‘For people that are forced into homelessness, it’s not one size fits all.’
“I was working in higher education in career counseling when in 2010, I had a longing to return to the nonprofit community. I got my master’s in human services leadership, and soon after, I found Maureen’s Haven, which was looking for an executive director to oversee their shelter program and delivery of compassionate services to Long Island’s East End homeless. I immediately knew this was a place I could make a difference and have been here since 2018.
“We’re a hands-on organization interacting with our guests; that’s what we call them. In the winter, that could be 24 hours a day for a full six months, so you really get to know people. The impact you have is often very immediate. A lot of people come here because they’re in crisis. You’re able to make a life-saving decision to ensure they’re safe, have a place to sleep and are getting medical attention and other services. We spend a lot of time forging relationships. They need the same help, support and level of compassion, caring and interaction as everyone. I don’t think people understand that homelessness on the East End is a problem. Because of the pandemic, there are people forced out of their secure housing who now have nowhere to live.
Our mission is to provide compassionate care, and me and my staff, we firmly believe in that.
“A third of my population is over the age of 55. We have undocumented individuals and many people that have been through the system their entire lives. For many of the folks that use Maureen’s Haven, there truly is no other option. I had many sleepless nights throughout the pandemic, but I love it. I would not trade it for the world. It’s been an amazing experience, the people that I’’ve interacted with and the lives I’ve changed.
“Our mission is to provide compassionate care, and me and my staff, we firmly believe in that. For people that are forced into homelessness, it’s not one size fits all. It comes in so many different dynamics. Instead of looking at somebody and saying, maybe this person is a burden on society or maybe not doing their fair share, maybe find a way to better understand them and educate yourself on ways of helping and motivating people and helping them lift themselves out of homelessness. Having the opportunity to work here has made me a much better person.”
Interviewed by Liza Burby