Bitter Cold Means More Seek Shelter

By Lauren Wanko

Hundreds of people this morning filed into the Trenton Area Soup Kitchen seeking warm shelter and a hot meal.

“Usually we might serve on average 350 to 450 meals a day. Today there could be over 500 meals which is unusual because of the cold weather,” said volunteer Delia Drake.

“We’re seeing more people who need to come in and get of the cold. We’re trying to distribute more winter items,” said Trenton Area Soup Kitchen manager of Programs Jaime Parker.

Volunteers hand out socks.

“Many of them don’t have socks,” said Drake.

And new winter boots, something Trenton resident Alex Caro didn’t have earlier this morning.

“My feet are warm now compared to when I came in,” he said.

“A lot of people don’t have adequate resources to get themselves for the winter time,” Parker said.

A hot meal is always served here. Today’s soup — chicken noodle. Juan says this lunch is the best part of his day.

When asked what it’s like to have a nice warm meal, Juan said, “Fulfilling. It makes you feel comfortable. After a while you start dreading having to go back out in the cold.”

“A lot of people will stay as long as they can just to stay in the warmth,” said Parker.

Temperatures today throughout the state have been dangerously cold, the coldest weather of the season so far.

“Lowest temperature was as low as 5 below zero up in Walpack in Sussex County this morning,” said State Climatologist David Robinson.

Overnight the wind chill got to 10 to 20 degrees below zero over much of state.

“This is your typical pattern into the winter with the polar jet stream dipping to our south and that’s opened the door for cold air to come down from the north and really arctic air invading our area for several days,” Robinson said.

“It’s unbearable for anyone to be outside in these elements,” said Barrett Young, Rescue Mission of Trenton COO.

Last night 202 people spent the frigid evening at the Rescue Mission of Trenton, the most so far this season. It’s open all day and night.

“Your hands are cold. It’s just cold. It’s really bad,” said Rescue Mission guest Trevor Walker.

“We are under what we know as our weather emergency. We are prepared to take in upwards of 277 people today and tonight,” Young said.

The Rescue Mission of Trenton has been preparing for an overflow of homeless people since the beginning of the week. The team got cots — 40 of them — out of storage. The kitchen staff is preparing an additional 70 meals for breakfast and dinner and they’ve reached out to the community for donated jackets, hats and gloves, all to have on hand.

Some of the donated clothing is kept here.

“Our big thing is if you’re getting ready to leave the shelter you must have a coat. We give out coats,” said Young.

That winter gear will be needed tomorrow. Temperatures should briefly break the freezing point before the next blast off cold air comes, which could also bring light snow showers.