02/27/14 8:01am
02/27/2014 8:01 AM
BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Former taxi driver Charlie, homeless since September, sits outside the Riverhead Free Library one recent afternoon.

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Former taxi driver Charlie, homeless since September, sits outside the Riverhead Free Library one recent afternoon.

On a recent weeknight, one Aquebogue church is barely visible from Main Road in the pitch dark.

But around back, the lights are on and 13 cars are parked in the rear lot, one van having just left. Inside Our Redeemer Lutheran Church, some of the area’s homeless are gearing up for a hot meal and warm place to stay.

Our Redeemer is just one of two houses of worship sheltering the homeless across the East End this night, part of a group of nearly 40 that unite each week during the winter — through local nonprofit Maureen’s Haven — to put a roof over the heads of the local homeless population.

It’s an effort that has required a heavier lift this year than in seasons past; Maureen’s Haven appears on track to serve more homeless this winter than ever before. After topping a previous high last season, housing 312 individuals over 108 nights, the organization has already served over 80 percent of that total this year, with nearly another month to go.

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11/08/13 5:00pm
11/08/2013 5:00 PM

TIM GANNON PHOTO | Bennett Brokaw (left), co-president of Bread and More, along with fellow volunteers Gerry Hamill (center) and Genny Yeoman, cook dinner at Riverhead Congregational Church in Sept. 2012.

Local charities that help the poor in Riverhead Town say they need help, too, as the number of homeless, hungry and elderly people in need of care continues to mount.

Those groups spoke at a public hearing Wednesday on federal Community Development Block Grants, which are allocated by the town to local charities on an annual basis, often to many of the same groups each year.

The town expects to have about $143,000 of grant money available this year, according to Chris Kempner, the town’s community development director.

Public service programs like the ones requesting help Wednesday can only receive a total of $25,000 and each individual grant must be for at least $5,000, she said.

“Public services include counseling, soup kitchens, senior services providing at least 51 percent of the funding for low to moderate income persons,” she said.

The Town Board will likely decide which programs to fund at its next meeting, Nov. 19. The deadline for submissions is Nov. 29, Ms. Kempner said.

Some of the charities seeking grant money included:

The Riverhead Community Awareness Program

CAP, as its more commonly called, has provided drug and alcohol prevention education to students in the Riverhead School District since 1982.

“Due to recent funding cuts, we have had to reduce staff and subsequently reduce our services in a time of increasing need,” said Shannon Kutner, a licensed clinical social worker with CAP, who works in the Phillips Avenue and Roanoke Avenue elementary schools.

“Roanoke Avenue Elementary School has the highest rate of poverty and poverty risk factors in Riverhead Town,” Ms. Kutner told the Town Board at Wednesday’s public hearing.

Ms. Kutner said that 62 percent of the students in Roanoke are eligible for free or reduced lunch, 68 percent belong to a minority group and 60 percent are economically disadvantaged, according to a report from the New York State Basic Educational Data System.

“In 2011, Roanoke Avenue saw a 10 percent increase in students and administrators report that at least 90 percent of those families were classified as low income,” she said.

The Dominican Sisters Family Health Service

The group provides assistance to frail elderly and disabled people of low to moderate income levels, according to Marianne Bogannam, the agency’s development manager for Suffolk County.

“Last year, we did close to 1,000 visits of seniors and disabled elderly in Riverhead,” Ms. Bogannam told the board.

The program, which Dominican Sisters have done for the past 19 years, employs workers who visit the homes of the elderly to do light housekeeping, change bed linens or go grocery shopping, she said.

“It sustains the seniors in their homes and keeps them from being prematurely placed in institutions,” she said.

The Open Arms Care Center and Project Care

The two programs run through the First Baptist Church of Riverhead, are also seeking a grant for their services, according to Zona Story, the chair of the group.

Open Arms runs a food pantry at the church and Project Care, which is done in conjunction with Peconic Bay Medical Center and the Federation of Organizations, provides free health screenings to home-bound seniors, clients of the food pantry, and seniors who frequent the town’s senior nutrition program, she said.

“This program is a lifeline for helping prevent hunger for many people in the community,” Ms. Story said. “The pantry serves approximately 500 households on a regular basis each year and about 1,200 individuals. We provide enough food for three meals a day for three days to each client.”

Bread and More soup kitchen

The kitchen operates three night a week at the First Congregational Church in Riverhead and has been in operation since the 1990s.

“On any given night, we serve between 80 and 125 meals, all made possible by staff that is solely volunteer,” said Judy Barth, one of the group’s leaders. “We offer an hour of warmth and caring to those whose lives are otherwise in chaos.”

Ms. Barth said Bread and More’s sources of income have dwindled in past years. They no longer receive grant money from the federal government, she said, and no longer receive supplemental money from the Interfaith Nutrition Network, as they had in the past.

“It is through private donations and this community block grant that we are still able to operate,” Ms. Barth said.

Maureen’s Haven

The group provides overnight shelter for the homeless in the winter, and is seeing a growing demand, according to its past chairman, Dwayne Wagner.

The group teams up with local churches on the East End to provide a place for the homeless to sleep. It has done so for the past 11 years.

“Last year, we had 312 individuals participating in our program,” Mr. Wagner told the Town Board.

It provided more than 5,000 beds that were made available over the winter in 32 churches on the East End, he said.

Maureen’s Haven also opened a new office in Riverhead in 2011.

East End Arts Council executive director Pat Snyder also requested block grant money to repair the handicapped ramp at the historic Benjamin House on its property.

tgannon@timesreview.com

03/18/13 5:00pm

KATHARINE SCHROEDER PHOTO | Skimpy bathing suits in March? These guys would do anything to help Maureen’s Haven.

On Saturday morning, Maureen’s Haven hosted its Annual Peconic Polar Plunge at The Wharf House at Founders Landing beach in Southold.

About three dozen people braved the chilly waters, plunging into the bay to help raise money for Maureen’s Haven, a year-round outreach providing shelter, support and compassionate services to homeless adults on the East End of Long Island.

02/13/12 10:30am
02/13/2012 10:30 AM

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Melissa Barrington, 31, of Riverhead broke down in tears as she told her story of becoming homeless to a reporter at the grand opening at the center last Thursday.

“I don’t want to be alone,” said 31-year-old Melissa Barrington. “Each day I wake up and it’s just me. It’s hard.”

Ms. Barrington is a client of Maureen’s Haven Homeless Outreach program, a Riverhead-based nonprofit organization that feeds, clothes and shelters homeless adults across the East End.

She came to Maureen’s Haven when difficulties with transportation and toting around her possessions prevented her from finishing her college degree. Despite the warm weather this winter, she said, “it’s still too cold to sleep in the car,” so she’s opted to stay with Maureen’s Haven until she can get back on her feet.

The organization, now celebrating its 10th year, has a brand-new day center on Lincoln Street that’s been a boon for those who, like Ms. Barrington, have nowhere to go during the day. She said she’s thankful for the food, the warmth of the building and, most important, the sense of community that Maureen’s Haven has offered her. The program, founded by East End nun Sister Maureen, who has since died, also has 15 host congregations on the East End.

Clients are transported to and from these churches for evening meals, hot showers, fresh clothes and a place to sleep.

Maureen’s Haven officials held a ribbon-cutting ceremony at the new day center last week.

“We were on East Main Street in an office complex that just wasn’t suited to our needs,” said the group’s executive director, Tracey Lutz. “We needed some open space.”

She said landlord Cynthia Fellows has been helpful to the organization, even putting “a partial kitchen in the back so our guests can prepare food or have coffee.” The new center is about a block away from Riverhead’s train station, Ms. Lutz said, making it more convenient for guests to access the buses that take them to and from host congregations in the morning and evenings.

She said screening clients for alcohol, drugs or weapons has also become easier. Before the day center, screening was done at the railroad station.

“With 40 or more homeless adults with all their bags and their stuff, it wasn’t really the most conducive way to do the screenings — and not very dignified. From a personal perspective, it was also very difficult for a staff person to screen people in the harsh weather, especially when people’s behavior might get a little more intense waiting to get screened after spending all day in the elements,” Ms. Lutz said.

But Maureen’s Haven is not just about getting fed and staying warm in the winter, said Ms. Barrington, who was on hand at the ribbon-cutting to talk about the work the organization does for people like her.

Among the programs offered at the new day center are Spanish and English computer skills, yoga, employment assistance, job coaching and even support groups, which have become important to Ms. Barrington.

“I really don’t even talk to that many people because I don’t have a lot of friends,” she said. “I realized I started trusting in all the wrong people, letting people know my business and all it did was backfire in my face because they really didn’t care about me. Here, it’s different.”

Ms. Barrington said the women’s support group, led by board vice chairperson Joann Piche, is “awesome.”

“It’s not structured like other groups, where you’re forced to talk about a specific subject. It’s more of a free-for-all,” she said, adding the group has fostered a sense of community among its participants. “They say three heads are bigger than one and I feel like if people pull together instead of pulling apart, it’ll be a lot better,” she said.

gvolpe@timesreview.com

02/12/12 1:45pm
02/12/2012 1:45 PM

As temperatures hovered near 20 degrees, dozens of brave souls dunked themselves into Peconic Bay in Mattituck Sunday morning to raise money for Maureen’s Haven Homeless Outreach. The organization is a branch of the Peconic Community Council and provides temporary housing, hot meals and personal items to people in need on the East End.

Maureen’s Haven chairman Dwayne Wagner said he appreciated all of the support and predicted that this year’s plunge raised considerably more money than previous fundraisers.

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KATHARINE SCHROEDER PHOTO | Local residents participating in the Peconic Plunge fundraiser for Maureen's Haven on Sunday.