What was life like in 1965, when North Hudson Community Action was started?
In 1965, a new house cost about $6,450 and rent for a two-bedroom apartment averaged $118 a month. A mid-sized new car cost $2,650 and gas was only 31 cents a gallon. A loaf of bread cost 21 cents, but wages were low, too.
The U.S. launched the first Gemini spacecraft. The Beatles and the Rolling Stones hit the peak of popularity, and Martin Luther King, Jr. was marching on Selma. Muhammed Ali defeated Sonny Liston and Sandy Koufax pitched a perfect game against the Chicago Cubs. The war in Viet Nam was raging and cities were blazing with race riots, peace demonstrations, and college protests.
President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act and later the Social Security Act of 1965, creating Medicare and Medicaid and calling for a “War on Poverty.”
At the time, the national poverty rate was estimated to be about 19 percent. In response to the President’s declaration, Congress passed the Economic Opportunity Act, establishing the Office of Economic Opportunity to administer the local application of federal funds targeted to end poverty. Funds were chiefly aimed at improving health, housing and education for low-income people and finding jobs for all willing and able to work.
Head Start was created, along with the Job Corps, Vista and a host of programs tailored to meet the needs of local populations. In the next ten years, the national poverty rate dropped to 11 percent and it has hovered between that low number and a high of about 15 percent ever since. Despite the many critics of subsidized health care and social programs, a 2013 study published by Columbia University asserts that without this social safety net, the poverty rate would have been 29 percent in 2012.
In Hudson County, with the encouragement and financial assistance of the North Hudson Council of Mayors, local leaders applied for and received the first of many federal grants to fight poverty. North Hudson Community Action Corporation came into existence to determine the needs of the Hudson community and to develop ways to meet those needs.
Since those early days, North Hudson has expanded in size and scope, adjusting to the changing needs of changing populations, always seeking support and funding to enable its neighbors to make better lives for themselves and their families.
It all began with Head Start in 1965, then a Maternity and Family Planning Clinic a few years later. Next came Project SHAPE offering help to elderly persons, the WIC program for women, infants and children and an emergency food and shelter program, along with transitional housing for homeless families.
In 1996 when the first North Hudson health center was opened, the corporation made a huge leap to help thousands of individuals and families who could not afford basic health care. Since then, North Hudson health care expanded into Bergen and Passaic Counties, providing services at 11 sites, and will open its 12th early next year. All the health centers earned Joint Commission accreditation and designation as Primary Care Medical Homes.
Meanwhile, Head Start expanded to include Early Head Start Programs for infants and toddlers, and job counseling and housing counseling services were added. A special program to assist homeless veterans and their families and the Homes for Heroes in Union City complement health and education services.
Over the past 50 years North Hudson Community Action Corporation has racked up scores of citations and awards for outstanding service and accountability, but perhaps none are more important than comments from our patients and clients telling us how we have helped them improve their lives.