For almost 40 years since 1981, the Elizabeth Coalition to House the Homeless has been a leader serving the homeless and poor in Union County, New Jersey. We provide a safety net to over 2,500 individuals every year with emergency shelter, homelessness prevention, and comprehensive services that help families work toward self-sufficiency. We have expanded our services to include treating the root causes and impacts of housing instability and have created cutting edge programs that have been adopted by several agencies throughout the State.
We work closely with our “sister agency”, St. Joseph Social Service Center to meet the needs of the poor in Union County. The symbiotic relationship with St Joseph’s is a true partnership, started well before the idea of collaboration became popular. By providing a full range of complimentary services and programs, the two agencies have woven together a safety net that helps community residents meet their most basic needs. Today, the agencies continue to operate together, sharing space and clients out of a complex in Elizabeth. However, the agencies are separate 501(c)(3) legal entities with their own staff, board of directors, and funding sources.
Together, Elizabeth Coalition to House the Homeless and St. Joseph Social Service Center provides seamless wraparound services for the poor and the homeless in our community.
A Brief Timeline
1981: The Elizabeth Coalition to House the Homeless is formed to address the unmet needs of the homeless in Elizabeth. A true coalition of concerned individuals and organizations, the agency advocates for support services, shelters, and affordable housing. St. Joseph Social Center is formed to provide food and clothing.
1983: The Coalition hires its’ first paid staff person, an advocate/case manager.
1986: The Coalition launches the children’s program for homeless youth, later named Bernice’s Place. The program provides after-school tutoring, recreation, and a summer day camp. The Coalition also works closely with Legal Services of New Jersey to bring about new legislation establishing the right of homeless children to an education.
1987: The Coalition opens its first Hospitality House for working homeless families. The transitional supportive housing program is modeled after the houses of hospitality run by Dorothy Day of the Catholic Worker Movement.
1990: A second Hospitality House is opened.
1998: The Coalition formalizes its Community Education Program to address the changes in the welfare system and to educate people about their rights and responsibilities as tenants.
2003: Operation Warm Heart is opened in response to the death of a homeless woman in Elizabeth on Christmas Day, 2002. Led by the Elizabeth Coalition, various churches and local organizations come together to provide emergency winter shelter to the homeless.
2006: Construction is completed on our third Hospitality House. The program now serves a total of seven working families at any given time.
2011: The Coalition celebrates its 30th Anniversary. Our programs continue to serve thousands of clients annually. While we celebrate the past, we also continue to work for a future when everyone has safe and affordable housing.
2015: The Coalition began a year-round outreach with homeless individuals living on the street, extending our winter sheltering program, Operation Warm Heart.
2017: The Coalition started the Permanent Housing Initiative program, where we provide safe, affordable rental housing opportunities for families.
2019: Bernice’s Place purchased a 16-passenger school bus to transport children to and from the after-school and summer programs.