents to focus on their job searches.
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“We don’t ever call it a shelter,” says Liza Peck, support services liaison at HomeFront. “We don’t want it to feel like a shelter.”
HomeFront aims for a safe, family-friendly environment. There are communal areas with couches and TVs for socializing, a salon where clients get haircuts, and an art-therapy room. This month, HomeFront children—past and present—will receive a gift from their holiday wish list, donated by local residents, churches and businesses.
“Homelessness can be very isolating,” says Peck. “We want to be the support system—here, and also after [the families] move out.”
Clark stayed at HomeFront for three months, and still occasionally visits. He lives with his son, now 11, in an apartment in Trenton and is working to get his commercial driver’s license. Clark is grateful for HomeFront. “They let you know you’re safe,” he says. “To have that safeness can change your life. It saved my life.”Click here to leave a comment