With winter fast approaching and chilly weather already here, the homeless people of the East End have one option beside the county’s Social Services department for temporary shelter if they can’t find a place warm to say overnight.
Maureen’s Haven in Riverhead coordinates a network of 18 rotating “host facilities” at places of worship on the North and South Forks, from Riverhead and Westhampton to Greenport and East Hampton, including Chris Episcopal Church in Sag Harbor, which receives support in its work from Temple Adas Israel and the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of the South Fork.
The church most recently hosted 10 people overnight from Sunday to Monday, November 25 to 26, and is scheduled to host the last Sunday night of the month through the winter, according to Rev. Karen Campbell of Christ Episcopal Church.
“Guests,” as clients are called, must first be screened at the Maureen’s Haven office, and then are driven to whichever host facility is open for the night, where volunteers chaperone and do the set-up, the cooking and the clean-up, according to Maureen’s Haven executive director Dan O’Shea.
Host sites have operated from November 1 through March 30 in past years but this winter they will serve through April because of last year’s sharply raw early spring weather, Mr. O’Shea said.
Maureen’s Haven is the only homeless advocacy group on the East End, operating last year on revenues of about $296,000, 77 percent of which came from contributions.
Looking to reaffirm its connections on the South Fork, Maureen’s Haven will hold its first “winter benefit and celebration” in Southampton from 6 to 9 p.m. on Saturday, December 1 at Seasons of Southampton restaurant at 15 Prospect Street. The event will include “light bites,” a complimentary glass of wine, a silent auction and dancing to the music of DJ Michael and East End Entertainment. Tickets are $50 and may be purchased on line at winterbenefit.brownpapertickets.com.
Rev. Campbell said the proceeds from the benefit will be divided up among the host facilities for expenses, such as replacing damaged or worn out blow-up beds and washing bedding, which costs as much as $300 a night. Volunteers provide and prepare the food served at the church. Last Sunday, teens over age 16 from Temple Adas Israel set up and made the beds for the incoming guests and women from the temple knitted scarves that they presented in gift bags.
The Temple received a grant from the Village of Sag Harbor last year to buy new blow up beds, Rev. Campbell said. Volunteers are need at her church in Sag Harbor, she said, especially to help with the clean-up on Monday mornings. Call the church office at (631) 725-0128 for details.
Maureen’s Haven is named after Dominican Sister Maureen Michael, who attempted to launch an outreach program for the East End’s homeless in the 1990s but passed away before succeeding. In 2002, “Kay Kidde came along and organized the Peconic Community Council,” Mr. O’Shea said, of which Maureen’s Haven is a part. Ms. Kidde funded the program’s day center at 10 Lincoln Street in Riverhead, where Maureen’s Haven provides guidance and services for the homeless and screens guests before overnight stays.
Full-time employees are Mr. O’Shea and program manager Jennifer Troiano. There is a part-time case manager and a part-time social worker as well as part-time drivers who take people to host facilities.
Mr. O’Shea said last year about 100 people used the winter shelter program, for which “2,498 beds were made” over the course of the winter at the various host sites, Mr. O’Shea said. Hundreds of volunteers help throughout the season at the host sites. On any particularly cold winter night, “our capacity is about 30 guests across the North and South Forks,” Mr. O’Shea said. The service is offered five nights a week through the season; two nights a week (Tuesdays and Thursdays), John’s Place at the Mattituck Presbyterian Church provides separate hosting services in association with the Episcopal Church of the Redeemer in Mattituck.