Tag Archive | "Maureen’s Haven"

In From The Cold

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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.

Old Whalers May be Haven for Homeless

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By Marianna Levine

Last Thursday, interim pastor James Cardone, of Sag Harbor’s First Presbyterian (Old Whalers’) Church gathered together members of various Sag Harbor religious congregations to discuss the possibility of hosting a Maureen’s Haven Shelter one night a week at his church.

A few weeks earlier, the East Hampton Methodist Church had called a similar meeting, to announce it was hosting the temporary shelter one night a week and to seek the aid — either financial or in service — of local churches in order to make Maureen’s Haven possible in East Hampton.

The East Hampton meeting was meant to call together congregations in East Hampton and Montauk, but it was the Sag Harbor community which really turned out in full force, leading Cardone to think perhaps his village could take on another night to house the homeless of the East End. He was prompted by the concern he had for the people he saw sleeping in the Old Burying Ground next to his church.

A dozen or so people came to the Sag Harbor meeting including representatives from Temple Adas Israel, the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of the South Fork, Christ Episcopal Church, and St. Andrew’s Catholic Church. Also in attendance was the Peconic Community Council’s executive director Peter Saros, PCC’s board chair Prudence Carabine, and Maureen’s Haven Program Director Dennis Yuen. The PCC is an umbrella organization founded in 1976 that oversees health and human service groups in eastern Suffolk County. 

Saros, Carabine, and Yuen distributed leaflets and offered a documentary about the program which buses homeless men and women, ages 18 and over, to local churches for temporary shelter. The purpose of the program is to provide the area’s homeless population with a hot meal, a warm shower, a bed, breakfast and perhaps some dignity to endure the cold winter months.

Carabine explained the program’s guests have three designated pick-up and screening areas — one in Greenport, another in Riverhead, and a third in Hampton Bays. East Hampton may become a new pickup point this fall.

The program uses paid, professional screeners who search for any harmful weapons or substances, as well as for inappropriate behavior. They also perform Breathalyzer tests on prospective clients for the safety of the volunteers as well as the other guests. 

“Most people are very nice, appropriate, and very thankful they have a place that is clean and safe to sleep in,” Carabine added.

Yuen said by building a program on the South Fork, the community would enable homeless people to stay locally and not have to go further west to find help. At the moment, homeless people in the Hamptons are having trouble getting transportation to the pick up points and therefore are sleeping in cars in parking lots or in the woods. He did say it would take a while to make the program successful. 

“The community needs to identify the people and build their trust,” said Yuen who cautioned the church might only have a few people coming in the beginning.

The program has been running at about 30 eastern Long Island churches (mainly on the North Fork) successfully since 2002, and is named for Sister Maureen Michael, a Dominican nursing sister who lived in Hampton Bays and provided care for the homeless.

The meeting at the Old Whalers’ Church ended with community members voicing concern about the logistics of hosting the program both in East Hampton and in Sag Harbor. Janet Grossman of Temple Adas Israel suggested all houses of worship try to fundraise over the summer when there are more resources to tap, and perhaps East Hampton and Sag Harbor could share resources such as air mattresses that could be carted back and forth.

Suzanne Preim of Christ Episcopal Church said their church is already committed to assisting the Methodist Church in East Hampton and wasn’t sure if there were enough resources in the community to support both efforts. However she did admit, “The Whalers’ Church has a lot of space and a lovely big kitchen to use.” 

“Homelessness can happen to anyone — many of us may be just a paycheck or relationship away from being homeless,” said Carabine who went on to explain that some of the people the program serves are actually holding jobs or are young college students turned out by their parents.  

 

Local Churches Poised to Provide Havens to Homeless

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By Marianna Levine

 

With a jaw-dropping 13.2 million unemployed people now residing in the U.S., according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, it comes as no surprise that more people, including residents of the affluent East End of Long Island, are living homeless and hungry. Thankfully there are many religious and secular organizations eager to help. However, when the make-shift “soup kitchen” at the Southampton Tire Center was shut down by the Village of Southampton last Wednesday, well-meaning citizens realized that a simple desire to help those less fortunate may not be enough.

Helping the needy will take proper planning and leadership, and the situation is urgent, according to artist and Bridgehampton resident Jon Snow.

“My God, this is an emergency,” he exclaimed. “The food pantries can’t keep their shelves stocked.”

And community members of such organizations as the Bridgehampton CAC as well as area churches are concerned it will only get worse in the fall.

Due to increased financial need on the East End, affordable housing advocate Barbara Jordon, with the help of the United Methodist Church of East Hampton, where she is a member, gave a presentation on Maureen’s Haven, a nation-wide program that provides occasional shelter for the homeless, to several members of religious congregations in East Hampton and Sag Harbor last Tuesday night.

Jordan explained the program asks area churches to provide an overnight stay including a hot meal, a place to wash, and other things such as AA meetings, doctor’s visits, and clothes to the area’s homeless during the winter months. People are only allowed into the program after they have been searched and screened for drugs, alcohol, and unstable behavior.

According to Jordan, “There are about 500 homeless people in this area, and many are middle-class people who are working but living in their vehicles. Some may be camping out in the woods or on friends’ sofas.”

With all this in mind she asked area congregations to support her in setting-up a branch of Maureen’s Haven in East Hampton, and possibly Sag Harbor.

Suzanne Preim, a member of Christ Episcopal Church in Sag Harbor attended the meeting with fellow member Kathy Tucker, in order to see how their congregation may help Jordan. Although their church isn’t officially involved yet, the ladies thought their church might help by volunteering their time to such a shelter.

Kathy Montaldo, the coordinator for social ministry and stewardship at St. Andrew’s Catholic Church in Sag Harbor, also went to the presentation.

“[Jordan] certainly lit a light for us here,” she said. “[East Hampton Methodist] can only host people two nights a month, but what about the other 28 nights.”

Montaldo hoped all the religious communities in Sag Harbor will come together to provide something of this sort in the village, noting that Rev. James Cardone, of the Old Whaler’s Church, who also attended, wants to take charge of the effort in Sag Harbor.

Leah Oppenheimer, the Hebrew School teacher at Temple Adas Israel has said the temple is also committed in helping out in anyway they can. The Hebrew School has already provided toys and other essential items to a family in need over the past year.

Linda Dickerson who has been coordinating a Maureen’s Haven at the Southampton Presbyterian Church for the past four years, notes “This year we’ve seen a very big increase in the number of guests we serve. Now we serve between 35-65 people a night.”

She explains about 50 percent of the volunteers who help with the overnight stays are non-church members. Because it takes a lot of money and volunteers to run the program, the church had to stop providing the overnight stays every Saturday and now make it available only every other week despite the increased need.

Not all the good-will and aid is happening through religious organizations. Lorraine Pepper of Sag Harbor has been hosting Saturday afternoon gatherings in order to collect donations for the local food pantry.

Snow, who was one of a group of former Obama for America volunteers who hoped to set up a soup kitchen in Bridgehampton, went so far as to get proper food certification through the Suffolk County Department of Health in order to serve hot food to the hungry. However, he stresses that it was a well-intended yet long and bureaucratic process. He suggests those already in the food industry should handle running some sort of food service for the hungry.

“There ought to be some sort of five East End towns task force for this led by people who are food professionals, and who already have food certification,” he suggested.

Chris Talbot, the Southampton Village Building Inspector who closed down the soup kitchen last week explained despite the tire center’s good intention, the business wasn’t zoned for food service.

“Had McDonald’s or the 7-Eleven wanted to do this there would have been no problem,” said Talbot.

He did note that if anyone wants to do something of this nature, and they don’t know what is required, they should, “Come in and ask us. We are here to help make it easier for people to do the right thing.”

Within the next two weeks, Pastor Jim Cardone of Old Whalers Church is hoping to call and host a meeting of Sag Harbor’s religious and community groups to address the homeless situation in the village itself. He says the homeless situation isn’t really hidden as far as he is concerned.

“As I look out of my office window onto the old cemetery at the end of the day, I can see a few people setting up cardboard shelters and settling in for the night.”