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  • Writer's pictureRev Joseph Taylor

Homelessness in New Jersey: The Invisible and Forgotten Part II

Updated: Jan 22

January 20, 2024

       This is the second of a two-part series on the homeless situation in New Jersey. This is about New Jersey, but this scourge is too much of a part of everyday life in America. In the previous article, statistics and numbers adorned the page. Those numbers were ugly but necessary to highlight.

       If you are interested in the nasty truths of homelessness and how it plagues one population over others, the myriad of reasons that cause this plight, or how the causes differ from one demography to another, please read the first part. This article focuses on the heroes that attack this evil head-on.

       Though different counties in New Jersey have varied causes of homelessness germane to their location, the common thread is that there are human beings who have no place to call home. One may sleep on sidewalks, while others sleep in cold, dark, abandoned buildings. Marauders cause their safety to be a constant concern. The homeless are often assaulted or even murdered by those whose intentions bespeak their dark hearts. Their defenseless victims are left to die, lying in a pool of their own blood in a cold, dark alley.

There are heroes, however. There are those that come to the defense of the defenseless. This article is a story about one but a story about many.

Those We Lost and Those Who Care

       The Toms River Housing and Homeless Coalition and Ocean Partnership for Children hold an annual vigil for Ocean County’s homeless victims who lost their lives that year. The Ocean County Homeless Prevention and Assistance Coalition also collaborated with the organizing of last year’s event. Family Promise of the Jersey Shore staff also attended with other agencies and concerned community parties. True Vine Ministries and Community Services in Bayville hosted the event in December of 2023. This ceremony is an acknowledgment of a life lived. Often, our homeless are anonymous, with no family and no friends. Some die alone, staring at an uncaring ceiling of an abandoned building that stares uncaringly back at them. Some die shivering from lying in the woods in sub-zero-degree temperatures, praying that death would come quickly. At times, death can be a cruel bystander and takes its time. This vigil is an occasion to acknowledge that a soul came this way, impacted our lives, and moved on. Those who took the time to stand out in the cold, hold a candle, and recognize those lives are sweet souls indeed.

The Story of One. The Story of Many.

As mentioned, there are many concerned organizations and citizens that champion the cause of the homeless. We at the Echo applaud them all. Let us meet one of those heroes at this time.

The Heart at the Heart of

True Vine Ministries

       Senior Pastor Rhetta Jackson-Fair is the Overseer of True Vine Ministries and Director of the "Code Blue" located in Bayville. She humbly asked me to call her Rhetta, but I must respect the office in which God has placed her. In speaking with Pastor Jackson-Fair, one immediately discerns that she has a Pastor’s heart. Those who have been placed in her purview are showered with her love and concern. She lives out the part of scripture that reads, “…. Love Thy Neighbor as Thyself.”

Picture Source: True Vine Ministry FB Page. The Picture above Senior Pastor Rhetta Jackson-Fair is the Overseer of True Vine Ministries and Director of the "Code Blue" located in Bayville. 

       The Pastor is a transplant to Ocean County from Newark, N.J. Newark is where she cut her teeth in the ministry and as a child, felt a deep ache when she saw the downtrodden on the streets of her city. Her young mind knew something was not right, and her soul screamed at the injustice of it. The Pastor is the youngest of seven children, and at a tender age she felt the tug of God and heard His still small voice calling her to this ministry. His voice was small and still, but her soul, her soul screamed.

       She transformed her small quaint sanctuary in her church into a dormitory-style domicile for the homeless. Instead of chairs, beds pepper the floor. Instead of ushers, she has staff that look after the homeless. Her peers criticized her for disrespecting the sanctuary that should be dedicated for worship into a dorm for the homeless and the needy. She boldly and without reservation followed the voice of her God and ignored the venom spewed from the mouths of her detractors. She preaches and teaches God’s Word to anyone within earshot and fulfills the Great Commission with conviction. Her eyes are warm and caring yet piercing and discerning. Her demeanor is soothing and exudes intellect and wisdom. She is soft-spoken, strong-willed, and self-assured. Pastor Rhetta Fair-Jackson is a loving wife and a devoted mother of five children. When she speaks of her family, her heart dances, causing an adoring smile to adorn her face.

There are many like her. They took part in the annual vigil; this is a story of one. There are many other counties like Ocean, this is the story of one.

The Echo Press is proud to stand with and support the homeless, Pastor Rhetta Fair-Jackson, and the community partners who assist in making our journeys just a little bit easier.

We encourage you to contact and support this noble endeavor at:

True Vine Ministry and Community Services -732-608-7706

Toms River Housing and Homeless Coalition  – 848-223-7284

Family of Promise   – 609-994-3317

Ocean County Partnership For Children – 732-202-1585

Ocean County Homeless Prevention and Assistance Coalition

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