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Holiday Efforts to Ease ‘Tough Time’ for Long Island Homeless

November 19, 2007

Hauppauge, NY – For most Americans, Thanksgiving means frequent-flying, family reunions, and festivities at the dinner table. However, the season is anything but festive for members of Long Island's growing homeless population, a group that is now facing a turn in the weather with no shelter of its own. Edward Hernandez is with the Suffolk County Department of Social Services. He says it's a trend that appears to be seasonal.

"The numbers tend to go up during the holiday time. Homelessness in Suffolk County is somewhat cyclical, and this is one of the times when we see an increase. It's a tough time of year."

Many private organizations are chipping in to help the county's efforts to ease the plight of the homeless. Denis Yuen with the Peconic Community Council says his organization has already observed a 10 to 13 percent increase in the numbers of homeless New Yorkers compared to last year.

"This year, we're seeing an increased trend because of the downturn in the economy, that there are more people out of work. Secondly, the ones who do have the ability to work are not able to make enough to afford their housing."

The Peconic Community Council has joined dozens of churches and community centers to support a homeless program called "Maureen's Haven." It provides daily relief in the form of clean bedding and clothing, nurse services, entertainment and personal counseling to the homeless.

"Once the evening's over, they all bed down for a nice, restful evening and in the morning, the volunteers serve a hearty breakfast before all the guests depart for the day. They also are handed a bag lunch for their daytime activities."

Peconic operates a tollfree "Homeless Hope Line," at 877-727-6820; Suffolk County also has a "Homeless Response Unit," that can be reached at 631-854-9935.

Robert Knight/John Robinson, Public News Service - NY