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Feb 6, 2012 9:43 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

Maureen's Haven Opens New Day Center In Riverhead

Feb 7, 2012 6:21 PM

Ten years after its founding, Maureen’s Haven took the next step in providing care for the East End’s homeless by opening the doors to its new year-round day center in Riverhead last week.

Approximately 50 people were present for last Thursday afternoon’s ribbon-cutting ceremony at the house at 28 Lincoln Street, which will now serve as a community center for those in need. Maureen’s Haven is leasing the first floor of the two-story, 2,000-square-foot building from Cynthia Fellows for the next three years and, in turn, paying $2,000 a month in rent.

Prior to allowing Maureen’s Haven to move into the home, which will double as the group’s central office, Ms. Fellows installed a kitchen—at no cost to the organization—that guests will be able to utilize. The house, however, will not offer overnight accommodations to the homeless.

Local politicians and dedicated members of Maureen’s Haven, which is overseen by the Riverhead-based Peconic Community Council, discussed the progress that Maureen’s Haven has made in helping the homeless over the past decade. With the help of many East End houses of worship, Maureen’s Haven was able to provide temporary shelter and food to 252 adults last winter.

Present at the ribbon-cutting ceremony were State Assemblymen Fred W. Thiele Jr. and Dan Losquadro, Riverhead Town Supervisor Sean Walter, Southampton Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst, East Hampton Town Supervisor Bill Wilkinson, Southampton Town Councilwoman Bridget Fleming and Southampton Village Mayor Mark Epley.

“We’ve had this vision for many years now,” said Joann Piche, the vice chair of the Board of Directors for Maureen’s Haven. “We didn’t just want to put a Band-Aid on the problem. We needed a community room that they could call home.”

At the center, guests can participate in yoga sessions and take job coaching, personal budgeting and computer classes. They can also participate in recovery and support groups, and receive training on writing resumes, finding employment and GED tutoring. All guests will also have their own mailboxes at the center.

“It is our intention to develop a strategic plan to take this program to the next level, so they can function as independent individuals,” said Tracey Lutz, executive director of Maureen’s Haven.

The Lincoln Street address is the first day center of its kind for Maureen’s Haven. According to Ms. Lutz, her organization is now starting a “future planning process” and part of that will include assessing if additional facilities are needed on the East End.

Maureen’s Haven partners with local houses of worship, schools, community groups and organizations each winter to provide the homeless with safe, warm places to sleep each night. Program participants are also offered hot dinners and transportation.

Before guests are allowed to stay at such a shelter, Maureen’s Haven screens them for alcohol, illegal drugs, weapons and other contraband. Then they are transported to the shelter for the night. The next morning guests are dropped off at the Riverhead train station and provided with breakfast and a bag lunch. If they wish to stay at the shelter again the next night, they are picked up at the same train station and screened once again.

In the past, participants had to be screened by volunteers on the street. Now, Ms. Piche said, that process can be done in the privacy of the center. Additionally, if the homeless have no place to go each morning, particularly on cold and rainy days, they can now hang their hats at the new center.

“As Americans, everyone has a right to dignity,” Ms. Throne Holst said. “That should be a part of what we provide every day. We are lucky enough to have partners in the private sector—like Maureen’s Haven— to provide a place for that.”

Several program participants attended last week’s ribbon-cutting ceremony and thanked the organization for all that it does.

“I want to acknowledge the volunteers and workers who make this happen every day,” said Trisha Torregrossa. “It is a beautiful thing. The most important thing is we have each other here and that is a gift.”

Maureen’s Haven Homeless Outreach also will host its fourth annual Peconic Plunge on Sunday, February 12, at Mattituck’s Veterans Park on Bay Avenue in Mattituck. The event begins at 9 a.m., followed by the plunge into the bay at 11 a.m. More than 100 plungers have participated in previous events, raising more than $20,000 for Maureen’s Haven. For more information, call Tracey Lutz at 727-6831.

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Ms. Throne-Holst: Two months ago you were quoted in this paper stating that you were "working round the clock" to prevent the Suffolk County homeless shelter from opening - now you show up for a cheap photo-op trying to look like a humanitarian? Disgraceful. Greg Blass (featured in one of the photos above) from the Suffolk County Dept. of Social Services stated you were stirring up prejudice against the homeless - wonder how he felt seeing you at the ribbon cutting?
By Wagoneer (28), Southampton on Feb 8, 12 4:52 PM
Well said!!!!!!
By Bridgehampton (36), Bridgehampton on Feb 8, 12 5:33 PM

I just told my husband the same thing. Read you comment Great point. I would love to hear the answer to your question.
By Bridgehampton (36), Bridgehampton on Feb 8, 12 5:34 PM
Mugging for the Cameras is a time honored politicians practice - but doing it for something not even in your Town? huh? Guess you just road Theile's coatails all the way up Rt. 24 huh?
By Nature (2966), Hampton Bays on Feb 8, 12 6:06 PM
1 member liked this comment