NJ rescue missions need more help to keep homeless shelters afloat
They rely almost entirely on the kind hearts of residents and groups throughout New Jersey, and a couple of faith-based rescue missions are hoping for a little more kindness in the months ahead to keep the doors open to their homeless shelters.
The emergency shelter and services program at the Rescue Mission of Trenton costs about $1.2 million annually to operate. CEO Mary Gay Abbott Young tells New Jersey 101.5 the operation is running at a deficit of $400,000.
The mission has committed to run the shelter program through June 30 despite the deficit, Abbott-Young said, but the hope is to erase the deficit by July, with half of that goal being accomplished through donations from the community.
Abbott-Young said there are a handful of reasons for the significant financial shortfall. The cost of operations increases each year, despite no real change in funding, and their on-site thrift store brings in much less money than years ago. Also, she noted, the mission has a "new role" in the Mercer County's mission to end homelessness.
"The rescue mission serves as the central intake point ... so instead of just being a shelter, which I consider a crucial operation, we add case management and essential services that can help people move from homelessness to housing," Abbott-Young said.
The shelter expects to accommodate up to 1,300 individuals in 2016, representing well over 50,000 night stays.
A hefty deficit is on the books at the Atlantic City Rescue Mission as well, according to president Dan Brown. He cites a one-two punch lately of increased demand for their shelter and a harder time gathering donations.
"Sadly, our area has the highest foreclosure rate in the entire nation," Brown said. "And just a few short weeks ago, another casino closed and thousands of jobs were lost."
Brown said election years add another obstacle to raising funds as many wealthy residents devote large chunks of money to their parties.
So the plan, Brown said, is to "push harder, pray harder and educate." He said it costs about $2.72 to provide a meal at the shelter, and hopefully when potential donors compare that price to the value of a human life, they'll choose to give.
David Scott, Sr., executive director of Market Street Mission in Morristown and Jersey Shore Rescue Mission in Asbury Park, said the overall budget is approximately $5 million between the two sites, with about four-fifths headed to the Morristown location. Operations are running at a slight deficit in Asbury Park, but Scott said the site may break even this year.
"We're not doing as well in Asbury Park because in Asbury Park we're not as known," Scott said. "In Morristown, everybody knows about us."
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Contact reporter Dino Flammia at firstname.lastname@example.org.