Why Does Our Community Need an Emergency Shelter?

by Mary Gay Abbott-Young, CEO, Rescue Mission of Trenton

“Look into someone else’s eyes. And see their pain; while also recognizing a glimmer of hope.”

For more than a century, the Rescue Mission of Trenton’s Shelter has been providing a safe haven for those with nowhere else to turn. Historically, it has been a place where anyone can come in off the streets, get cleaned up, have a hot meal, and find a warm bed to sleep for the night.

Whenever someone knocks at the Shelter’s door, all we ask are just two questions: “What’s your name?” and “Are you hungry?”

Our relationship begins with respect, honor, dignity, safety, and compassion. Then, over a shared meal, we offer opportunities for each individual to find his or her way again.

While it will always be needed as an immediate response in times of need, the Shelter has also become a gateway to a more comprehensive, long-term solution to end homelessness — and for connecting those in need with health care, substance abuse treatment, counseling, and social services.

What difference can a warm meal, some new clothes, a shower, and a place to sleep make for someone who is homeless?

This is how Waverly describes it:

“When I knocked on the Mission’s door a year ago, I had nothing but the clothes on my back. That’s all I had. Nothing else to my name. The only thing I could say was, ‘I’m a full-blown addict. And I need help.’ And they took me in. They gave me a warm meal. Then they gave me a voucher, so I could pick out some new clothes. I also got a small kit with a toothbrush, some toothpaste, soap, deodorant, a comb, socks, and a pack of gum. Then they showed me where I could take a shower. If I close my eyes, I can still feel that warm water rushing over me. It felt like it was washing away so much. Then, when I changed into those new clothes, I felt different.” He paused, then added, “I felt ready.”

Waverly just graduated from the Mission’s program — after experiencing individual and group counseling for his addiction, going through training for vocational development, and being introduced to his new job. He is now working full-time, going to regular self-help meetings, has a sponsor, goes to counseling, and is living in a permanent supportive house.

Do we believe in someone like Waverly?

Even when he doesn’t know how to believe in himself?

I chose to believe so.

It is also why, now, more than ever, I believe our community needs an Emergency Shelter.

Rescue Mission of Trenton, 98 Carroll Street, Trenton. 609-695-1436. www.rescuemissionoftrenton.org.

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