Councilmembers Ben Kallos and Dan Garodnick, State Senator Liz Krueger, and Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer have launched the Eastside Taskforce for Homeless Outreach and Services, “ETHOS”, in an effort to help and address the challenges facing the number of homeless on the Upper East Side.
ETHOS is in partnership with various churches, synagogues, non-profits, and city agencies to provide food, legal services, substance abuse, medical, shelter service, and supportive housing for the homeless.
“The East Side of Manhattan is a priority underserved area with too many homeless”, Krueger said.
On the Upper East Side, Casa Mutua holds 54 units for residents who are chronically homeless, Lenox Hill Women’s Mental Health Shelter at the Park Avenue Armory has 80 beds, and the Neighborhood Coalition for Shelter has a total of 65 beds. A number of churches operate safe havens and also have a number of beds, but more than 100 can still be found sleeping on the streets.
“Sadly the concern is not how do we help them but how do we make them go away. For me, it’s important to step up and have important conversations and put initiatives into place to help the issue”, said Kallos. Kallos said that last year when the number of the homeless was increasing and it appeared to be a crisis, he contacted Garodnick and together they contacted several other organizations, so that they could pull resources together and make a change.
“New York City is currently experiencing an unprecedented homelessness crisis. As the challenges have continued to grow, we took steps to leverage every resource at our disposal to address this situation. The Upper East Side has a long history of organizing to help those in need, and we are now going even further, by better connecting our Community Based Organizations with government agencies with the broader community. We hope that this partnership will become a model for other parts of the City,” said Garodnick.
Some other organizations in partnership with ETHOS includes, the Department of Homeless Services, Human Resources Administration, Lenox Hill Neighborhood House, Neighborhood Coalition for Shelter, Church of the Epiphany, Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church, St. James’ Church, Zarua, Temple Emanu-El, and others.
Many of these organizations seem to be optimistic about the work that they are doing in partnership with ETHOS.
“We hope to pull resources together, think collaboratively and work on changing the general images of the homeless and homeless services. We have to bridge the gap between the homeless, homeless providers, and community members”, said Eve Mersfelder, external affairs and administration manager of Lenox Hill Neighborhood House. Their programs include the shelter at Women’s Mental Health Shelter at the Park Avenue Armory, Casa Mutua, and the East Side Homeless Network.
The Neighborhood Coalition for Shelter will provide professional training and guidance for churches and other organizations on working with the homeless and the mentally disabled.
Various churches are working to help provide a home cooked meal to the homeless. Every Wednesday night, the Church of Epiphany on York Avenue provides dinner for the homeless with a total of 110 to 120 in attendance per week.
“I hope that this group works to collectively reach out to the neighborhood around us. We have signs outside asking for volunteers to help and we get a lot of volunteers who are not members of our church, but just wanted to be of some help”, said Rector Jennifer Reddall of the Church of Epiphany.
Reddall was excited about the training that NCS would provide for her church and the volunteers on working with the homeless.
Most importantly, everyone felt that ETHOS should be a model for other communities and community officials and that it is just the first step of eliminating homelessness in the future.
“We hope to continue this program as long as it remains useful”, said Kallos.