Union City officials to open shelter for future fire victims

Posted: Updated:
UNION CITY -

Union City officials held a ribbon-cutting Thursday night for a newly renovated building that they hope they will never have to actually use.

The new building will be used to provide temporary shelter for families who have lost their homes to fire.

"Honestly, driving around the city as much as I do, one night I said ‘We have an empty firehouse. Let’s create it into a shelter.’ And that's how it started."

The newly renovated building will now be a safe haven for families who have lost everything. It has 36 beds, four bathrooms, two kitchens and two laundry rooms. Security cameras and a posted policeman provide around-the-clock security. 

The renovations cost $1 million, to be paid through a bond and city grant money.

The facility is a big help for the Red Cross, whose job it is to help fire victims with shelter.

"I've never seen anything like this from a municipality,” says Red Cross’ Claudio Perez.

Union City doesn't have any hotels, so families are often put up at the Howard Johnson’s in North Bergen. The city has to bus those children to school. Now they'll be closer to school and home.

The Red Cross says it hopes this permanent shelter for fire victims catches on in other municipalities.

Union City is leasing the building from the North Hudson Regional Fire Department for $1.

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