The Gateway Family YMCA Returns to its Roots to Focus on Housing During the COVID-19 Pandemic

NJHI 2018: Upstream Action Acceleration Pulling Together: All Voices Heard and Count!

This is an unprecedented time in our nation’s history, and everyone is facing uncertainty as we move through this COVID-19 pandemic. Children, families, and seniors are afraid to leave their homes, social distancing and isolation have become the new normal, and everyone is concerned for the health of their loved ones. It’s at times like this that our work at the “Y” is more important than ever.

When The Gateway Family YMCA began in 1900, our mission was to provide wholesome housing and activities for young men leaving their families and immigrating to Elizabeth, NJ, at the turn of the 20th Century. At the time, we could rent out only 12 rooms above Parson’s Drug Store for this purpose. While our programs and services have expanded beyond that, housing remains a main focus of our social responsibility efforts to this day. That is why we have focused our response efforts on the housing programs we provide to Union County, NJ residents.


The Gateway Family YMCA currently houses more than 300 individuals, families, and veterans in our emergency shelter, transitional housing, and supportive housing programs. Located throughout Union County, these 24-hour programs provide all of our residents with around-the-clock security, staff assistance in accessing benefits according to eligibility requirements, and access to a food pantry they can use to supplement their grocery budgets. Each day, single men and women, pregnant women, women with children, mothers recovering from addiction with infants/toddlers, veterans, and disabled individuals are finding shelter through our programs.

This work would be impossible without our #HousingHeroes – the staff working tirelessly to ensure the people we house have increased meal and food pantry access and emergency homeless shelter assistance. Our colleagues provide these services in addition to their regular work assisting our resident families every day. They are helping us provide a service that is more necessary today than ever before, and their strength and support is felt by every resident.

While the world may be unpredictable, one thing remains certain – the “Y” is, and always will be, dedicated to building healthy, confident, connected and secure children, adults, families and communities. Our commitment to our mission remains strong and our thoughts are with the people we serve with every decision we make.

If you know of someone who is experiencing homelessness and in need of shelter, please contact NJ 2-1-1. 

We WILL get through this TOGETHER!

Captions, top to bottom: The Gateway Family YMCA, Elizabeth Branch; The Gateway Family YMCA, Madison Ave Housing Buildings; A YMCA Resident Receiving Meals; One of The Gateway Family YMCA’s #HousingHeroes.

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Rachel Niemczyk
The Gateway Family YMCA