1,000 homeless connect to each other, resources in Newark (PHOTOS)

By Jessica Mazzola | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com
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on March 26, 2015

 

Barabara Lacue talks to representatives from Newark's St. Rocco's Shelter at the 9th Annual Essex County Project Homeless Connect Day, March 26, 2015

 

NEWARK -- Barbara Lacue has been homeless four times. For the past several years, she has categorized herself and her two sons - ages 10 and 11 - as "chronically homeless."

The trio is currently staying at St. Rocco's shelter in Newark.

"They have been a great help to me," she said of the all-female shelter. "We created a sisterhood there we all help each other."

St. Rocco's was one of about 75 organizations that tabled today at the 9th Annual Essex County Project Homeless Connect Day event held at the rollerskating rink in Branch Brook Park. Each year, the county organizes the event after the "point-in-time" survey, which is meant to determine the number of homeless people in each N.J. county.

Results from this year's survey have not yet been released. Essex has historically had one of the highest concentrations of homeless residents in the state. Last year, the count recorded 1,655 homeless people in Essex County on one night in January, a slight 0.5 percent increase over 2013's number.

County officials estimated about 1,000 homeless people attended today's event.

"We still have a very serious problem in Essex County," Executive Joseph DiVincenzo said at the event. "The economy may have gotten better, but there are still way too many homeless people here."

Project Homeless Connect, organized by the county each year, is meant to connect Essex's homeless population to resources in and around Newark, officials said. Participating organizations ranged from shelters and social services, to clothing giveaways and free lunch. 

"We want people to feel better when they leave here," Maurice Brown, the director of the Division of Community Action, said of the event. "They are full and clean, and we can help guide them to some resources that they can use."

In addition to the agencies on hand, about 24 students from N. 13th St. Tech school in Newark volunteered to hand out clothes, make lunch, give out haircuts, and do manicures at the event.

"The people are really appreciative," student Shanaia Lawrence said. "It's been really nice to help."

"Plus, we are all from Newark and Essex County," culinary arts teacher Brandon Rajkovich added. "It's helping out our home."

Lacue, who has never attended the event before, said it gave her a sense of hope. She said it put her in a good mindset for a job interview she has tomorrow, for a $15 an hour warehouse job at a Newark business.

"This helped me to see I'm not the only one," she said of the Homeless Connect. "A lot of times, when you are homeless, you can feel really alone. Here, you see other people doing the same thing you are doing - working and trying to better your situation."

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