Things turned cold on the East End this week. Real cold. By the time the sun went down on Tuesday, the wind was howling and the windows in many a house rattled in their frames throughout the night as a result.
But imagine if you’re among the unfortunate 400 or more individuals living on the East End who don’t have a place to call home. Have you ever wondered what they do on nights like this?
For these people, passing the night generally means hunkering down wherever they can in a spot that seems sheltered, secluded and safe. It could be under a porch, next to some hedges, or behind a business. And in the morning, if they haven’t been roused from their spot in the wee hours, there’s always the question of where they’ll go when the sun sets again that evening.
But fortunately, there is Maureen’s Haven. This non-profit organization is staffed by hundreds of volunteers dedicated to providing the East End homeless population on both the North and South Forks with a safe and comfortable place to pass the night in the area’s houses of worship or community houses.
When Maureen’s Haven, which had been operating primarily on the North Fork for seven years, began on the South Fork last year, though members of many churches and temples signed on immediately to help in the effort, there was only one church able to house the clients and then, only two nights a month.
It has taken some time to coordinate the components and iron out the details but now, the program is in full swing with host churches participating from East Hampton to Greenport. From November 1 to March 1, Maureen’s Haven provides the homeless with a safe place to sleep every night. Individuals in need are picked up at locations throughout the East End and transported to the places where they will spend the night. They are given a hot meal, a shower, warm clothes and the chance to enjoy a movie or just relax in a comfortable bed. In the morning, they are given breakfast, a lunch to go and are taken back to where they were picked up.
The fact that Maureen’s Haven is able to offer this level of service every night in the coldest months of the year is to be applauded. The fact that they do it while also treating their guests with the utmost respect and dignity is inspiring. In fact, Maureen’s Haven has become something of a community in and of itself. And come Christmas Eve, the guests will be invited to settle in for the night a little earlier than usual and will even be invited to watch the church’s Christmas pageant. If that doesn’t embody the spirit of the season, we don’t know what does.