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New Year Could Mean a 'New Lease on Life' for Some Homeless Islanders

December 31, 2007

Riverhead, NY - New Year's Eve means popping the cork and celebrating for many New Yorkers. But it's only the midpoint of a long, cold winter for Long Islanders without homes. Dennis Yuen with the Peconic Community Council says that after the ball drops in Times Square tonight, there are still two more months left in the Council's winter campaign to feed, shelter and house the people they serve.

"New Year's Eve is a very emotional time for a lot of our guests. They've just been through the holidays, and that could have brought back a lot of memories. And the brunt of the winter is not with us yet; there is some concern that it's going to be a very busy winter."

The Council coordinates with state agencies and dozens of local organizations serving thousands of the homeless, as well as people with disabilities and victims of domestic violence on Long Island's eastern branch.

Peconic's shelter and food programs include amenities to help the less fortunate get a fresh start. Yuen says the work is devoted to saving lives and restoring hope.

"What we do is provide a warm, temporary shelter every evening at a different house of worship. We're going to give a nice, warm family-style meal, laundry services, bathing with showers, a nice warm bed to sleep in overnight and a hot meal to wake up to in the morning."

Unemployment and the year's economic downturns have caused an upturn in homelessness. This week, the Department of Housing and Urban Development announced $10 million dollars will be made available to help ease Long Island's growing homeless crisis. Yuen says the Veterans Administration and Department of Social Services also have helped locate transitional and permanent housing, which makes a big difference for many of the Council's former clients.

"We have been able to place veterans in housing, and we have been able to refer other individuals to permanent housing or other services. It's a first step to recovery."

Food donors and volunteers can contact the Peconic Community Council at 631-727-6831 or www.pccouncil.org.

Robert Knight/Craig Eicher, Public News Service - NY