Concerns Emerge for Paterson’s Homeless Outreach Program After Founder’s Arrest
A man accused of stabbing during a dispute over a parking space outside his Clifton home runs a Paterson outreach program that received more than $300,000 in grants this month and benefits from partnerships with police in the state of New Jersey, among others.
“The build-up to the incident” last weekend involving Roger Lester, 42, “is still unclear and has become a legal matter,” a publicist with his organization said Thursday.
Brennan Jenkins of Ruthleess Marketing argued that Lester – the founder and CEO of NJ PAAIN (Preparing Adolescent & Adult Ideologies Now) – was “surprised [in] a road rage incident gone wrong between two other men.
“It should be noted that the CEO was not carrying a weapon and the knife that was used in the incident belonged to the alleged victim,” he added.
“This case will affect thousands of homeless people in Paterson, as well as corporate partners of NJ PAAIN, which includes the State Police,” Jenkins noted.
SEE: Trail of blood from stabbing in parking spot leads to Clifton Ex-Con, police say
Police already knew Lester, whose criminal history includes arrests for various crimes and prison terms dating back to the late 1990s, according to public records.
According to Jenkins, Lester used “his experiences and connections to prevent others [from] get lost in the system.
Last week, NJ PAAIN received more than $300,000 in homeless outreach grants, Jenkins said. This includes meals, water, clothing and “protective devices,” according to documentation from the for-profit organization.
Partner restaurants in Bergen County played an important role, according to a press release from NJ PAAIN. A Ridgewood restaurant prepared more than 200 hot meals in December “to meet the organization’s need to meet the citizens of Paterson on the streets of the city,” the statement said.
Connex4NPO in Westwood has also given the organization “access to more items for donation,” it says.
Pharmacy Plus in Paterson has also been cited for helping Lester’s group reach the elderly.
Lester himself “physically takes to the streets of Paterson to distribute hot meals, sanitary needs and clothing each week on Fridays to those who are homeless or less fortunate,” Jenkins said.
“His criminal/reform background is what makes his business unique and allows him to become a beacon in a town like Paterson,” the publicist noted.
For his part, Lester said late last year that his organization was “determined to be the change” in a city where “we see so much despair and inhuman circumstances”.
“Our commitment doesn’t stop at Paterson,” Lester said at the time. “We are aiming to expand our services to Jersey City, Camden, Newark, Trenton and other cities going through the same situation.”
The 21-year-old victim of the Feb. 5 stabbing near the corner of Lake and Van Winkle avenues in Clifton was reported in stable condition at St. Joseph’s University Medical Center in Paterson, police said.
Lester, meanwhile, was taken into custody at a local hospital for treatment before being sent to Passaic County Jail to await his first appearance in Paterson Central Court Processing. He is charged with aggravated assault and weapons offences.
“It is not determined whether [Lester] against will prosecute the alleged victim in this case,” Jenkins said Thursday. “However, the NJ PAAIN legal team is reviewing the entire incident and all evidence before proceeding.”
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