HomeFront Begins Construction for New Family Campus

By Lauren Wanko

Outside crews stucco the building. Inside others install cabinets. Construction’s underway on HomeFront‘s new Family Campus.

“We will have full round services. Everything that our families will need to thrive and become successful will be located at this facility,” said Sheila Addison, Director of HomeFront.

HomeFront, a social service agency that serves the working poor and homeless has a shelter for homeless mothers and their children.

“It’s on the grounds of the Katzenbach School which the governor is planning to sell off our part of that campus,” said CEO and Founder Connie Mercer.

For the past seven years, HomeFront has been working to obtain this site — an eight and a half acre decommissioned military base in Ewing — at no cost. Soon after they started construction, the agency received their largest gift yet — a $1 million two-for-one challenge gift from the David Tepper Charitable Foundation.

“Social services agencies typically do not receive grants that are of that magnitude and that transformational,” Mercer said.

HomeFront needs $6 million for the new campus. So far they’ve raised $4.5 million. Now they’re working to secure another $500,000. That’s all they need to get the $1 million match gift from the foundation.

The foundation will match every dollar raised with $2. There will be 38 rooms for moms, dads and their kids.

“But in addition to that, we’ll have the space and the resources to provide the tools that families need in order to become self-sufficient,” Mercer said.

Computer rooms for children, training classes to obtain their high school diploma, a library, job training, art therapy, a teaching kitchen, 24-hour child care and more.

“Which makes it so that women can take jobs that pay $4, $5, $6 more an hour,” Mercer said.

“All of us women are now brought here for one common goal and that’s for our kids. It’s amazing to know that we’re not alone,” said HomeFront client Stacy.

There’s space for their partner agencies too — one-stop shopping for their clients.

“We’ve taking away all the excuses. There will be no reason for a family not to get their lives together,” Mercer said.

“Most of the women don’t have vehicles to go places, they don’t have the transportation, and we worry about how we’re going to get to go do things,” Stacy said.

Before finding HomeFront, single mother Lori was homeless, living in a motel.

“It’s terrible, you know, to be out on the street not knowing where your next meal is gonna be,” she said. “But I’m thankful for the HomeFront people for helping me and my son.”

Lori’s working to get her high school diploma. She never wants to be homeless again.

“When you talk about chasing the dream, I think about the women who feel like there is no dream to chase. We want to expand them and their minds and the minds of their children to chase those dreams,” Addison said.

The families are expected to move in by the end of the summer.

Chasing the Dream: Poverty and Opportunity in America is a multi-platform public media initiative that provides a deeper understanding of the impact of poverty on American society. Major funding for this initiative is provided by The JPB Foundation. Additional funding is provided by Ford Foundation.