Guest Op-Ed: How The Rescue Mission of Trenton is Continuing to Serve Those in Need During These Unprecedented Times

by Mary Gay Abbott-Young, CEO, Rescue Mission of Trenton

As I’ve watched the sun rise, every morning throughout the past month, I marvel at how, during even the worst of times, the best somehow comes out in those who truly care for others.

Since the onslaught of the coronavirus pandemic, I’ve been inspired by knowing that our community’s commitment to serve those who are most vulnerable remains unwavering.

In just a few short weeks, we needed to dramatically alter the entire operation of The Mission, creating best possible practices to safely feed those in our community who are hungry, house those who are homeless, and provide opportunities for those seeking recovery.

Advice has been sought from experts, as decisions have been carefully considered, then made, and implemented on a dime.

For instance, we had to move some of our tenants 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 an enormous amount of cooperation from our tenants, our close partnership with HomeFront, and the accelerated authorization from the Department of Community Affairs.

We also implemented a comprehensive telehealth program – with over 225 appointments each week – so that those recovering from substance abuse disorder could continue their progress by having virtual appointments with our in-house professional licensed counseling staff, as well as counseling sessions with our licensed partner providers, and medical appointments with the Henry J. Austin Health Center, a Federally Qualified Health Clinic.

Meanwhile, onsite, group counseling and meals have been rescheduled to allow for smaller gatherings of individuals to meet at a safe distance from each other. And since visitors and volunteer services needed to be suspended, we have arranged for behavioral health clients to have Skype visits with their families.

Because of the complex nature of each of those decisions, every day we are involved in thorough discussions as we navigate this unchartered territory, collaborating and coordinating with State, County and City officials, our Medical Director Dr. Williams, and our partner providers – including Capitol Health, HomeFront, Catholic Charities, Mill Hill, New Horizon, Trenton Area Soup Kitchen, Meals on Wheels, and the Henry J. Austin Health Center.

Through it all, we continue to serve our clients 24-hours a day, seven days-a-week, providing: 151 individuals in our Shelter with three warm meals and a safe place to sleep; 41 people who were formerly homeless with permanent supportive housing; and 83 individuals with counseling and recovery services in our Residential Substance Abuse Treatment Program.

And, of course, we are profoundly aware that each and every one of those numbers represents a very personal story.

To create these and other necessary changes, our costs have increased rapidly and will continue to grow. Meanwhile, we had to cancel our only annual fundraising event, which traditionally raises $60,000.

Those are just some of the facts, decisions and concerns that face us each day.

Meanwhile, with all of the precautions we are taking, what is in the forefront of our hearts and minds is a deep concern for the health and safety of everyone in The Mission’s family.

What brings me solace is knowing that anything we face at The Mission, we face together, as a community – with our colleagues, with those we serve, with our Board of Directors, and with all of those who support us.

Together we connect with each other and gather strength – so we can carry on for another day, renewed, knowing that we all believe in, and are committed to, a deep and abiding purpose.

In the face of immense uncertainty – knowing that for those we serve there are no other options – we try everything possible.

And with the enduring belief th