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Bob Makin, Bridgewater Courier News Published 5:00 a.m. ET March 22, 2020
Lisa Blum, Executive Director of HomeSharing at The People Care Center based in Bridgewater. (Photo: Suzanne Russell/staff photo)
During the COVID-19 crisis, HomeSharing is seeing increased Central Jersey housing needs. For help, call 908-526-4663 .
Bridgewater Courier News
Two Central Jersey nonprofits are working to meet growing housing concerns during the COVID-19 crisis and need donations to continue their services, leaders said.
Bridgewater-based HomeSharing matches housing providers with seekers to help to prevent homelessness. In the past week, HomeSharing has seen an increase in business, Executive Director Lisa Blum said.
Meanwhile, Gateway Family YMCA has increased resources to continue to provide essential housing and social services in Plainfield, as well as Elizabeth, according to a statement.
“Every day, we’re seeing an influx of providers and seekers,” said Blum, whose four-member staff has been working remotely since March 17.
““Our commitment to the community remains strong, as we understand the vital need for shelter of those who remain homeless during this worldwide health crisis,” Gateway Family YMCA CEO Krystal R. Canady said. “This is what we do every day, and we intend to continue to support our vulnerable population 24 hours a day through this uncertain time, following official recommendations. If you are in need of emergency housing, please contact NJ 211”
While working remotely, the HomeSharing staff has been conducting even more screenings of seekers and providers with a greater emphasis on health conditions, said Blum, a Highland Park resident. Initial home visits are now virtual via live walk-through videos shared by providers, she said.
Blum said she was surprised to see more seekers and providers willing to share residences despite the COVID-19 outbreak.
“Our providers of are the highest-risk group, seniors,” she said. “They or their children are calling because they would like someone in the house for companionship and errands. One of our youngest providers is also a senior, but she was just laid off after an entire career with a New York retailer that closed.
“Seekers are not having the ability to work remotely, and because their offices are closing don’t have any income,” Blum continued. “They’re looking for a more affordable housing solution. I had fully expected people would be hesitant about home sharing due to bringing someone into the home. I was surprised to see how many people’s financial, practical and emotional needs were taking precedence over what might be their health concerns.”
With an increased need for emergency shelter, Gateway Family YMCA has targeted its focus to ensure 24-hour housing services remain fully operational with precautions as directed by government and health officials to protect residents and staff, the organization said in a statement.
The nonprofit has been providing residential housing services for those in need for 119 years, Canady added.
“The Gateway Family YMCA has a history of responding to the needs of our local community,” she said.
“The work we are doing makes such a difference in the lives of those we serve every day,” added Chief Operating Officer Melynda A. Mileski. “Each evening, we host approximately 300 individuals who call the YMCA home. At this time, our focus is on the health and safety of our current housing residents and staff members in all facilities, including those who may join us because of a current need.”
In Plainfield, Gateway Family YMCA provides the Dudley House Veterans Transitional Housing program, Board President James Masterson said.
The Dudley House is designed as a residential housing program with supportive wrap around social services programs specifically to address the unique needs of resident veterans, Masterson said.
“Many are in the most vulnerable category of this health crisis,” he said. “It is imperative that we continue to serve our residents and those in need to and support their health and safety.”
In Elizabeth, Gateway provides six emergency, transitional and supportive housing programs, housed within multiple residence facilities operated by the Y, said Theresa McCoy, senior director of housing.
These programs include a men’s dormitory, women’s dormitory, Madison House, Project Sustain, Step-Up Transitional housing and low cost, affordable housing for individuals and families, McCoy said.
“The Y provides emergency, transitional, supportive and permanent affordable housing opportunities along with wraparound social services focusing on employment preparation, life skills and case management,” she said. “At this time, we are focused on individual basic needs, such as shelter, food and health support.”
Throughout the local community, Gateway Family YMCA provides a Supportive Housing Program to assist disabled, homeless individuals and families in the transition from homelessness to permanent housing. Participants are provided with apartments in the community, as well as additional services.
In response to increased costs for food, supplies, cleaning and staffing, Gateway Family YMCA is accepting donations to support its housing programs at tgfymca.org/donate/ .
“We had a fundraiser scheduled for March 13 that was canceled and another in May that likely will be canceled,” Blum said. “They are two of three fundraisers that account for one-third of our budget. The other is in September.”
To make a donation to HomeSharing, click HomeSharing.org/donation/ .