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The Work We Do: Maryann Gensler, Maureen’s Haven executive director

My name is Maryann Gensler and I’m the executive director of Maureen’s Haven homeless outreach program.

I have to wear a lot of hats, as you can imagine. I have to attend to just regular business things like checking email, checking messages on the phone, paying the bills, but of course my favorite thing is to encounter the guests that come.

We have this year-round day center, so anyone can come for food and clothing and case management services. We do a lot of work in that way.

We do sort of work in a clinical way, but mostly we accompany people. We’re with them and that’s really the most reasonable way to be with this population. They’re so used to being rejected or spoken down to or a demand put on them in some way.

We pride ourselves on really being a haven. It’s a safe place. We work with over 20 houses of worship.

I really do love the population and love to be with them. I have the heart of a social worker, really.

Maryann Gensler. (Credit: Kelly Zegers)

I’ve been a person my whole life that just ended up helping people. It’s just what happened. I remember being a little kid witnessing some injustice and being like, “That’s not right. You can’t do that.”

To be honest, my immediate reaction is always — I can’t help it — this is somebody’s daughter, this is somebody’s son.

Whatever their circumstances, you find out that they’re doing it to survive.

If somebody’s homeless, life’s really bad. I mean if you just think about one of the things we need as humans is shelter and to have at least that space, that firm ground; without that everything’s disordered.

We have to take care of people better. What really makes me flip out is when I see young people come here. We’ve had an influx of young people.

There’s a lot of sadness, but there’s also a lot of gladness, too, because what other organization can say they have 1,500 volunteers — people who really give themselves over to another, stay overnight, make meals, set up the beds, make sure they’re comfortable. Sometimes a guest might be sick, nurse them back to health.

It’s an incredible thing to witness.

‘The Work We Do’ is a News-Review multimedia project profiling workers on the North Fork. This weekly feature is made possible by Peconic Landing. See more photos on Instagram @riverheadnewsreview.