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There is a place where people wake up hungry in the morning and go to bed hungry at night. These people are our neighbors. The place they live is called Trenton.

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Reprinted from A Taste of TASK December 2003

"When Working Hard Is Not Enough: One Patron's Story"

It is easy to assume that people who eat at a soup kitchen are not working or, at least, not working hard enough. You might be surprised to learn that as many as one third of TASK's patrons have jobs, some of them working 30-40 hours a week or more, and yet they are still dependent on soup kitchens and other social services to meet their most basic needs.

Diana, a patron at TASK, wants to help the wider public understand how and why so many people are living in such circumstances.

Diana had a relatively comfortable life prior to 1999. The only problem was that her son's father, with whom she had tried to build a stable family life, was abusing her. Making the decision to leave this situation was a difficult one for Diana, especially since it would affect not only her own life but also that of her then five-year-old son.

With help from WomanSpace, Diana was able to return to her hometown of Trenton, find an apartment, and secure a steady job. Working as an administrative assistant at a local non-profit, she earned enough money to pay her rent and cover most of her expenses. After a few months, however, her son's father reappeared in her life. Due to threatening phone calls and behavior from this man, Diana lost her job and shortly thereafter lost her apartment.

This is when Diana found TASK. "The resources at TASK were invaluable," she says now. Staff members referred Diana to many local organizations that were able to help her. She received hot meals, emergency food, housing and employment assistance, and emotional support from people at the soup kitchen and at other area agencies.

Unfortunately, finding a new apartment and a new job did not solve all of Diana's problems. Her income was not enough to meet the basic expenses for herself and her son, and they continued to rely on social service agencies for assistance. While her son was in school, Diana worked a customer service job and came to TASK for a hot meal on her lunch break. When evening meals were available, she and her son would often eat at the soup kitchen then, too.

"Children are not cheap," Diana says. "My son was growing and needing clothes all the time. Luckily, I was able to find things for him at TASK."

One of Diana's fondest memories of this time in her life was spending Christmas Day at the soup kitchen. She and her son could not afford gifts or Christmas dinner, so they came to TASK, where they enjoyed celebrating with others, sharing a full dinner, and receiving gifts. "TASK has been my center," Diana says today. "This is how I survived."

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In Plain Sight: The Story of TASK

By LEE SEGLEM, Member of TASK Board of Trustees

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