Out in the Cold - Part IIPosted: Updated:
Despite its overall wealth, hundreds of people across Westchester and the Hudson Valley are homeless. In northern Westchester, several houses of worship have banded together to help care for those living on the streets.
There are shelters and warming centers across the county to help the homeless. However, homeless advocates say some illegal immigrants with nowhere to go fear deportation if they go to a county-run facility.
Four years ago, Mel Berger, of the Mount Kisco Drug Council, decided he had to do something to prevent homeless individuals from dying on the streets. Berger presented an idea for an emergency shelter program to the Northern Westchester Clergy Association.
?The federal government is not handling it and people have to do this on a local level,? Berger says.
Since then, 25 houses of worship have started participating in the program, along with social service organizations such as the American Red Cross and Neighbors Link.
The 22-week winter program provides food and sleeping bags for about two dozen people every night. Most of the help in the program comes from volunteers. The average evening for the volunteers begins at the Mount Kisco police station, where the homeless gather close to 9 p.m. The individuals are taken to a place to shower and then to a local congregation for food and a place to sleep.
Berger says there are rules to the program. He says no one can come into the shelter under the influence of drugs or alcohol. According to Berger, lights are always out at 10 p.m. and everyone must be up for breakfast at 6 a.m. After breakfast, the homeless are taken back to the police station.
Homeless Guatemalan immigrant Miguel says he is grateful for such a program so he doesn?t have to sleep out in the cold.
The emergency shelter program costs approximately $28,000 a year to run. The money comes from the congregations and private donors.
Outin the Cold - Part I
Related Information:Reverend Paul Alcorn at Bedford Presbyterian Church - 914-234-3672Mel Berger at Mount Kisco Drug Council - 914-666-0614