By NICK BUGLIONE
This time last year, the 63-year-old Brooklyn resident Ephraim Small
lost his job at John F. Kennedy Airport and then lost his home.
The Queens Homeless Outreach Project works to help empower
individuals to get off the street.
"I lost my job, as simple as that. I had like three or four
days before I was completely out of my apartment." He was separated from his wife and
had nowhere to turn, so he went to the Salvation Army and the Queens Homeless Outreach
"It saved me from a lot of embarrassment," he said. "You
never know what can happen. I never was homeless, Id always worked."
The projects help saved his life, Small said, and now hes
repaying the kindness hes received by doling out some of his own as a worker within
"I go out and feed [homeless] people and try to convince them to
come into the shelter," he said. "I try to use myself as an example."
As the winter days turn blustery cold in Queens this week, the Homeless
Outreach Project Director Michael Fenner modestly estimates that there are anywhere from
6,000 to 8,000 homeless people sleeping on the boroughs streets.
"The Salvation Army has been in the business of
doing outreach for 100 years, but this is a more concentrated effort," explained
Salvation Army posts, including the headquarters in
Jamaica, offered free Thanksgiving dinners this year.
Tribune Photos By Ira Cohen
Formed in May of 1995, the Homeless Outreach Project is
responsible for the aid of over 10,000 homeless people, according to Fenner.
Though providing food, shelter, employment opportunities and in some
cases drug rehabilitative services for those in need, Fenner said not all homeless are
receptive to the help making persistence a key value of the project.
"We have to be able to take a get out of my face on
occasions," he said. "We work with the clients to engage them and empower them
to get off the street."
Scouring the boroughs roads, parks and alleyways, teams
consisting of both volunteers and professionals from the Jamaica-based project set out
every night in search of homeless people.
"We patrol every day, 24 hours a day," said Fenner, who has
been project director since its beginning five years ago. "We meet with the community
two to three times a month to get a close fix on whats going on in the individual
As the mercury continued to dip in Queens this week,
Homeless Outreach teams were on the street to help those without a place to sleep.
"The strange thing about Queens
is people come here and they move around," said the Queens Village resident, noting
that the homeless can be found as far north as Whitestone and as far south as JFK airport.
As difficult as they are to sometimes
locate, many homeless people are just as difficult to understand said Fenner, as some do
not fit the stereotypical image often assigned to them.
"Theres a lot of professional
people who are out there homeless," he said, who have had a twist of bad luck and
wind up destitute virtually overnight. "These are everyday people who need some
Of all the citywide Salvation Army homeless
outreach projects, the Queens-based one is perhaps the most successful. "Queens
outreach is a very persistent group of young people," said Fenner. "Weve
been very successful."
Though it provides services
year-round, the Salvation Army consistently steps up its efforts as holidays approach.
On Thanksgiving, all of the borough
locations will be offering free turkey dinners to the local homeless.
"We also have a street outreach team
that will be out serving 400 dinners," said Fenner. "Its a very depressing
time of year, so rather than they come to us we come to them."
As the mercury continues to dip into the
30s, all teams will be going on winter alert, imploring those out on the streets to take
shelter and avoid any physical harm.
"In some cases we engage the police to
assist us," and tell homeless people that staying outside is not an option, Fenner
A police department spokeswoman said Queens
police will also be intensifying their efforts during the winter months.
Under the Giuliani Administration, police
have become an integral part in getting homeless off the streets a fact that has
drawn an equal amount of praise and criticism.
"The mayor feels its not a good
thing to be sleeping on the streets," said Robert Mascali, chief of staff of the
Department of Homeless Services, which works alongside public and private agencies like
the Salvation Army. "A lot of these people need medical attention."
Anyone wishing to send
donations, clothes or canned goods to the Queens Homeless Outreach Project should mail or
drop them off at 90-23 161st St., Jamaica, N.Y. 11432.
Financial donations should be made by check
or money order to the Salvation Army Queens Outreach. The following is a list of other
local posts of the Salvation Army:
Astoria Community Center
Long Island City, N.Y. 11103
a lot of
professional people who
are out there homeless.
These are everyday people who need some help."
Queens Homeless Outreach Project Director
Korean Community Center
142-50 32nd Avenue
Flushing, N.Y. 11354
Queens Temple Community Center
86-07 35th Avenue
Jackson Heights, N.Y. 11372
Ridgewood Community Center
69-23 Cypress Hills Street
Ridgewood, N.Y. 11386
Borden Avenue Veterans Residence
21-10 Borden Avenue
Long Island City, N.Y. 11101
Briarwood Family Residence
80-20 134th Street
Jamaica, N.Y. 11435
Jamaica Womens Assessment Shelter
93-05 168th Street
Jamaica, N.Y. 11435
Lefrak City Group Home
96-04 57th Avenue
Lefrak City, 11368
115-37 133rd Street
South Ozone Park, N.Y. 11420
Not Equal Homelessness
Not all of the hungry people
in Queens are necessarily homeless. According to Rev. N.J. LHeureux, executive
director of the Queens Federation of Churches, the majority of the food pantry clients
within the Queens Interfaith Hunger Network are housed.
Started in 1983, the Queens Interfaith
Hunger Networka project of the Queens Federation of Churcheshas been providing
food year round to the boroughs undernourished through food pantries and soup
"Hunger, tragically, is something that
effects people every day of the year," said LHeureux. "We realize that
hunger is only one of the symptoms of what is a larger, more complex problem."
With over 115 panties and soup kitchens set
up throughout Queens, the network provides approximately seven million meals to 750,000
locals every year, LHeureux estimates. Yet he went to note that for every two that
receive meals, one is turned away due to a lack of resources.
Those wishing to give cash donations can
send them to the Queens Federation of Churches at 86-17 105th St., Richmond Hill, N.Y.
To find out about a local food pantry or soup kitchen near
you call the Food Hunger Hotline at 917-351-8777.
|Very Special Delivery
Representatives from 25 Queens churches, charities and senior groups picked up
their holiday deliveries from the Flushing Mail Processing Facility on Nov. 20, thanks to
local postal employees. Over 500 boxed turkeys, purchased with dollars donated by the
postal workers, went out to all corners of the borough to insure a Thanksgiving meal for
the hungry and homeless.Tribune Photo by Ira Cohen