The city was already experiencing record homelessness among single adults when the pandemic began and the crisis has only grown.
We know homelessness is not a choice, but the result of decades of harmful policies that have deprioritized and harmed low-income New Yorkers. The City currently spends billions of dollars a year on its shelter programs instead of adequately investing in permanent affordable and supportive housing.
We strive to stand with other faith-based organizations and people experiencing homelessness to call for dignified responses and equitable solutions to addressing homelessness in our city.
Our Homeless Shelter
Covid-19 Update: In March, 2020 we had to shut our doors for the health and safety of both our guests and our volunteers. The drop-in center we have partnered with for many years has indefinitely suspended their respite bed program because they have been able to place many of their clients in hotels or other stable housing. It is unclear if or when we can begin partnering with them again. We are exploring a new partnership with another drop-in center at Center for Urban Community Services (CUCS) in East Harlem, a well respected social service organization. We hope to be reopening with new health and safety procedures sometime this summer. We anticipate changes to volunteer shifts and responsibilities and will update this page when we have more information.
Our shelter has been in operation since 1985, when Rabbi Marshall Meyer — together with clergy around the city — heeded Mayor Koch’s call for a religious response to the needs of a growing homeless population. Today, as a part of the Emergency Shelter Network (ESN) and New York Disaster Interfaith Services (NYDIS), which consists of over 50 faith-based and community shelters that supplement and offer an alternative to the city shelter system, our homeless shelter provides food and overnight lodging for up to 10 women experiencing homelessness, Sunday through Thursday all year round. The shelter is operated in partnership with the Church of St. Paul and St. Andrew (SPSA).
The shelter would not be able to function without the hard work and dedication of our volunteer leadership team comprised of two Co-Chairs, BJ Member Liz Weiss and SPSA Member Jim Melchiorre. In addition, five nightly coordinators maintain volunteer rosters for each night of the week, making sure that we have two volunteers for each set up shift and two volunteers for each sleepover shift. Lastly, our food donor coordinator ensures that a fresh and healthy meal is available to our shelter guests every night. Our team works closely together to train and recruit new volunteers and ensure our shelter runs smoothly each night we are open.
Understanding the Crisis
During the pandemic, the city chose to protect the health and safety of congregate shelter residents by relocating them to hotels across the five boroughs. Two hotels on the UWS were part of this effort, which led to a division amongst community members in how they responded to their new neighbors. You can read the response from our rabbis and leadership on homelessness in our community here.
We realized the need for a deeper conversation and so, in partnership with other faith-based communities on the UWS, we hosted a series of educational programs about the larger crisis of homelessness, prioritizing the voices of those experiencing homelessness and other organizations working to address the crisis.
The Crisis of Homelessness in New York City: An Educational Forum