For Those Who Are Homeless During This Pandemic, Additional Services Are Crucial

Coronavirus - Face Mask

by Mary Gay Abbott-Young
Chief Executive Officer, The Rescue Mission of Trenton

Every day over 150 individuals knock on our shelter’s door, and all we’ve asked are two questions: “What’s your name?” and “Are you hungry?”

Then we provide them with three warm meals, a safe place to sleep, and help them prepare for new possibilities.

That is what we’ve done for over a century.

However, since this pandemic began in the beginning of March, we’ve had ask several more questions to help determine if someone might be infected with Covid-19.

Our primary concern has been:

What will we do when someone in our shelter tests positive for Covid-19?

How could we possibly serve those who become infected by this virus, while also protecting those who are not?

If The Mission is the last hope for someone who is homeless, where would an individual who tested positive go without somewhere safe to isolate?

Where could he or she turn?

We knew we needed to answer those questions. Quickly.

In early March, some of our tenants agreed to a move to a new temporary location so that we could create a separate wing in The Shelter to keep our most vulnerable homeless clients safe. This complicated move was only able to occur because of our close partnership with HomeFront and an accelerated authorization from the Department of Community Affairs.

Still, we knew that was just a starting place.

Simultaneously, we sounded an alarm about our concerns to our partners in Capital Health and Henry J. Austin Health Center, as well as the City of Trenton and the County of Mercer Department of Human Services. This group expanded to include the Trenton Health Team, HomeFront, and the Trenton Area Soup Kitchen.

With these caring, like-minded, action-oriented colleagues, we had daily conversations that led to strategic decisions, along with the focus, drive and wherewithal to get things done.

After several weeks of tirelessly working together, the result is the creation of temporary shelters in Trenton for individuals with Covid-19.

As Marygrace Bilek, Director of Mercer County Human Services, said, “This effort has been laser focused on breaking down all the parts that needed to happen, with each leader getting a piece of it executed. Then we would come back 24 hours later to get the next thing done. It has been nothing short of amazing.”

Through these collective efforts, the City is in the process of opening a facility on Perry Street for clients who test positive but do not need hospitalization. That center will be staffed 24 hours-a-day, with telehealth medical services available.

Meanwhile, as always, we will be here to provide those who are homeless with food, shelter, dignity and hope.

And, of course, after any individual is medically cleared to leave one of the Covid-19 targeted shelters, they will be able to return to The Mission’s shelter. Then as always, our professional staff, using the Mercer County community model and partnership, will work together with each of those individuals to help create new possibilities for their futures – including helping them find housing, as we did for 130 homeless individuals last year.

As always, we will speak for those whose voices are otherwise not heard.

For now, we know our alarm was heard and we are grateful that a facility will be opened to provide respite for anyone who is homeless and has been infected by the coronavirus.

It is our hope that this facility will be able to quickly expand to safely care for those whose medical needs exceed our capabilities as an emergency shelter.

Meanwhile, the challenges presented by this pandemic will unfortunately continue, and the needs of those who are less fortunate will be impacted in ways that are yet unknown.

It is for those who have nowhere else to turn that we will always be here – and always be their advocates.

Update On Our Behavioral Health Services


To: Families and Friends of Participants in our Behavioral Health Program

As The Mission rigorously continues to practice Universal Precautions and social distancing, as well as other actions to battle the pandemic, we had a client on site who tested positive for COVID-19.

As in previous communications, we are writing to keep you informed, and to let you know of the precautions we continue to take at The Mission. As always, and particularly during these unprecedented times, the safety of our clients and staff is paramount.

While everyone worldwide is being challenged in unforeseen ways by this unprecedented pandemic, our staff continue to provide a full range of services to our clients, who are progressing on their journey of recovery.

In keeping with the directives we are receiving from the State, the CDC and, of course, Dr. Williams, the Medical Director at The Mission, the following practices are in place:

  • We are following universal precautions, including: daily reminders about handwashing, keeping social distance, and all clients and staff are required to wear masks.
  • All of our clients are having a full range of services provided. This includes telehealth appointments with the Henry J. Austin Health Center, a Federally Qualified Health Clinic, and counseling sessions through our licensed partner providers. Each of these telehealth conferences is conducted in an area where the individual has complete privacy.
  • We have arranged for clients to have family visits on Skype, which clients can schedule at reserved times.
  • We will start conducting Zoom meetings for clients who have Narcotics Anonymous or Alcohol Anonymous meetings; as well as worship services; and Drug Court meetings.
  • Larger group meetings have been suspended.
  • All visitors and volunteer services have been suspended and venders who must enter the building are screened.
  • New client intakes will remain temporarily suspended. We apologize to the individuals and families anxious to enter treatment, but for the safety of our current clients, potential clients and staff, this remains a necessary action.
  • Clients who have completed the program are still being discharged.
  • All staff are up-to-date on all State guidelines.
  • Every staff member who enters the building has to complete a screening questionnaire to make sure that they are following Covid-19 guidelines and do not have any concerning symptoms.
  • Staff are reminded daily to stay home if they feel ill.
  • Family members can contact their loved one’s counselor by email or phone with questions. If you do not have the contact information for the counselor, please send to Amanda Moschella, Director of Substance Abuse Counseling at or 609.695.1436 ext. 303 and she will have the counselor contact you.

We will keep you informed – as we continue to monitor federal guidelines, closely collaborate with local authorities, the State Departments of Health and Human Services, as well as our partner providers, and do everything we possibly can to make sure that everyone we care for and all of us who are doing the caring remain safe and healthy.


Mary Gay Abbott-Young
Chief Executive Officer

The University of Pennsylvania Helps Residents At The Mission Start Their Own Businesses

Barrett and Curtis

The University of Pennsylvania has partnered with the Rescue Mission of Trenton to identify a small group of formerly incarcerated individuals to offer a ten-week intensive training on starting and running their own small business.

Through the Penn Restorative Entrepreneurship Program, the hope is “to develop and demonstrate a sustainable and replicable model to create new possibilities for those who enter the job market with so many daunting challenges,” according to Barrett Young, Chief Operating Officer of The Mission, who is one of the co-founders of this innovative program.

In this ten-minute video, produced by the University of Pennsylvania, the inspiration, vision and success of this program is shared by one of the residents who started his own business, along with Barrett and Charlotte Ren, Ph.D., a co-founder of the program, who is now Associate Professor of Strategic Management at Fox School of Business, Temple University – and whose initial idea sparked this unique partnership.

To view the video, click here:

The residents who are selected to go through this program from The Mission receive one-on-one assistance from faculty and graduate students in formulating and presenting their own business plans. “I have been consistently surprised by how our residents have developed solid business ideas, and what can happen when they are given permission to believe in themselves and to dream about something big,” Barrett said.

Curtis Kitchen (shown here with Barrett), who went through the program freely shares, “It is extremely hard for people with addictions and criminal backgrounds to get a job. So, creating your own business was a new pathway that none of us had ever considered or knew the first thing about before we walked on to the University’s campus.”

After he went through the program, Curtis and his wife Brandy, who is also a former addict, were able to write a business plan to get a small business loan, which allowed them to become owners of their own auto repair shop. “Five years before this, I was sleeping under a bridge, wishing I would never wake up the next morning. And now we just hired a full-time employee who is also in recovery.”

Dr. Ren said that she hopes the next phase of the program will be to create consulting services and funding that can support the formerly incarcerated individuals as they endeavor to become entrepreneurs. She added, “These former inmates are often viewed as a problem rather than a potential asset to the community. As entrepreneurship scholars, we are helping them find their talents, motivations, and dreams.”

Barrett added, “The next step I would love to see happen is to have The Mission be able to develop the means to help some of these guys fund their start-up costs. Ideally, I’d like to raise the money to have a business developer work with them after they finish the class. That’s my dream.”


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The Rescue Mission of Trenton is the agency in the City of Trenton that serves the truly needy men and women who have no place to turn for shelter, food, and clothing. The Mission provides a safe, clean, warm, refuge for the homeless, the hungry, the transient and the addicted.

New Jersey’s Governor, First Lady, and Commissioner of the Department of Human Services Visit The Rescue Mission of Trenton On A Dangerously Cold Night

As the temperature plummeted to dangerous levels last evening, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy, First Lady Tammy Murphy, and Carole Johnson, Commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Human Services met with over 180 men and women who sought refuge from the bitter cold, and enjoyed a warm meal at the Rescue Mission of Trenton.

Governor, First Lady, and DHS Commissioner

Surprised by the visit, the clients at the Mission engaged in conversations and had photographs taken with the dignitaries, who shared their deep concern for those who would otherwise have been freezing outside on the city’s streets. After spending time in the dining hall, The First Lady and the Commissioner visited the Mission’s women’s unit, while the governor visited the men’s unit.

“It meant a lot to our clients to know that the Governor, First Lady, and the Commissioner were so concerned about their well-being – and that they took time to be with us,” said Mary Gay Abbott-Young, CEO of the Mission. “Afterwards, the Governor, First Lady and Commissioner each expressed their appreciation for the work we do, and for the respect and care we give our clients who are going through a difficult time in their lives.”

She added, “While we offer food and shelter around-the-clock, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, of course, whenever the temperature gets dangerously cold and there is a Code Blue alert, everyone’s concern heightens. It is in such times that we are even more grateful for the partnership and support of the Governor, the First Lady, the Commissioner, the Mayor’s office, the Mercer County Department of Human Services, and our colleagues at other agencies in the community – including HomeFront, Trenton Area Soup Kitchen, Arm and Arm, and the Mercer Alliance to End Homelessness.”


Please click on the links below to view coverage of Governor Phil Murphy's proposal of $100 million in new spending to address the state's opioid crisis.

COO Barrett Young discusses the opioid epidemic as part of the ReachNJ campaign

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