On January 23rd, in New York State’s Ulster County, people came together to count their fellow citizens living without a roof over their heads. This great public effort is called the Point-In-Time Count (or PIT Count) and it is an annual event mandated by the Department of Housing and Urban Development of New York State.
The 2nda Iglesia La Mision Church at 80 Elmendorf St. in Midtown Kingston served as both a warming center and base of operations for the volunteers, agency partners, law enforcement and faith-based communities who participated in the count. Dominique Wallace-Mills, Ulster Regional Supervisor for Catholic Charities of Orange, Sullivan and Ulster Counties (CCCSOS), an agency of Catholic Charities of New York, said the goal was, “to get a count of those who are experiencing homelessness throughout the county on this night. This serves as a snapshot of what the county is facing in regards to homelessness.”
The warming center, in an Assemblies of God church, is maintained by Catholic Charities, is activated by an alert from Ulster’s Division of Emergency Management whenever the temperature drops below freezing (32 degrees F). It provides a safe, warm place for citizens to shelter in the cold. The center is part of a three-year contract between CCCSOS and the NYS Department of Social Services and this year for the first time offered showers, laundry facilities and separate rooms for male and female lodgers.
Fernando Salazar, the church’s pastor, told the Daily Freeman that the materials to construct the shelter cost about $25,000, all of which was raised through donations from his largely-immigrant congregation. “Everything was built with volunteer labor,” he said.
Information gathered from the PIT Count is sent to the department of Housing and Urban Development, the hope being that an accurate assessment of the homeless problem in the region will lead to accurate fund-distribution from the state. But it helps Catholic Charities get an honest picture of the need. Wallace-Mills added, “Participation in operations like this show how agencies and community work together for the greater good.”
Catholic Charities of Orange, Sullivan, and Ulster Counties is one of the human service agencies of Catholic Charities of The Archdiocese of New York. CCCSOS is committed to building a compassionate and just society, serving the homeless, the hungry, the emotionally and physically handicapped, immigrants, the marginalized and vulnerable. The agency collaborates with state agencies, parishes, Catholic, and non-Catholic partners to help people of all religions who are in need.