Ossining Emergency Shelter
The Ossining Emergency Shelter Project is designed to provide overnight shelter, dinner, breakfast and a bag lunch to homeless individuals in our community during the coldest months. It is modeled on the successful Emergency Shelter Partnership based in Mt. Kisco, NY, and is now a branch of the ESP program.
Homelessness has been recognized by our local churches, the police, social service agencies and the public library as an increasing problem in Ossining. The current apartment vacancy rate in Ossining is very low, driving up rental fees and making it virtually impossible to find housing, particularly for day laborers, minimum wage and even middle income workers. Families double and triple up in unsafe housing, and a number of people are sporadically or permanently homeless, particularly among immigrant day laborers and those suffering from mental illness.
Trinity Episcopal Church in Ossining, with support from St. Paul’s-on-the-Hill, IFCA Housing Network and several other congregations successfully hosted the shelter as a pilot project for three weeks during the winter of 2015-2016. Other congregations and organizations that assisted included Scarborough Presbyterian Church, Briarcliff Congregational Church, Temple Israel of Northern Westchester, the Ethical Society of Northern Westchester and the Girl Scouts.
The shelter assisted 12 homeless members of the Ossining community in during the pilot, averaging seven people per evening. IFCA and the police estimate that these numbers might rise to 20 per night with a well-publicized, permanent program in place.
With the leadership of the Briarcliff Ossining Ministerial Association and IFCA, we are now in the process of trying to institutionalize the shelter, with a goal of having it open every night for the five coldest months of the year. The Church of St. Ann in Ossining and the Star of Bethlehem Baptist Church have now joined our group, as well, and we are actively reaching out to other congregations.
As with the Mt. Kisco Emergency Shelter Partnership, the Ossining Emergency Shelter is designed to reside at one host location for a week at a time. Each night the host organization provides a space for the guests to sleep and one or two volunteers to keep an eye on things on behalf of the host. Other host or community volunteers contribute the food in kind, and prepare, serve and clean up after meals. A paid bilingual shelter manager manages the shelter overnight during the hours of operation (9 PM to 7 AM.) The manager is responsible for outreach and transporting people to and from the shelter, as well as supervising those individuals seeking shelter.
We are following the Mt. Kisco model of moving the shelter weekly because it has been found that one church, synagogue or organization cannot sustain the shelter for much more than a couple of sequential weeks and, also, involving more organizations garners more community support.
While we were able to operate a three -week program during the pilot year with gifts-in-kind, volunteerism and very modest financial support from several churches, a five-month program requires a substantial budget, roughly $68,000. The major expenses are for resident bilingual shelter supervisors (one per night) for five months and to provide a van to bus shelter guests to buildings that are not in walking distance. While we can operate the program for less, it would require cutting back on the weeks of coverage.
What is Needed
We are raising funds to launch a five-month program this winter, again with the support and participation of other BOMA members. Trinity and St. Paul’s have been encouraged to seek support from Episcopal Charities and Scarborough Presbyterian will be writing a grant for support from their church agency. Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers have made a significant pledge, and several individual congregations have also pledged, but must raise substantial funds from additional sources.
And, of course, we will need many volunteers to provide meals and serve food for the Shelter’s guests.
To Donate, Host or Volunteer Please Contact Us.
To support this important project by giving or volunteering, please contact Rev. Cooper Conway at 914 941-6627.