Plainfield, NJ – Meet Jessica[1], a 44-year-old mother of three who was trapped in an abusive relationship. When an order of protection couldn’t ensure her safety and peace of mind, she went on the run fearing for her life. But with no place to go, Jessica moved from town to town and slept in her car to evade her abuser. A local social services agency gave her a long list of resources that eventually led Jessica to Homefirst. It was the only place on that long list that offered Jessica the support she needed to get a new start.

At Homefirst, Jessica was able to speak with a bilingual Family Engagement Specialist who helped her get temporary housing, a mailing address to receive mail, a job, food, and placement on a waiting list for permanent housing. Once Jessica was stabilized, the Family Engagement Specialist made regular follow-up calls and visits to check up on her.

Jessica’s story is just one of many Homefirst can tell about individuals and families who, with our help, were able to pull victory out of tragedy. However, this process of support has now escalated.  Calls to Homefirst have skyrocketed from people who don’t have rent money, to families in dire need of shelter and food. 

This is why Homefirst has established a COVID-19 Emergency Relief Fund.  The COVID-19 pandemic has made matters much worse.  The doors at Homefirst are open wide to all of those in need, but at a distance.  And the calls for food and shelter have skyrocketed.

The launch of the Homefirst COVID-19 Emergency Relief Fund taskforce was initiated by a group of concerned supporters who came together, via a Zoom meeting, to discuss ways they could support Homefirst.  As members of the taskforce, we thank Nelson Espeland of Allstate New Jersey, Scotch Plains and Reinaldo Cruz of  Northfield Bank, who each contributed $2,500. Our friends, Armando Guerra of Lions Club International, a local realtor and previous Homefirst Hero recipient, donated $500 and Anita Fickenberger of Shackamaxon County Club of Scotch Plains for donating over 50 PPE masks to Homefirst as they continue to meet with clients during limited operating hours.

Donations are much more than dollars for our families. They are life-changing acts of kindness that directly affect the children, parents, and other individuals we serve.  Homefirst was able to move families from hotels to permanent housing and buy food for over 200 families between March to present.  

We have had to redesign our operations to work remotely, updating our computer encryption services to handle applications and adhering to confidentiality requirements.  We purchased a laptop to continue remote on-line paperwork for new clients on a secured line. 

In the face of this unfolding crisis, we believe that it is more critical than ever to come together.  We are heartened by the way our community is responding and encouraged by the number of individuals, business owners, staff, and volunteers that have come to our aid.  While the current COVID-19 outbreak is dramatically impacting the lives of all Union County residents, the homeless and those at-risk of homelessness are particularly vulnerable, as they have much higher rates of serious underlying health problems, generally lack access to quality health care, and have no way to self-quarantine.  The situation is further exacerbated because many food pantries are strained leaving many of our neighbors facing food insecurity. 

The reality is the homeless population is suffering. 

Please help us continue to provide a new start to those who rely on our services. Please make a generous donation to Homefirst.

Homefirst core activities include:

  • Homeless Prevention: provides resources (“where to go” or “how to apply”), including direct financial assistance, to families and individuals facing eviction, foreclosure, or utility shut-off.
  • Family Support: provides direct support to families such as food, cleaning products, soap, diapers, etc.
  • Housing Case Management: provides case management and one-on-one counseling to families, or victims of domestic violence in our housing programs.

The Homefirst COVID-19 Emergency Relief Fund was established to:

  • Supplement our existing emergency direct assistance program.
  • Provide additional food bags or supermarket gift cards to individuals and families in need.
  • House families in temporary emergency shelters while Homefirst finds permanent housing.

Here’s how members of the community can help:

[1] Name changed protected for privacy