By Christina Leslie | Correspondent
The efforts of Catholic Charities, Diocese of Trenton, to offer a helping hand for individuals looking for permanent housing in Mercer County were lauded during the 2016 National Alliance to End Homelessness awards ceremony Nov. 17 in Washington.
As a partner of Mercer County’s Alliance to End Homelessness and Board of Social Services, CCDOT was recognized for the Rapid Rehousing program it operates out of its Trenton headquarters.
“Rapid rehousing is short-term intervention for individuals and families with modest barriers, people who have fallen upon hard times,” said Jackie Edwards, CCDOT’s director of community services. “Our goal is to reduce homeless through critical, intensive case management.
The program, operable in Burlington and Mercer Counties since 2010, obtains funding from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and grants from other sources. It offers eligible individuals and families financial assistance for rent and serves as an intermediary between renters and landlords, but it is more a hand up than a hand out, Edwards stressed.
“We do an intake and an exit plan at the same time to help people get stabilized quickly,” she said. “We provide the money people need, but they are part of the process, for employment is critical.”
Daughter of Charity Sister Joanne Dress, diocesan executive director of Catholic Social Services, lauded the program and its dedicated staff.
“Jackie Edwards and her team work tirelessly to assist families, in both Mercer and Burlington County, through the Rapid Rehousing program,” Sister Joanne said. “I am delighted that Catholic Charities, Diocese of Trenton is being recognized for their service helping families who experience homelessness to find a home. Working collaboratively with other agencies, [they] help individuals and families to live with dignity in their new homes.”
Families can be self-referred, found during a street outreach tally, or referred by another city, county, private or state service partner. Recipients receive the assistance for rent and household supplies for an average of three to six months to a year.
To keep their funding, Edwards said, “each year, we are responsible for placing 12 families and individuals into rapid rehousing. But, as part of our two housing programs, we average 39 to 40 families in one, and 25 to 30 in the other.”
Catholic Charities Diocese of Trenton reports indicate that, from Jan., 2010 to present, the Mercer Community Services Rapid Rehousing program has housed 243 families and individuals. In Burlington County, 44 families and individuals have been housed during the two year period from Jan., 2014 to present.
“We were really pleased and excited to get the award and to go to Washington and see our partners,” Edwards said. “Our [CCDOT] staff is awesome. I can say we’ve done good work.”
At the Nov. 17 awards ceremony, Mercer County Executive Brian M. Hughes noted, “The county has reduced its number of homeless families by 70 percent. We could not have achieved this success without our dedicated partners.”
For Edwards, the rewards of the program are simple.
“When a family has a home, everything else falls into place,” she said. “Your children can stay in the same school and have a safe place to sleep.”
For more information about Catholic Charities’ Rapid Rehousing Program, visit its headquarters at 132 N. Warren St., Trenton, or call 609-599-1246.