With Maspeth residents still fighting to stop the Holiday Inn Express hotel from becoming a full-blown homeless shelter, some teenagers from the neighborhood came together to help out the homeless men currently living there.
Together with City Mission — an Elmhurst-based Christian nonprofit organization that works to meet the basic needs of the city and its people, regardless of religious background — the teens handed out care packages and personal notes to the shelter residents.
As previously reported, 78 homeless men live at the Holiday Inn Express hotel on 55th Road, which the city first proposed transforming into a shelter for homeless adults back in August. The city backed off on that plan, but began renting a number of rooms there for homeless men in October.
“We just want to show the men at the shelter that there are people that care about them despite the politics of why the community is against it,” said 16-year-old Alfred Chan.
The city is in the midst of the worst homeless crisis since the Great Depression, with more than 60,000 New Yorkers without a place to live. These depressing numbers were not lost on the teens of Maspeth.
“These numbers are only growing,” Chan said. “I want to be there to help if it’s in my neighborhood.”
Residents of the hotel/shelter were more than grateful that the teens thought of them during the holiday season and came up with this idea.
“I am in [New York] by myself, and this is where I grew up,” said Tyshiem Gordon, a 25-year-old shelter resident. “It sucks that I’m in this situation, but it’s hard working night shifts and getting a place to live. These kids thought about me.”
Lester Lin, founder of City Mission, is aware of the issues faced by homeless people, and works with those currently residing at the Boulevard Family Center (the former Pan American Hotel) in Elmhurst. City Mission teamed up with the Department of Homeless Services and Mayor Bill de Blasio’s office for the event at the Holiday Inn Express.
Wei Loh and Carmen Tan, both college students, run the program that provides the homeless with these care packages and love to help those in need.
“I am extremely proud of our volunteers. Without them, none of this would be possible. We are all going to pass away one day. I don’t want to waste my time not investing into people who are struggling,” Tan said. “Politics and city systems aside, these are people. They could be future business owners in our community. Children of these men could possibly be future teachers, policemen or your neighbors.”
City Mission hopes to open a Counseling Center next year, do more resume assistant programs, along with providing English classes to immigrants.