It’s Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week. Here’s how you can help.

November, with the coming Thanksgiving holiday, is traditionally a time to celebrate abundance and show gratitude for our blessings. But in New Jersey, one of the richest states in the nation, more than 919,000 people struggle with food insecurity, while another 8,500 are homeless.

That’s why this week – Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week – is also a time to show compassion for those in need and work toward a world where hunger and homelessness exist only in history.

A crisis that affects all

In our four-county region (Burlington, Mercer, Monmouth and Ocean), more than 193,000 people experience food insecurity, according to Feeding America, while another 1,605 were homeless during the most recent government point-in-time count.

Children are disproportionately affected. Nearly 14 percent of New Jersey children – that’s 268,000 children – suffer from hunger, according to Feeding America. Yet one-third of food-insecure residents earn too much to qualify for nutrition assistance, the advocacy group found.

Seniors also suffer. The hunger rate among the nation’s elderly population has more than doubled since 2001, according to the National Council on Aging. That trend is expected to worsen as Baby Boomers age.

Other vulnerable groups, like veterans and college students, also grapple with hunger due to economic hardship.

A continuous need

Catholic Charities, Diocese of Trenton offers several programs to reduce hunger, food insecurity and homelessness in Central New Jersey. More than 40,000 people received food from our food pantries last year, nearly half of whom were children. We also offer emergency housing for individuals and families, a transitional group home called Beacon House for homeless young men, supported employment services, and assistance in finding permanent affordable housing. For a full list of services and contact details, click here.

“The continuous need for resources and financial assistance to help stabilize families is present daily,” said Richard Ferreira, program director of Catholic Charities’ Community Services in Burlington and Mercer counties (pictured, at left). “As many 20 to 30 individuals and families show up each day at our site inquiring about rental assistance to prevent eviction. But there are small amounts of program dollars to help these community residents, so sometimes we have to refer these individuals to other providers for assistance. The struggle and despair is real in our community.”

To give or get help

To give help: Donations are always needed. Check here for how to help.

To get help: Call our Access, Help and Information Center at 1-800-360-7711.

For more information: Dana DiFilippo, communications, (609) 394-5181, ext. 1153.

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