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“The Wall” newspaper shines a spotlight on homelessness in the region

EWING, NJ … A team of students from The College of New Jersey, working closely with local community service organizations, has created an issue-focused newspaper that closely examines the circumstances around homelessness, while giving voice to the diverse population of residents in Mercer County shelters and on the streets.

Called “The Wall,” the eight-page publication features candid and gripping accounts by people who lost their housing, as well as in-depth interviews with the leaders of non-profit organizations who work with the homeless and advocate for political measures to aid them, including housing  reforms.

By including poetry and artwork by homeless individuals, in addition to extensive interviews, “The Wall” seeks to shatter what the paper’s creators call harmful stereotypes about people who, in the interviews, revealed themselves to be thoughtful, self-aware and opinionated.

“One of our goals was to give the homeless population an audience, while getting the word out to the community about issues around homelessness,” said Lindsay Klein, a sophomore, who is the publication’s editor-in-chief.

Also designed as a resource for Mercer County’s homeless residents, the paper includes a comprehensive list of shelters, human service organizations, health care facilities and the many churches, pantries and food banks that provide free meals. Copies of the paper are available at community service organizations around the county and online.

The project began as a conversation more than a year ago between Herb Levine, the executive director of the Mercer Alliance to End Homelessness, and Klein, a Bonner Scholar at TCNJ’s Bonner Center for Civic and Community Engagement, which partners with community organizations that focus on areas such as health, homelessness, youth development, urban education, and the environment,  among others.

Levine, who had read publications in other parts of the country that focused on homelessness and saw the value in creating one for the region, pointed to what he called “real potential” in working with the Bonner Center.  “I saw it as a way to give voice to people experiencing homelessness and felt the students could serve as midwives for that,” he said.

Klein agreed, adding “We live in something of a bubble, particularly on college campuses, and people don’t realize the extent of homelessness within their communities.”

Over the next several months the Bonner Center and the Mercer Alliance to End Homelessness put together a team that Patrick Donohue, the Center’s director, called “an ideal model for campus and community collaboration.” It included Bonner staff members and students, the leaders of local non-profit groups, including Levine and Tarry Truitt of the Mercer Alliance, Dennis Micai of the Trenton Area Soup Kitchen and Mary Gay Abbott-Young of the Rescue Mission of Trenton,  and Emilie Lounsberry and Donna Shaw, journalism professors at TCNJ whose classes wrote and edited the articles.

The team is also developing a website to post additional articles and will soon begin planning the next issue.

“The community feedback was great,” Klein said, adding, “The next edition will be new and different.”

For more information about “The Wall” and the team that put it together, please contact Patrick Donohue at the Bonner Center at 609-771-2362 or pdonohue@tcnj.edu and Tarry Truitt at the Mercer Alliance to End Homelessness at 609-844-1006 or ttruitt@merceralliance.org.

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