Looks like 10 lucky people are feeling much warmer these days thanks to Pastor Amy Kinezle of Greenpoint’s Lutheran Church of the Messiah, who quietly opened a 10 person homeless shelter at the end of January.
Unfortunately, this act of kind faith has ruffled some feathers among those living close by. In a surprising lack of neighborly love, more than 400 residents had signed a petition against the shelter when the idea was first announced at the beginning of the year. Local residents, angered that another homeless shelter was opening in the neighborhood, complained the small shelter would attract mentally unstable men and/or alcoholics to the area, leaving homes open to robberies and break-ins.
Neighbors cite the Lutheran Church shelter’s lax policies–which doesn’t require an intake process or demand residents to be sober—as the reason for much of their angst.
Pastor Kinezle stressed in an interview with the Brooklyn Paper, a loose open admission was the point, stating: “It is part of the church’s mission to serve all of our neighbors, especially those who are at risk.”
With winter temperatures hovering insanely low these days, the lives of homeless people are one of society’s greatest risks. It was only a couple of months ago that Greenpointers reported the death of a homeless man who had fallen victim to sub-freezing temperatures, but not before another man was found frozen inside McGlorick Park after a severe cold snap. These were preventable deaths and with Pastor Kinezle’s help, more people won’t die at the hands of another frigid night.
“It’s a small solution to an immediate need to prevent people from dying,” she said.
Backed by Councilman Steve Levin, the shelter will be open to anyone in need of a place to sleep from 8pm to 6am the following morning. Common Ground, an organization which works with NYC’s Department of Homeless Services, has provided the church with 10 sleeping cots and 2 staffers to keep watch each night. All residents of the shelter, many of whom who are in need of further support, are encouraged to enter programs for mental illness or alcoholism before heading back onto Greenpoint streets.
The shelter is expected to remain open until May 22nd. It is unclear what the future holds for next winter. Until then, we can follow suit like Pastor Kinezle and be kind-hearted Greenpointers by helping out and donating supplies this winter to the church, located at 129 Russell Street.