Small Homeless Shelter opens on Russell Street

Greenpoint Lutheran Church of the Messiah at 129 Russell Street

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.

About Kim M

Kim is a native New Yorker, local activist and writer. When she's not writing books or playing Erin Brockovich with her Save Greenpoint peeps, you will see her whipping around Greenpoint on her bike, chatting it up with folks, and sharing stories about what it is about her hometown that makes life worth living. Follow her on twitter @kimasson or www.kimmassonwrites.com

13 Comments

  1. Sherry says:

    You know what “leav[es] homes open to robberies and break-ins”? Not locking windows and doors. These guys frequent the area anyway, so technically Russell Street homes are already at risk. Show some heart, people.

    Reply
  2. Jared says:

    Tipping my hat to my neighborhood blog for showing compassion on this bitter cold day.

    Reply
  3. melissa says:

    It wasn’t long ago that a man on Newel St had his doors and windows locked, but two men came dressed as DEP workers rang the bell attacked the man and robbed hid home. Grow brain Sherry! It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to realize that crime has been up, more robberies and rapes in the area since the men’s shelter opener up on the other side if Green point. Have you seen what is walking around the area lately? sad.

    Reply
    • Teo says:

      Unless the people at the shelter are allowed to stash uniforms away in their lockers -wait, do you know if they have lockers?- it seems to me that you are comparing apples to oranges. Crime may be up in the hood, but unless you show evidence that those two men you speak of came from a shelter, your request for Sherry to grow a brain just shows that either you are not quite using yours or you assume we are not using ours.

      Reply
      • Sherry says:

        I want to point out that my home was burgled when I was a grade-schooler growing up on Humboldt Street. All our doors and windows were locked, and the incident made my parents install additional locks. No problems, knock wood, since.

        Burglaries — and robberies and rapes — happen no matter how vigilant people are. I’m simply astounded at the number of times crimes reported in the Greenpoint Gazette mention how the victims were not taking the least bit of precaution. Here’s an example from the Brooklyn Paper: http://www.brooklynpaper.com/stories/38/6/wb_94blot_2015_02_06_bk.html

        Reply
  4. Richard says:

    The area is changing for the worse. The people who create these shelters in community do not care about the people living there. And to not have an intake office on site is irresponsible. These men could be sex offenders, on the run, and mentally sick. Yes they Need help I work in this field but to start these in neighborhood where people bust their butt to own a home and make their rent/ mortgage is unfair

    Reply
    • Dots says:

      I agree with you to some extent: People in shelters could be sex offenders, on the run, and mentally sick. Then again, they could be many other things that we don’t know, so write them off based on what they “could be” seems a bit presumptuous and selfish, don’t you think? As for the people who create these shelters in the community not caring for the people living there, that part makes me think about the developers of Greenpoint Landing and 77 Commercial St. I hope you let them know of your feelings on the matter when the fight against them was on. But what I really don’t understand is your complaint about the location of the shelter. Would it be better if it was on Manhattan’s Upper East Side? Soho? Park Slope? I’m certain that if you ask people there, they’ll tell you the busted their butt to own their home and make their rent, too.

      Reply
  5. Elaine says:

    I live in a building on the same block as the new clay street homeless shelter, and as a woman who often finds herself walking home alone at night I’d like to say that the concern is real, and not just a case of a lack in “neighborly love.” Try having comments flung at you every night when arriving home by clearly mentally unstable men before being so judgmental as to the opposition’s motives.

    Reply
    • Kim M says:

      Elaine, I also live very close to the SRO on Manhattan Ave and both shelters–on Clay St and the 200 all men shelter off of McGuiness Ave. The Clay St and McGuiness Ave shelters are not only semi-permanent (unlike Russell Street), but they serve as a detention center for ALL of NYC’s homeless before being placed elsewhere. While I too, have experienced the catcalling and witnessed the loitering surrounding those two shelters, the homeless shelter on Russell St is specifically a ‘respite shelter’ meaning they only offer a bed for the evening. The Lutheran Church shelter directly saves the lives of people living in and around McGlorick Park who might otherwise freeze to death in their sleep. So yeah, you could say the folks opposing this shelter are in fact being very un-neighborly. Whether they realize it or not, these homeless people whom they dislike so much ARE their neighbors. Just because they don’t pay rent or a mortgage doesn’t mean they don’t reside in Greenpoint. I would suggest that before you accuse me of being judgmental, you examine your own presumptions and the facts.

      Reply
  6. sandy says:

    Compassion should be where we begin and where we end. The people who will be keeping warm and alive by the beds opening to them live amongst us, they are not coming to Russell St. from another neighborhood, they live in the park, or under the construction sheds, or the doorways around the block. People need to take the cotton out of their ears and put in their mouths sometimes.

    Reply
  7. Joann Montalto says:

    I read this randomly ( and not even being near this neighborhood ) one thing stood out to me more…the war is about saving stuff vs. saving lives?
    So protect your homes by being robbed instead of helping people get on their feet so they don’t have to steal. Interesting.

    Reply
  8. Mary says:

    I have lived on Russell Street for 10 years now- the homeless of McGolrick have never been a nuisance,danger, or inconvenience of any kind to me, and they have always been around. I walk through the park at least 3 times a day and even late at night.
    I think its a shame that all the newcomers in the neighborhood are more concerned with their property values than another human life in need. And for those of you who have been here for longer than me, you know there have always been robberies and break-ins. Not to mention the fact that its usually committed by more able-bodied perpetrators than the few mentally ill homeless guys that frequent the park.
    There will always be homeless people in New York. Get over yourselves! And good for the church for helping them out as none of you would.

    Reply
  9. NP says:

    Would Jesus shelter the homeless during one of the coldest winters on record, or would he sign a petition and lock his doors to protect his flat screen TV? I’ve lived around the corner from this church for six years. I was really surprised by the hostile reaction to this post. Anyone who lives in this area knows that the park is home to a number of homeless men and women, all of whom are harmless and (yes) even friendly if you bother to make eye contact or say hello to them. They like to drink, sure, and they can get a little rowdy, but they keep to themselves and are not dangerous. As a young woman I have never felt anything but safe around them. (The arsonist teenagers in the park in the summer, on the other hand…) These homeless individuals are just as much a part of this community as everyone else, and as human beings they deserve not to freeze to death. Kudos to Pastor Amy for fighting the good fight and being emblematic of what true Christianity is about. I support her effort and congratulate her on taking a stance like this.

    Reply

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