On Thursday 1/24, a crowd of nearly forty Greenpointers gathered at Greenpoint Church to discuss the recently opened Homeless Respite. Pastor Ann asked that all press and bloggers reveal the publication and keep off the record comments off the record. It was a neighborly forum and while the night had some very difficult and uncomfortable moments, important progress was made.
(For the record, no one spoke off the record, but I did not directly quote or identify residents.)
First and most importantly, ten homeless men, our neighbors, would sleep in warm beds on an 18 degree night without the risk of freezing to death. This is a good thing.
Second, issues of communication, a big concern for Milton St residents, was discussed (loudly, with some yelling) and promises were made for improvement. More open meetings to discuss the impact of the church’s services on the residents of Milton St will be scheduled.
When it was my turn to introduce myself, I said, “I am in attendance first as a member of the church and next representing Greenpointers.” I write this blog post from the same position. I am not an unbiased reporter. I openly support the efforts the church makes to care for those who would otherwise be left to go hungry or sleep in the cold. That being said I will do my best to be sympathetic to the residents of Milton St who are opposed to the shelter and share the burden as well. Continue reading →
Sorry for this last minute update (I was in Florida for 2 weeks!), but tonight Thursday, 1/24 at 7pm at Greenpoint Reformed Church (136 Milton St) there will be an open forum, the first of many, to discuss the recently opened homeless respite at the church. All are welcome but I spoke to Pastor Ann and she wants to keep the meeting as constructive and positive.
So put down your pitch forks and bring you manners, people! See you there!
And if you miss it, don’t worry there will be more.
This is a very important and illuminating comment written by Fr. John Merz of Ascension Church regarding the recently opened Homeless Respite on Milton St that has received a lot of attention from the community. An open meeting will be held at a to be announced date:
I am the Reverend John Merz, Episcopal Priest and Vicar of the Church of the Ascension on Kent Street. I want to say at the outset that I would prefer this conversation happen in a congenial public forum rather than internet discussion boards, a phenomenon which as one of my bemused foreign seminary classmates labeled “assertion boards.” This format tend to ruffle feathers and peter out rather than produce consensus or reconciliation. That being said there are some simple facts that need to be cleared up.
First off, if there are any issues with the claim of “secrecy” then people need to take them up with me. I served on the homeless task force along with many other local clergy and residents. As Ann mentioned she was gone from the task force over the last 12 months. Furthermore under no circumstance did Councilman Levin or Rev. Kansfield obscure or try to do anything “in secret” or “get anything by” the community. The fact is that the 10 bed respite program (not a shelter, there are, in fact, significant differences) was to be housed at my church right until the very last minute. Period. I think that kind of innuendo about people’s character and honesty ought to come to a close straightaway.
Numerous times I met with high-level people at DHS and neither Rev. Kansfield or Councilman Levin were present. Once things had been worked out–the funding and politics of how this deal would take place, where it would be housed (Ascension)—there was no need to have Councilman Levin in on the day to day negotiations between myself and the City and Common Ground as we literally shifted pennies from this line to that to see how it could work
The intruding issue was that for well over a year I had been in an endlessly stalled development deal for two upper stories of our parish hall. In order for the respite bed program to take place at our church City and Common Ground needed certain assurances that there could be geographical consistency. It was my hope that were the development deal were to take place it still would give us enough time to house the program for the six cold months so we averted anymore deaths like we have had in the past and perhaps bring some people into a better state.
Late October it looked as if our deal might go through though nothing was be set in stone, nothing signed. Quickly I informally spoke to two other local churches as to see in the event we had to make a last minute switch could it be done. Approvals came through in late October. As Sandy hit, besides putting up the homeless at Ascension there were emergency meetings of a few task force members to see what we could do to relocate the program asap as the cold was going to set in. That is when Reformed stepped up, not to run it, but to house it.
Again, one point that needs to be made clear is that this is not Ann Kansfield’s program, this is a community based, broad ranging effort, over four years in the making. I do believe we did our best though no doubt improvements could be made. There is no doubt that if we use our common energy, engage the best of our common humanity we can find a way to make this program work, change people’s lives for the better and, perhaps even more importantly begin to address the larger issues of why in such a wealthy city there are 50,000 people homes and 20,000 of those the age of our own children. With patience and care I have faith that these concerns can be worked through.
The Reverend John Merz
Church of the Ascension, Vicar
If you live in Greenpoint, you are aware of the homeless population. As it gets considerably colder, the need for warm shelter is of great importance.
I recently received an email from a concerned resident on Milton St regarding a newly opened shelter at the Greenpoint Reformed Church, who has witnessed and heard stories about public urination and defecation on the block as well as smashed liquor bottles and a man sleeping in her front yard.
Despite this she, ”fear[s] that there will never be an acceptance of the services that the church provides, unless they move off Milton St.”
She referred a neighbor to me, a homeowner who started a task force against the shelter, who despite reaching out to me, failed to answer my questions.
How would you feel about a homeless shelter on your block? What if your block was as pretty as Milton where the property values are in the multimillions? A drunk man vomiting on your lawn isn’t so pretty. “Not in my backyard!” Then where?
How about in your own home?
Ann Kansfield, pastor of Greenpoint Church, who lives above the church and the homeless shelter explained the situation:
The situation is a little more complicated than just “we have a homeless shelter at the church” … In a nutshell, it’s a 10-bed program operated by Common Ground on behalf of the City for LOCAL homeless folks. This was in response to many people’s demands that “the city do something” about local Polish homelessness. The total cost for the entire program is $100,000, the bulk of which goes to pay for two full-time employees being present with the men at all times. The city is only reimbursing the church for building-related costs to host the program. This amounts to 44% of utilities and some small expenses related to hiring someone to clean each day. This is no “windfall” for us.
In a recent 94th Community Council Meeting, as recorded by New York Shitty, Stephen Levin spoke about the shelter and said it wasn’t Ann or Jen’s (co-pastor) “idea,” rather they offered the space after the community asked for it years back. He went on to explain that it is unique for the city to fund a church shelter, which are usually volunteer, and in this case a professional staff supervises the residents.
What are your thoughts on the newly opened shelter on Milton St?