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Jan 28, 2009 9:30 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

Maureen's Haven continues to provide a harbor for the homeless

Jan 28, 2009 9:30 AM

On the coldest nights of the year, many begin their evening at the Riverhead Train Station, where they line up to be frisked for weapons, drugs and alcohol. Some cradle their few personal belongings, mostly clothing piled into either duffle bags or suitcases, while hoping to secure a seat on a white van that will take them someplace warm for the night, and where there is a hot meal—for some the only meal they will eat all day—waiting for them.

They are members of the East End’s homeless population, and they are growing in number.

Many of the estimated 500 homeless people living in the five East End towns sleep outdoors. But on those nights when the temperature dips down into the single digits, exposure to the elements could result in hypothermia or, in more severe cases, death. That is where Maureen’s Haven steps in.

Founded in 2001, the non-profit and nondenominational organization was created to provide the less fortunate with temporary shelter from the cold. Today, Maureen’s Haven, which operates on a $4,500 weekly budget that is primarily funded through donations, assists more than 100 people from November 1 until April 1 each year, providing them with shelter and warm meals.

Maureen’s Haven rotates where the homeless stay on a daily basis during the fall and winter months, and many different churches on the East End open their houses of worship to the program. In Southampton Town, the East Quogue United Methodist Church, Westhampton Presbyterian Church in Quiogue, Saint Mary’s Episcopal Church in Hampton Bays, the First Presbyterian Church of Southampton and the Church of the Immaculate Conception in Quiogue all accommodate the program’s “guests,” as they are called by program organizers and volunteers, on different weeknights. Eight additional churches on the North Fork also participate in the program, according to organizers.

Volunteers provide the homeless with a hot meal, a cot for the night, breakfast the next morning, and a bag lunch. Some even spend the night with those receiving help to look over the guests and offer them advice. The program offers assistance to a variety of people, from all different age brackets, races and backgrounds.

“It’s been a lifesaver for me,” said Jack Guarneri, who participated in the program at Westhampton Presbyterian Church in Quiogue one recent Monday.

Mr. Guarneri, who has lived in New Jersey and across Long Island, credits his longtime friend Bill, who is a drug and alcohol screener for Maureen’s Haven and declined to give his last name, for alerting him about the program.

“I lost perspective on the world,” Mr. Guarneri said. “Bill pulled me out.”

Mr. Guarneri started using Maureen’s Haven after he lost his Medicaid benefits 18 months ago and after a lengthy battle with alcoholism. He was told that he was not eligible for Medicaid because he has money from his pension for the many years he worked in higher education. Mr. Guarneri, who has not had an alcoholic drink in five months, explained that he cannot access that money for another seven years, when he turns 65.

“I kept saying, ‘That money may as well be on the moon,’” he said.

Though he holds a master’s degree from Long Island University and has more than 20 years of experience working as a counselor and transcript evaluator, Mr. Guarneri has not worked since August 2007. He said he hopes to find employment in the near future.

“I hope to get back to work in a helping profession, where I can make a contribution to the greater good,” he said.

Others also praised the program.

“They give you strength and hope,” said one female participant, a South American immigrant in her late fifties who declined to give her name and who has used the program, on and off, for the past year. “You always find a smile.”

She explained that she lost her job in 2007 and has not found employment since. Noting that she holds advanced degrees in business, she said she is overqualified for many positions and refuses to take a job doing menial labor. “It’s very difficult to find a job,” she said. “For me it is almost impossible.”

The woman added that she has not reached out to relatives because she worries how they will view her situation. “It’s something I keep secret,” she said of being homeless. She hopes to find permanent housing and open her own business one day. “I am not happy with myself staying here,” she said.

Kay Kidde of Quiogue, the founder of Maureen’s Haven, explained that many of the program’s participants are just like Mr. Guarneri and the woman from South America—ordinary people who, through some misfortune, fell on hard times. She added that she started the program because of the lack of alternatives to help the East End’s homeless population. “I realized they were being ill-treated,” Ms. Kidde said.

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Please check your facts before you publish an article Ms. Chinese. There is no Presbyterian church in East Quogue. Only a Methodist church and St. Rosalies mission.
By PrivateerMatt (390), Weesuck Creek , EQ on Jan 27, 09 3:05 PM
Ms. Chinese I see you corrected the mistake about there being a Presbyterian church in East Quogue. A thank you would have been appropriate for me pointing this out.
By PrivateerMatt (390), Weesuck Creek , EQ on Jan 28, 09 10:06 AM
This South American immigrant needs to put her pride on the shelf.What do you mean you refuse to do menial labor? Alot of people wish they had any kind of work. But you would rather feed off others donations than put your ass to work. Get to work !!
By Bopche (8), Quogue on Jan 28, 09 5:47 PM
This comment has been removed because it is a duplicate, off-topic or contains inappropriate content.
By pinga (90), hamptonbays on Jan 28, 09 6:32 PM
Does Maureens haven help out those Homeless sex offenders in Riverhead too? I wonder...
By nicole (96), Hampton Bays on Jan 28, 09 7:53 PM
The homeless sex offenders housed in the trailers in Riverside and Westhampton are under the direction of the Suffolk County Department of Social Services, who in my opinion, does a commendable job with a very sensitive situation. The Maureen's Haven Homeless Outreach Program does not accomodate registered sex offenders or predators.
By Denis Yuen, Program Director (11), East Moriches on Jan 28, 09 11:46 PM
Thank you for pointing out the mistake in the original version of the story. Both the web version and print version have been updated and now feature the correct church name. Thanks again.
Frank Costanza
The Southampton Press Western Edition
By Frank Costanza (19), Westhampton Beach on Jan 29, 09 11:29 AM
Bopche, when I was a kid, my mom always told me never make the mistake of thinking that you are to good to do something because you never know what you may have to do to survive. Don't judge to harshly. Menial labor, covers a broad range of occupations, some of which, do not pay enough to keep you from being homeless. More and more large companies and small businesses are being forced to let go of thier workers. Instead of judging...just thak God its not you.
By pstevens (406), Wilmington on Feb 3, 09 11:41 AM
Article needs a phone number where donations can be sent. I personally believe in donating the cost of one meal to this program, or similar program, weekly.
By Lefty46 (56), Westhampton on Feb 6, 09 5:08 PM