Homelessness in New Jersey is on the rise... in fact, it's up a dramatic 9 percent from last year. These people are not just those who seem to blend in and be part of a city landscape. Some homeless individuals are those you would never see, who crash anywhere they can. Caroline Scherrer, co-founder of "People For The Poor", told me what she encounters. People For The Poor manages and organizes fundraisers whose proceeds go to organizations helping individuals have food to eat and a place to sleep, and is an organization I help raise money for.
Recalling her experiences via email, Scherrer stated, "I was talking to the Director of one of my soup kitchens this past summer. I spent part of the day helping serve and silly me thought I was done serving lunch at 1 pm... then I was informed that the 'second shift' was about to start!! We made up 160 plates of food for the 'second shift' - the first one was 300!!"
Adding on, Scherrer stated, "Anyway, I asked him what hit him the most when he started working there. We were standing outside and he said 'You see all those garbage cans along the wall...do you see those pallets in between the cans? One day I noticed that those pallets were pushed out so I went over to see what was happening. I found a man, woman and their little boy sleeping on those pallets - can you imagine the smell!! It is a hot summer and I can only imagine sleeping with that stench but I worry where they will sleep in the winter when it gets cold.' He also said that he was saddened by the fact that so many of his friends who he hung around with were now in his soup kitchen."
In terms of statistics, Scherrer noted, "Here is a statistic that will truly upset you - guess what the average age today for a homeless person?? 26? 44? 50? What do you say....the answer is NINE!! More and more families are living in the street, in their cars, in tents. In listening to social workers, you can hear their heartbreak with their stories... I had tears just listening to them."
Lastly, Sherrer adds, "Here's a tip, socks are a big deal
to homeless people. Perhaps you can keep a pair under your seat in case you encounter one begging at a light. Also those dentist bags you get with the toothbrush, toothpaste, and flannel for your face (couldn't resist the Squeeze reference), would also be a great donation."
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