TRENTON (WTXF) - How important are these shelters to people? Did you ever use one?
"I hardly used one. I hardly used one. I did my own thing. My shopping cart, abandoned houses. Whatever I had to do... went to jail."
Took a trip down under the Southard Street Bridge in Trenton today and ran into Thomas Kidd. He says he's not homeless, but he was for years. He says he didn't like using the shelters much.
"Very seldom I did."
Well, are they important?
"No because of the hell that they go through. One's be in hell, one's be on drugs; all that kind of stuff. Aggravating you. I don't like to be aggravated. When you don't have nothing you don't want to be aggravated. You try to figure out what you're into."
Mr. Kidd says he bootstrapped his way out of his bad situation on his own, but plenty of people need help. That's where Rescue Mission of Trenton comes in.
"It's been a rough road, but it's ok here it really is.
"I came through these doors 19 months ago -- so broken -- and they're the only place that opened up for me."
For a hundred plus years, Rescue Mission's had a bed for people who need one, a meal, some clean clothes.
More than a hundred thousand meals in the emergency shelter last year and more than fifty thousand bed-nights. But CEO Mary Gay Abbott-Young says sheer economics are changing things for the worse.
"The one that really tipped things was that the state of New Jersey has really changed the way that they interpret what's called emergency assistance, which has ripped a hole in the safety net, and we have to find a way to repair that hole so that no one is left homeless."
And she adds that the Mission's thrift shop isn't drawing what it used to, donations are down, and expenses are up.
I went by a camp hidden down by some deserted tracks along Route 1 in Trenton before I went to the Mission, nobody home. It's been getting colder and Mary Gay says she gets a rush when the temperatures drop.
"It means our census will more than double on a daily basis. You talk about people in the camps and stuff; there are some places where people can make it on the outside. You get a person who's by himself out on the outside? It's very difficult."
Thomas Kidd says he did it. He was bustling with positive vibes as he headed to his home on Stuyvesant Avenue.
But the shelters, the food pantries, all are reporting a greater need and fewer donations. Where do they come from? Government budgets are busted -- maybe you can pitch in.