The Young Women's Christian Association (Y.W.C.A.) of Jersey City was founded on March 13, 1905. It was in response to an appeal by young working women at Colgate & Company to the National Association to provide housing in a wholesome environment as it had in other industrialized cities. From its first meeting at the Jersey City Free Public Library, the Jersey City membership grew from 168 charter members to 550 members in one year.
The Jersey City "Y" purchased property at 10 Wayne Street and then removed to 91 Mercer Street in 1907. Its services combined Christian fellowship with residence room as well as an educational program offering classes from bible study to physical education. During World War I, the National War Council financially assisted the "Y" with the operations of its several branches including one in the Hudson City section, another at 43 Belmont Avenue and a Colored [sic] Branch at 31 Ege Avenue. After the war, the "Y" was on its own to raise money for a larger facility required for its growing number of members. Two campaigns in the 1920s raised $1,200,000 to construct a new building at 270 Fairmount Avenue. One of its major benefactors was Col. Austin Colgate, a grandson of Colgate's founder William Colgate. Dedicated on January 22, 1928, the new women's "Y" was five-stories high on Fairmount Avenue and eleven-stories high on Storms Avenue.
The mission of the Y.W.C.A. took a special interest in the needs of women facing poverty, homelessness and unemployment. Vocational training was emphasized during the lean years of the Depression so that women could contribute to the income of their families. During World War II, the women's "Y" expanded its residence program to house women workers entering the city to work in national defense plants. It also hosted a USO canteen program for the servicemen. The postwar decades expanded the work of the "Y" to help single mothers and children. It developed a program for homeless families, offering meals, counseling, and a 24-hour hot line as well as a shelter for battered women at an undisclosed location.
The additional residences for women were the brick row houses at 136-138 Grant Avenue and apartments buildings at 240 Bergen Avenue and 169 Martin Luther King Drive. In the 1980s the Y.W.C.A. found it could not financially continue its mission to provide housing for single working women; it then decided to revamp its properties into affordable rental housing for senior citizens and the handicapped as a community resource. Funding for the renovation of the properties came from grants, such as the Jersey City Redevelopment Agency's Rental Rehabilitation Program, and from loans, such as the Hudson County Affordable Housing Trust Fund. In 1987 the Fairmount Housing Corporation, a wholly owned subsidiary of Women Rising, Inc., was formed to oversee the properties.
In 1989, the Y.W.C.A. in Jersey City merged its programs with the "Y" in Bayonne at 44 West 32nd Street to become the Y.W.C.A. of Hudson County, but it was short-lived. Today, the former single women's residence in Bayonne is an apartment residence for the elderly and the handicapped. The Y.W.C.A. of Jersey City on Fairmount Avenue became Women Rising, Inc.: Programs for Women and Families, a nonprofit community-based agency. With the Fairmount Housing Corporation, its goal is to provide permanent affordable housing and programs for women. It also has a domestic violence shelter in the city, assisting women in Hudson County.
The 25th Anniversary: 25 Years of Growth;The Y.W.C.A. of Jersey City. Jersey City, NJ: Collins Doan Company, 1930.
Courtney, Marian. "Profile: Jersey City's Fairmount Housing Corporation." Housing New Jersey April 1993.
Women Rising, Inc. http://www.womenrising.org