Featured Story

Suffolk Closeup: A blessing for the homeless

With November having arrived and, with it, colder weather, Maureen’s Haven Homeless Outreach becomes yet more important for this area.

As the organization says on its website: “We offer supportive services, programs, and access to case management, and our guests can enjoy a meal, get clothes, and have access to basic needs at our Day Center year-round. We also provide a safe, warm, temporary shelter to homeless individuals, from November through April, utilizing volunteer houses of worship and congregation volunteers.”

“The host facilities and supporting organizations provide much more than a place to sleep and a nutritious meal,” the description continues. “They provide support through embracing the values of human dignity, respect, service, compassion, teamwork, diversity and love.”

Maureen’s Haven is named for a Catholic nun, Sister Maureen Michael, a public health nurse and Dominican nursing order member who, several decades ago, tried to set up a homeless outreach program in Suffolk County.

Maureen’s Haven began in 2002 as a “grassroots movement sparked by a former member of the Peconic Community Council. As an altruistic community member with a compassionate spirit, Kay Kidde refused to stand idle after witnessing homeless men and women sleeping in the woods by our local grain station. Ms. Kidde initially funded this initiative and set our program into motion.”

The organization’s executive director, Dan O’Shea, said in an interview that Kidde, of Quogue, “put the pieces together.” She passed away in 2020.

The Kay Kidde Achievement Center of Maureen’s Haven, in Riverhead, offers “respite and a sense of community for our guests,” notes the website. This involves collaboration with “community partners and trusted healthcare and mental health providers to connect our guests with services they need to be successful.” At the center, “We help clients take tangible steps toward independent living by offering educational opportunities in subjects and skill sets that promote self-sufficiency and increase their desirability in the job market.”

Maureen’s Haven’s “Emergency Winter Shelter Program” is a blessing for the homeless.

“Every evening during the colder months, November l through April 30, homeless guests are safely screened and transported from our Riverhead location to host sites,” the website says.

O’Shea explains that “we typically work with houses of worship” in arranging for the “host sites.” These are located in the south of Suffolk “from Mastic to Sag Harbor,” says O’Shea. And in the north of Suffolk, the “host sites” are in communities “from Greenport to Setauket.”

Shelter Islanders involved in Maureen’s Haven have been working through “host sites” on the North Fork, said O’Shea.

O’Shea has been executive director of Maureen’s Haven for six years. A native of Mastic Beach, he is a graduate of Southampton College (where he and his wife, Jennifer, I proudly mention, were both my journalism students). They live in Rocky Point.

O’Shea worked as an admissions counselor at Southampton College after graduation in 1997, then studied for and received a master’s degree in human services at St. Joseph’s College in Patchogue, then took a job with March of Dimes, subsequently worked in public relations, and then happened upon an ad for the executive director’s position at Maureen’s Haven. His years at Maureen’s Haven, he says, have been “one of the most memorable experiences in my life professionally and personally.”

Maureen’s Haven is supported by individuals and foundations — including, among others, Kidde Family Foundation, Kate W. Cassidy Foundation, Maloney Family Foundation, Long Island Community Foundation, Kenneth J. Tedaldi Foundation, Gentry Foundation, Leslie L. Alexander Foundation, Neuwirth Foundation, Capital One Foundation, The Corey Foundation, The Geri Bauer Foundation, Norman E. Alexander Foundation — and also more than 70 “supporting organizations” also listed on its website. These include Housing America, Kiwanis of Greater Westhampton, Catholic Daughters of America, Mattituck Lions Club, Riverhead Rotary, Jewish Communal Fund, Riverhead Rotary, Southampton Bath & Tennis Club, Hamptons Bay Lions Club, Hampton Bays Rotary Club, Mattituck Lions Club, North Fork Italian-American Club, Westhampton Rotary Club, United Way of Long Island, Westhampton Woman’s Club, Esquire Bank and Riverhead Masons.

It actively seeks volunteers for its winter shelter program including to aid with “set up, meal preparation, overnight supervision, fellowship with guests, providing a meal/serving food,” and at the Kay Kidde Achievement Center to teach classes, tutor, “assist with life skills” and help with “job hunting.” Folks interested can mail a note to Maureen’s Haven at 28 Lincoln Street, Riverhead, NY 11901 or send an application available on Maureen’s Haven website, maureenshaven.org